Source: The Bismarck Tribune; Bismarck, North Dakota; April 30, 1930
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Source: The Bismarck Tribune; Bismarck, North Dakota; April 30, 1930
Was Long Chief Practitioner of Singer Manufacturing Company in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Served As Major In War. Army Training Camp Where He Was Medical Officer Had Lowest Grip Death Rate. Aviation Enthusiast.
- New York Times; Feb 15, 1929; Mrs. Elizabeth Bellingrath Of Westfield, New Jersey, was married to Dr. A. O. Buck of Elizabeth, New Jersey, in the Pickwick Arms, Greenwich, this afternoon. The Rev. ...
- New York Times; September 22, 1930. “Boy pilot delays flight. Repairs postpone attempt to beat transcontinental record.”
- New York Times; September 22, 1930. “Robert Buck, 16-year-old Elizabeth, New Jersey aviator, attempting to set a new junior transcontinental flight record, landed his plane here early tonight for an overnight stop.”
- New York Times; September 30, 1930; page 24; “Boy flier reaches Indiana on long hop; Robert Buck starts from Newark, New Jersey in attempt to break junior coast-to-coast record. Delayed by head winds runs out of gasoline and is forced to refuel at Martin's Ferry and Columbus, Ohio. Delayed by refueling. Father and mother see start. Indianapolis, Illinois, September 29, 1930 (Associated Press) Robert Buck, 16-year-old Elizabeth, New Jersey aviator, attempting to set a new junior transcontinental flight record, landed his plane here early tonight for an overnight stop.”
- New York Times; October 03, 1930; page 27; “Buck forced down; stays at Amarillo, Texas; spends second night at Texas city after getting away and then returning. Motor fails in 70 miles youth to start again today for Albuquerque, New Mexico still confident of cross-country record.”
- New York Times; October 05, 1930; page 22; “Buck in California sets flight record; New Jersey youth hour 8 minutes under Schneider's transcontinental mark.”
- New York Times; October 19, 1930; page 9; “2 claim air records from Pacific here. Miss Ingalls and Robert Buck both complete interrupted transcontinental flights. Two transcontinental pilots, each claiming a record in flying time but each of whom has been on the way from Los Angeles for several days, landed yesterday at airports in the metropolitan district. At Roosevelt Field, Hiss Laura Ingalls of New York who is the holder of the women's ...”
- New York Times; September 30, 1935; page 24; “Robert Buck: Boy flier reaches Indiana on long hop.”
- New York Times; December 21, 1939, Thursday; Mrs. E. C. Bellingrath. Granddaughter of Count Was Aviation Enthusiast, 82.
His Buck family came to Vermont in 1794 from England. Two brothers, one moved to Texas, the other stayed in Vermont.
Not much else about his own parents, but I'm hoping that the description of this branch of the Buck family will match up with someone else on this mailing list.
His grandmother, Elizabeth Bellingrath, was born in Switzerland, was originally a Ruban. His grandfather was Ewal Bellingrath, from Alsace.
There's a Nietzel family in there somewhere (hence the middle name), but he asked that we not go into that part of his life. From what I've gathered through census records, it appears he may have been born a Nietzel, in Elizabeth, NJ, and later became a Buck when his mother remarried.
My cousin, Everson Pearsall, also a pilot, played golf with Bob many times in NJ, and told me that Bob's Buck father was a doctor. He recalled they moved to Buck's County, PA, and later back to VT.
That's all I know, and may be all we find out. As Bob Buck put it, "My interests are what's ahead, not behind".
Gary Allen Richardson
August 20, 2006
Friday, November 23, 2007
Frank Hawks and Robert Buck at the Trenton, New Jersey Air Meet in 1930. Frank is in front of his Texaco airplane.
