M.193  First Officer Earl Hill Ortman 

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b. 10 Jan 1912, Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.   12 Aug 1940 to 15 Jan 1941

  earl ortman 1940 1940      


Described as 'mild-mannered, shy and slightly-built'; part Cherokee Indian.

Little Earl was the subject of a custody battle between his parents after they divorced in April 1914 when his mother, Nellie, who had left him with her mother when she was off in Kansas working as a 'designer of fancy gowns', applied for custody.

Earl's father (also Earl) meanwhile, was granted custody of the child and packed him off to Columbus Ohio, to live with his parents Benson and Mary Ellen 'Ella' Ortman, but then accidentally got himself drowned in the Grand River near Fort Gibson, aged 37, leaving assets of $1,500 and debts of $3,500.

Earl was brought up (from the age of 7, anyway) by his grandmother Ella; they moved to California in 1930 so he could learn to fly, but she died the following year.

He then earnt himself a substantial amount of money in the 1934 National Air Races.

 Earl Ortman with the Keith Rider R 3 1935 VAM

This is Earl with the Keith (later renamed the Marcoux-Bromberg) R-3. He set a record in 1935 in this aeroplane by covering the 1,400 miles between Vancouver BC and Caliente, Mexico in just over 5 hours.

[The R-3 was an interesting aeroplane, originally designed for the 1934 MacRobertson Race but not ready in time. It somersaulted on its first take-off (or landing, according to one report), killing test pilot Jim Granger, but was only superficially damaged and was restored. More at http://www.airminded.net/mbspecial/mbspecial.html]

Ortman and the R-3 came second in the 1936 National Air Races; second in the 1937 Bendix trans-continental Race (to Jackie Cochran), and then second in the 1937 Thompson Trophy, this time to Roscoe Turner.

In 1937 he also did the racing scenes as the stand-in for Clark Gable in the MGM film 'Test Pilot', and then won the Golden Gate Exposition Trophy Race, clocking 273mph - the only time the R-3 ever finished first.

Address in 1940: 141-25 Northern Boulevard, Flushing, N.Y.

Next of Kin: (Uncle) Fred H Ortman, of 148 N June St,. Los Angeles, CA

m. Apr 1941 Maryette [Richer], later an airline stewardess

After the ATA, Earl sailed back to New Brunswick on the 15 Jan 1941, got married in Montreal, returned to the UK, then sailed back to New York from Liverpool on the 1st May 1941.

He was later employed as a test pilot, by Douglas and Lockheed, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was a heavy smoker.

d. 27 Feb 1953 [aged 41] in Miami Florida, following a heart attack. 

 Download ATA Pilot Personal Record (.zip file):download grey


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