|Robert G. Fowler||Robert G. Fowler, 1956|
BEFORE TURNING TO PLANES
Early Bird Trustee R. G. (Bob) Fowler drove racing cars before he started piloting airplanes.
A native of San Francisco, Fowler entered the auto business early in life. He got interested in auto racing and won a number of events between 1903 and 1911. In the meantime, he had begun flying and in 1911 got instruction from the Wrights and entered a $50,000 race across the U. S. He recalls, "I was the first to start and the last to finish --- spent 112 days en route."
After organizing the LWF Company at New York in 1916, Fowler started the Fowler Airplane Corp. in San Francisco. The company built 275 training planes for the Signal corps. After World War I, he turned to passenger carrying in the S. F. area in a Bluebird plane.
|Fowler's "Atlantic to the Pacific" Flight|
BOB'S FLIGHT ACROSS THE ISTHMUS, 1913
Having been beaten by "Vin Fiz" Rodgers, Bob Fowler was still trying for records --- and he'd just set one of flying nonstop from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It was a dubious distinction since he had merely overflown the isthmus of Panama, but it did get him 'star' billing at the Orpheum Theatre. I well remember sitting in its rococo majesty while the lights dimmed and his plane's engine started barking and shooting out jabs of flame. The audience thought this simple show just grand, and he was quite the temporary hero. After the show, I went backstage, met Fowler and began a lifelong friendship. We'd both be heavily involved in making Jennys for the war two years later.
by Waldo Dean Waterman with Jack Carpenter
The craft is now at the Smithsonian Institution for exhibition when space is available.
In addition to the Early Birds, Fowler is active in the QB's, NAA, OX-5 club and ISAW. As a free lance writer, he has written stories as far back as 1921, and was Aero Digest representative in Chicago for two years --- 1923-'25. He himself was the subject of an article in the Aug. 1958 issue of Rexista Do Er, a Portuguese flying magazine.
On the occasion of the Early Birds program on September 7th during the Oklahoma City Reunion, Executive President Jim Greenwood announced a program which featured astronaut Robert L. "Hoot" Gibson, Capt. USN, Commander of the ATLANTIS STS-71, the first space shuttle to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir, His account of the mission was momentous enough to warrant a standing ovation, but in addition, he sprung a second secret on the unsuspecting audience.
He had taken with him a cap belonging to original Early Bird Robert G. Fowler. "Hoot" presented the cap to the late Bob Fowler's grandaughters, Candace Bush and Berylann Nelson. This historic artifact ultimately will be displayed in an Early Bird Exhibit at an established aerospace museum yet to be selected. Gibson, on behalf of NASA, presented the Early Birds with a handsome plaque (testifying to the fact Bob Fowler's cap was flown on Atlantis) which will be the centerpiece of the proposed exhibit. The plaque bears the signatures of all the crew, including the four Russians transported in Atlantis, and features photos taken during the mission and an American flag that flew with the cap.