May 23, 2007Aviation Expert, Author Robert N. Buck Passes Away
By Chad Trautvetter, Editor in Chief
Aviation weather and safety consultant/author and retired TWA captain Robert N. Buck, 93, recently passed away in Berlin, Vt. He started flying at age 15 and set a New York to Los Angeles speed record before reaching his 16th birthday. By his 20th birthday, he broke an altitude record for light airplanes and became the first person to take aerial photographs of ancient ruins of the Yucatán. Buck had flown the Atlantic more than 2,000 times during his airline career with TWA. He was also a consultant to four FAA Administrators and airlines on many aspects of aviation safety, and was the author of "The Art of Flying," "Flying Know-How" and "Weather Flying." Buck continued to fly a Schleicher ASW-20 sailplane well into his 80s. Pilots revere his books because they are easy to read and engaging, even though they cover complex subjects. In "Weather Flying," Buck succinctly starts, "Weather bothers our flying in a few basic ways. It prevents us from seeing; it bounces us around to the extent that it may be difficult to keep the airplane under control and in one piece; and ice, wind, or large temperature variations may reduce the airplane's performance to a serious degree. That's what weather does…we fight weather in order to see, to keep our aircraft under control, and to get the best and safest performance from an aircraft. The question is, 'How?'"
Some sage advice from Buck:
- "When bad weather prevails fear shouldn't be the attitude -- rather it should be respect."
- "When everything inside us is scared we have to work harder to do a good precise job of flying, thinking scientifically all the time."
- "There are two ways to deal with fuel. One is to have lots of it...the second is to fly within the airplane's fuel capacity by limiting the length of flights."
- "When ice is encountered, immediately start working to get out of it."
- "A real hazard is a pilot trying to beat a thunderstorm to the airport...always remember thunderstorms on or near airports is the classic recipe for shear accidents."
Source: Morning Edition; April 15, 2002
Famed weather research pioneer and longtime AOPA Air Safety Foundation Board of Visitors member Robert N. Buck passed away recently in Vermont. He was 93.
Among other accomplishments in his more than 70-year flying career, Buck literally "wrote the book" on how general aviation pilots should cope with weather.
"Almost every pilot has read or should have read his 1970 classic Weather Flying," said Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. "And as a foundation Board of Visitors member since 1991, Bob was not only a great personal friend, but an inspiration for many of the foundation's current weather programs."
Buck laid the groundwork for much of what GA pilots know today about severe weather. He pioneered research in the 1940s by flying through thunderstorms and severe icing conditions in B-17s and a fortified P-61 Black Widow. That work won him a Civilian Air Medal from President Harry S. Truman. In 2006, he contributed to the Air Safety Foundation online program "WeatherWise: Thunderstorms and ATC," with a chilling personal account from those days of a DC-3 heavily damaged by hail.
His other books were Flying Know-How (1975), The Art of Flying (1992), Pilot's Burden: Flight Safety and the Roots of Pilot Error (2000) and North Star Over My Shoulder (2002).
Buck retired from TWA in 1974, after an airline career that took him from the copilot seat in DC-2s to captaining Boeing 747s. He became TWA's chief pilot in 1945 and oversaw delivery of its first Lockheed Constellation. In 1970, he flew the airline's first Boeing 747 revenue flight, Flight 800 from New York to Paris. In 1965, he flew around the world from pole to pole in a Boeing 707, with several other pilots in shifts.
Since Howard Hughes was a major stockholder in TWA, Buck often flew Hughes and could recount experiences with many celebrities of the day, including Tyrone Power, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Jackie Kennedy, and others.
During his retirement in Vermont, Buck continued to fly actively, indulging his special interest in gliders. "If I were king, every pilot would have to get a glider license before ever getting a power license," he once said. "Glider pilots are extremely conscious of terrain, of wind, of learning to land away from an airport."
Tributes from Buck's fellow Air Safety Foundation Board of Visitors members acknowledged his contributions to general aviation safety. "Bob Buck was indeed captain to a whole generation of pilots," said Dr. Ian Blair Fries. "His Weather Flying began as a giveaway brochure for an aviation insurance company and grew into the best commentary we have on flying and weather. His thoughtful proposal to the novice on how to tackle easy weather situations first still provides the best way to assess the difficulty of any IFR flight. We who have known him have been honored and will miss his sage advice."
Source: Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
Wherein it reported a 20 minute flight during which pilot Buck took his 73 year-old grandmother aloft over Westfield, New Jersey for her first airplane flight. She reported that she enjoyed the flight greatly and would readily make another. Image, right, is of Bob and his grandmother, Mrs. Elizabeth Bellingrath, from the New York Times.
Source: New York Times; May 11, 1940. Reprinted in Davis-Monthan Airfield Register in 2007.
On this website we have three first-person accounts of flights to the old Davis-Monthan Airfield. Bobbi Trout passed away in 2003. To my knowledge there are now just two surviving signers of the Register, Wm. T. Piper, Jr. and John Miller. If you know of any others, please let me know, Now!
Robert N. Buck started flying early. He soloed on March 15th and received his pilot's license on April 10, 1930 at age 16.
A month later, the New York Times (5/11/30) headlined, "Youth Takes an Older Generation Skylarking", wherein it reported a 20 minute flight during which pilot Buck took his 73 year-old grandmother aloft over Westfield, NJ for her first airplane flight. She reported that she enjoyed the flight greatly and would readily make another. Image, above, is of Bob and his grandmother, Mrs. Elizabeth Bellingrath, from the New York Times.
In the fall of 1930, he attempted to break the 2,510 mile Newark to Los Angeles junior transcontinental record. The record stood at 29 hours and 40 minutes. He flew the same airplane, NC549K, that he later brought to Tucson.
After a couple of delays due to weather, he left New Jersey on September 29th and refueled at Martins Ferry and Columbus, OH, and at Indianapolis and St. Louis, MO. He had been flying for eight months and had accumulated 150 solo hours. He carried six chocolate bars and an old army canteen of water.
When he reached Wichita, KS he was an hour and 15 minutes ahead of record time. Then things fell apart. He had an oil pressure problem upon departure from Wichita, and returned there for repairs. He departed again, and headwinds delayed his arrival at Amarillo, TX by about an hour.
He departed Amarillo on October 3rd, only to have engine problems about 70 miles west. He landed at Glenrio, NM where it was determined that he needed to replace an engine cylinder. After repairs, he headed west again and, on October 7th, completed his westbound flight to California in 28 hours elapsed flying time, an hour and 40 minutes faster than the old record.
He then turned around and captured the west-east record by flying from Los Angeles to Newark, NJ in 23 hours 47 minutes elapsed flight time. He landed back east on October 19th. These records earned him some notoriety. Within a year after his flights, he published a book, "Coast to Coast on Wings" with Putnam & Sons, and dedicated it to his flight instructor.
On February 15, 1931 at 3AM he left Newark headed for Havana, Cuba. After stops in Raleigh, NC and Jacksonville, FL, he landed in Miami on the same evening at 6:14PM (a long day, even by today's small plane flying standards). He departed Miami on the 16th at 2:53PM and reached Havana at 5:25 the same afternoon. His flying time was 14 hours and 17 minutes, a record for juniors.
He intended to return to New Jersey in one day, but was thwarted in that attempt because, on February 22nd when he arrived at the airport bright and early, there was no one around. He waited until 11AM for someone to arrive and unlock the hangar where his airplane (NC549K) was stored.
He finally flew to Miami, spent an overnight there, and flew to Newark the next day via Jacksonville, Columbia, SC, and Camden, NJ. He did not follow the same route during his return. His flight time north was 13 hours 5 minutes, bettering his southbound time by over an hour. He had flown all day without eating or drinking. He was 17 years old and had accumulated about 330 total flight hours.
Less than a week later, on February 28, 1931, he earned his automobile driver's license. The Motor Vehicle Commissioner told him he hoped his road record would be as good as his flying record (Newark Star-Eagle, 2/18/31).
On March 22, barely a year since he had soloed, pilot Buck and his parents visited Washington, DC by rail for a meeting with President Hoover at the White House. Buck presented the President with an 18-inch cigar he carried from Cuba.
Now comes pilot Buck to Tucson. Bob Buck landed at Tucson three times, on August 14 and 22, 1932 and on October 8, 1933. He was solo each time flying Pitcairn PA-6 NC549K. His airplane, a Sport Mailwing, was named "The Yankee Clipper".
His 1932 visits to Tucson were made in conjunction with a flight record attempt to Mexico City. According to contemporary newspaper accounts, he departed Newark, NJ at 3:05 AM on August 9th on a 2,250 mile route to Mexico City.
His first scheduled stop was Richmond, VA. He landed at Richmond at 6 AM and departed for Spartanburg, SC at 6:25. Later on the 9th he made refueling stops at Atlanta, GA and Montgomery, AL, then flew to New Orleans for an overnight.
Next day he flew to Houston and then Brownsville, TX. On the 11th he departed for Tampico and Mexico City. His total flight time was 24 hours and 5 minutes.
After his flight to Mexico, he returned to the U.S. north through El Paso and Tucson on his way to Los Angeles, CA. He set another record by flying that route in 20 hours.
One thing that comes through to me from the reading I have done to prepare this page, is the nurturing support Robert Buck received from his parents and family. His mother, father and grandmother had no concerns (that they shared openly) flying with him. Indeed, Robert flew his parents on a vacation tour to Boston in June 1931. Likewise, he flew his aunt, a character actor, on a tour of New England in July 1931.
They cheered his departures and welcomed his returns to New Jersey. They accompanied him to some of the speaking engagements that followed his notoriety. Apropos this support, his mother is cited in the Newark Star-Eagle, May 15, 1931, as, "...an ardent aviation enthusiast and believes Bob will develop into one of the greatest flyers in America." There's a lesson for us here.
Source: Creekhouse Enterprises; Davis Monthan Aviation Field Register
Written by Family
North Fayston resident Bob Buck, an aviator who set flying records in the 1930s, made an airline career with TWA that included the position of chief pilot, conducted severe weather research, flew with Hollywood stars, worked for Howard Hughes, was an advocate for aviation safety and industry consultant as well as a noted author, died April 14, 2007, at age 93. He died of complications from a broken hip.
Bob found his life passion for aviation at age 15 in 1929, teaching himself to fly a home-made glider and a year later soloed fabric-covered biplanes. In the 1930s, he gained experience and fame to include a coast-to-coast junior transcontinental speed record, in a Pitcairn Mailwing, at age 16 and a nonstop world record from California to Ohio, in 1936, flying a 90 hp Monocoupe. The following year brought him employment with TWA, then Transcontinental and Western Air, qualifying as captain in 1940.
World War II introduced risky flying of cargo and troops across the Atlantic, until Buck grabbed the chance to manage and fly a weather research project for the Army, with a B-17 bomber. He and his crew sought out the worst weather, including gut wrenching thunderstorms, for which he was awarded the Air Medal, as a civilian, by President Truman.
His 37-year career with TWA shared the golden age of air travel, flying the famous DC-2s and 3s, romantic Lockheed Constellations, Boeing 707s and finally the 747, eventually in world travel to include over 2000 Atlantic crossings. He served as TWA's chief pilot in 1945, but flying a desk was not his style. Returning to flying, he was called to Hollywood by TWA owner Howard Hughes to fly with actor Tyrone Power on a publicity trip through South America, Africa and Europe. He then spent time as one of Hughes' "men," but when asked to sell one of Hughes' airplanes, he told Howard, as everyone called him, he was not a salesman and was going back to the airline. Hughes graciously accepted the demand. To better use, Bob later assisted TWA's president with the transition to jet aircraft. In 1966, he participated as pilot on an around-the-world speed record in a Boeing 707, circling the globe vertically, over both poles.
He served in consultation to the FAA on air traffic, safety matters, and the Supersonic Advisory Group, as well as representing the United States in Airspace issues at the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal. In addition to having received many other awards, a month before his passing, Bob was presented FAA's highest award of Master Airman, for all his lengthy contributions to aviation as pilot and safety advocate.
Bob was a prolific, self-taught author, who first penned two books in the 1930s and later wrote numerous articles on his experiences, safety, techniques, and weather flying. In 1970, he completed his classic book,
Bob Buck was born in Elizabeth Port, New Jersey, January 29, 1914. He married Jean Pearsall in 1938, who lovingly and patiently saw through his career and shared a long retirement. They had two children, daughter Ferris also of North Fayston and son Rob of Waterbury Center, who survive them, along with their spouses Ned and Holly, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren. She predeceased him in 2003.
In 1959, Bob had returned to the sport of gliding, by then a modern, safe and enjoyably basic aviation sport, as compared to the regiment of modern jet airliners. His love of gliding or soaring brought him, his wife and son to John Macone's Sugarbush Soaring at the old Estey Airfield in October of 1964. While "the boys" went gliding, Jean explored The Valley, just in curiosity and not to seek real estate. But she ran into Emma Ford. In Emma's generous way, she offered to just show Jean The Valley. Emma took her by an old hunting camp (former farm) way up what was then hardly a logging road in North Fayston. The view, the solace and secret Vermont magnetism left her speechless, and one could see the airport just below. They rushed to the airport and on seeing Bob, she said, "I think there is something you should see." The rest is history, and they moved to North Fayston in 1972.
It became a much loved time of their lives, respecting and enjoying the traditions of Vermont and appreciating the complexity as The Valley grew over the next 35 years. Bob's connection was diverse. From John Macone's cadre of personalities at his, well, marvelously non-boring, non-usual flying operation, to many happy rounds of golf at a then much quieter and local Sugarbush Golf Club. Both Bob and Jean took up cross country skiing and snowshoeing in their 60s, a marvelous adventure for two flatlanders, and of course learned about splitting and "getting the wood in" and porcupines that could chew away a steel brake line on a Ford Bronco! Bob was proud to be a North Fayston resident. He served on the local planning commission and helped shepherd the building of the marvelous town offices. He appreciated and admired the devoted cleverness of those who tend and hone the community. He has fond memories of long chats with Gregory Viens, so admiring of him, his family and those who helped him and his phenomenally clever and capable abilities to road and earth in a time of demanding growth and change. In Bob's many travels and later consulting roles, he was invariably asked by someone from distant shore or of haughty concern where he made his home. He would stand tall, stare them in the eyes and with a slightly raised and clear voice, tell them, "North Fayston, Vermont!" Bob was an enthusiastic and diverse person who knew where he stood, had fantastic memory, marvelous story, curiosity and timing of well placed word and wit...truly and unforgettable inspiration.
Please do not send flowers. Donations in Bob's memory can be sent to the Mad River Ambulance, Valley Medical Center or Central Vermont Hospital. A gathering at Bob's house in North Fayston is planned for May 20, from 2 to 5 p.m., to which the community is invited.
Source: The Valley Reporter
April 20, 2007
North Fayston resident Bob Buck, an aviator who set flying records in the 1930s, made an airline career with TWA to include the position of chief pilot, conducted severe weather research, flew with Hollywood stars, worked for Howard Hughes, was an advocate for aviation safety and industry consultant as well as a noted author, passed away April 14, 2007, at age 93. He died of complications from a broken hip.
Bob was born in Elizabeth Port, N.J., Jan. 29, 1914. He found his life passion for aviation in 1929 at age 15, teaching himself to fly a homemade glider and a year later soloed fabric-covered biplanes.
In the 1930s, he gained experience and fame to include a coast-to-coast junior transcontinental speed record at age 16, in his Pitcairn Mailwing, and a nonstop world record from California to Ohio in 1936, flying a 90 hp Monocoupe. The following year brought him employment with TWA, then Transcontinental and Western Air, qualifying as captain in 1940.
World War II introduced risky flying of cargo and troops across the Atlantic Ocean, until Bob grabbed the chance to manage and fly a weather research project for the Army and TWA, with a Boeing B-17 bomber. He and his crew sought out the worst weather, including thunderstorms, rain, snow and ice, for which he was awarded the Air Medal, as a civilian, by President Truman.
His 37-year career with TWA shared the golden age of air travel, flying the famous DC-2s and 3s, romantic Lockheed Constellations, Boeing 707s and finally the 747, to include over 2,000 Atlantic crossings. He served as TWA's chief pilot in 1945, but flying a desk was not his style.
Returning to flying, he was called to Hollywood by TWA owner Howard Hughes to fly with actor Tyrone Power on a publicity trip through South America, Africa and Europe. He then spent time as one of Hughes' "men," but when asked to sell one of Hughes' airplanes, he told Howard, as everyone called him, he was not a salesman and was going back to the airline. Hughes graciously accepted the demand. To better use, Bob later assisted TWA's president with the transition to jet aircraft. In 1966, he participated as a pilot on an around-the-world speed record in a Boeing 707, circling the globe vertically, over both poles.
Bob was awarded the 1963 Airline Pilots Association Air Safety Award. He served in consultation to the FAA on air traffic, safety matters and the Supersonic Advisory Group, as well as represented the United States on airspace issues at the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal. Just a month before his passing, Bob Buck was presented FAA's highest award of Master Airman, for his contributions to aviation as pilot and safety advocate.
He maintained a lifelong connection with sport and general aviation, believing in its enjoyment and utility. In 1959 he returned to gliding, insisting it is the best way for a person to learn flying and gain their "seat of the pants" ability.
He also consulted with Cessna Aircraft on the operational design of the successful Citation business jet.
He was a prolific, self-taught author, who first penned two books in the 1930s, and later wrote numerous articles on his experiences, safety, techniques and weather flying. In 1970, he completed his classic book, "Weather Flying," considered the bible of how to fly weather, which is still in print today. Following was "Flying Know How," "The Art of Flying" and "The Pilot's Burden." Finally, in 2001 at a young age 88, he produced his eloquent memoir, "North Star Over My Shoulder." In "North Star" one saw Bob's respect and love of the world's history, diversity, beauty and culture. His travels inspired him to learn French, his grandmother's native language, in which he gained fluency through many trips to his beloved Paris.
He married Jean Pearsall in 1938, who lovingly and patiently saw through his career and shared a long retirement. They had two children, daughter Ferris, also of North Fayston, and son Rob of Waterbury Center, who survive them, along with their spouses, Ned and Holly, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Jean predeceased him in 2003.
In 1964, while visiting near Waitsfield, they purchased an old hunting camp in North Fayston. Moving there in 1972, it became a much-loved time of their lives, respecting and learning the traditions of Vermont, proudly serving the local planning board, learning to "get the wood in," respect of a forest, cross-country skiing and still enjoy his beloved golf and soaring. They especially appreciated being part of the community of North Fayston. A curious and diverse person, he was blessed with great memory, quick study, and with wily smile, a fine timing of well-placed word and wit … an indelible person.
Please do not send flowers, but donations in Bob Buck's memory can be offered to the Mad River Ambulance, Valley Medical Center in Waitsfield, or Central Vermont Hospital. At Bob's request, there are no formal services.
Source: Times Argus
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: May 20, 2007
Robert N. Buck, a distinguished pilot who in the 1930s crossed the continent at record speed, flew a light plane higher than anyone had done before and photographed ancient ruins of the Yucatán from the air for the first time — all by the age of 20 — died on April 14 in Berlin, Vt. He was 93 and had continued to fly gliders into his late 80s.
Robert N. Buck in 1930 before the start of a flight to Los Angeles in an attempt to break the junior cross-country record. He was 16.
Mr. Buck, a resident of North Fayston, Vt., died of complications of a fall, his son, Robert O. Buck, said last week. News of the death was not made public outside Vermont until this month.
A retired chief pilot of T.W.A., Mr. Buck was also a respected aviation writer. He was a particular authority on the weather, and the bumpy place where it meets aviation. During World War II, he performed research on hazardous weather of all kinds by flying gamely into it and recording what he saw, heard and felt.
His book “Weather Flying,” published in 1970 and now in its fourth edition, is considered required reading for pilots. Mr. Buck’s other books include a memoir, “North Star Over My Shoulder,” published by Simon & Schuster in 2002.
Long before all this, Mr. Buck was nationally known as a flying prodigy, going aloft in one-seaters, dressed in leather helmet and goggles, without even a radio to assist him. He pored over maps, steered by the stars and telephoned his parents after every flight.
In April 1930, at 16, Mr. Buck became the youngest licensed pilot in the United States. Later that year, flying from Newark to Los Angeles, he broke the junior transcontinental airspeed record. On the return trip, just for sport, he broke it again. At 17, he wrote a book about it, “Burning Up the Sky,” published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in 1931.
By the time he was 18, Mr. Buck had set 14 junior aviation records. These included the junior altitude record for light planes, which he broke in July 1930 by ascending to 15,000 feet. (In 1936, Mr. Buck, flying with a cousin, would set a world distance record for light planes, flying nonstop from Burbank, Calif., to Columbus, Ohio — 1,986 miles — in a Lambert Monocoupe.)
Red-haired and apple-cheeked, the young Mr. Buck was known in the papers as “the Schoolboy Pilot.” They chronicled his every exploit, including what he carried in his plane (a Bible and a package of sandwiches made by his mother) and his life on the ground (“he likes polo, hunting, riding and milk drinking,” The New York Telegram reported in 1931).
Robert Nietzel Buck was born on Jan. 29, 1914, in Elizabethport, N.J., and reared in Westfield, N.J. At 15, fired up by the well-publicized exploits of Charles A. Lindbergh, he and a friend built a glider, which Bob took to the skies before crashing from an altitude of 50 feet. He began lessons in a real plane on his 16th birthday, after his parents made certain that the Westfield airport had no looming telegraph wires nearby.
On Sept. 29, 1930, Bob Buck set out to break the junior speed record for a coast-to-coast flight, which stood at 29 hours, 40 minutes. Armed with six chocolate bars and a canteen of water, he pedaled his bicycle to the airport in Newark. He did not have a driver’s license.
Climbing into his open biplane, a Pitcairn Mailwing, he took off from Newark’s cinder runway. After half a dozen stops for fuel and repairs, he landed in Los Angeles, in record time, on Oct. 4. (The historical accounts of Mr. Buck’s total time in the air vary, but it was 28 hours, give or take.) On the return trip, aided by tailwinds, he shaved the time down to 23 hours, 47 minutes.
Mr. Buck’s other speed records included a round trip to Havana, which he made in 13 hours, 5 minutes, in 1931. On arriving, he was greeted by adoring crowds and presented with a 12-inch cigar, which he later gave, as instructed, to President Herbert Hoover.
In late 1933 and early 1934, on assignment for the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Buck and a friend, Robert Nixon, 19, spent three months roaming the Mexican jungle by air, photographing lost Mayan cities of the Yucatán. They were the youngest aerial explorers ever, the newspapers reported.
Mr. Buck joined T.W.A. (then Transcontinental and Western Air) in 1937 as a co-pilot. He became a pilot in 1940 and in 1945 was named chief pilot, an administrative job. But he chafed behind a desk and was soon back in the cockpit.
During the war, Mr. Buck, working on a joint project of T.W.A. and the Army, went “looking for trouble,” as he often said afterward, piloting a B-17 into snow, hail and thunderstorms all over the globe.
“I was able to put my nose in any kind of weather I wanted to fly through,” he told National Public Radio in 2002. “We’d sit around, waiting until the weather was bad and then go fly through it.” The worst weather in the world, Mr. Buck found, was in the largely open stretch between New York and Kansas City, Mo.
For his research, Mr. Buck was awarded the Air Medal, one of only a few civilians to receive it, in 1946.
Mr. Buck is survived by his son, Robert Orion, of Waterbury Center, Vt. (A retired pilot for Delta Air Lines, the younger Mr. Buck was named, after some marital negotiation, for his father’s love of celestial navigation. His father’s first choice had been Betelgeuse, a star in Orion.) Also surviving are a daughter, Ferris Buck, of North Fayston; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Mr. Buck’s wife, the former Jean Pearsall, died in 2004. They were married, not without incident, in 1938. On the appointed day, as the bride-to-be and assembled guests waited in New Jersey, Mr. Buck found himself stuck in Kansas City, a passenger on a plane grounded by fog.
The wedding took place two days later. The groom took the train.
Source: The New York Times; May 20, 2007