Very readable volumes about the Grand Central Air Terminal are these books:

Underwood, John. 1984. Madcaps, Millionaires and 'Mose'. Heritage Press, Glendale, CA. 144pp.


Underwood, John. 2007. Grand Central Air Terminal. Arcadia Publishing. Charleston, SC. 127pp.


Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.


the register


I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot McKenzie and his airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.






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O.D. McKenzie, 1940 (Source: Woodling)


Otis McKenzie was born December 13, 1898 in Hattiesburg, MS. McKenzie appears three times in the Grand Central Air Terminal (GCAT) Register. His first landing was on Thursday, March 26, 1931, and his second on Monday, April 6, 1931 at 7:55AM. His airplane, however, the deHavilland Moth NC372H, appears 48 times across the GCAT Register and once in the Davis-Monthan Register.

It's not so surprising that McKenzie should fly this airplane. It was owned by the Curtiss-Wright Flying Service (CWFS), which was based at GCAT. At the time, he was the Director of Training and assistant sales manager at the Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute of Aeronautics at GCAT. At left, McKenzie in a news photograph from 1940.

That said, there is one other landing by the Moth on April 14, 1931 at 9:20AM where the pilot was identified as "Mac" by tower Operator A.J. Lygum. I learned in an email from his niece that McKenzie was nicknamed Mac. The probability is high that the pilot was McKenzie, so I have changed our Register database to reflect that. So McKenzie is logged three times in the Register, each time flying the Moth owned by CWFS.

Who's Who in Aviation, 1940 (Source: Webmaster)
Who's Who in Aviation, 1940 (Source: Webmaster)


This REFERENCE offers a brief overview of Mac's flying activities through 1940, and is pictured, left. He learned to fly in Los Angeles in 1930, so his flights with 372H, a light, training airplane, could very well have been directed toward improving his skills. He eventually earned Commercial pilot certificate C19366. His early military activity did not appear to include flying as a pilot (but see below). He was a member of a telegraph battalion in the Signal Corps (dates not stated). In the 1930s he did fly in the Army as pilot and observer. He was a 2nd lieutenant in the 115th Observation Squadron, and first lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, California National Guard. The latter is confirmed by the Military Register for 1939. By 1940 he had accumulated 1,600 flight hours.

His business career during the 1930s focused on the Curtiss-Wright organization. He was an assistant sales manager from 1930-32; sales manager from 1932-33 and registrar for training programs in 1933. He was director of training at the Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute (CWTI) as of 1941, see below. He was also a staff member of the Cal-Aero Training Academy. He always had a good job during the Great Depression.

McKenzie married Robbie Sue Wright in Texas in 1926 and they had one son, Dalton Wright McKenzie. Robbie Sue was born in Texas, one of six children. Her father was a "Lawyer" in "General practice." Interestingly, the 1930 Census places McKenzie in a rooming house at 1516 Normandie Avenue, Los Angeles. His fellow roomers were salesmen, typists, actors and clothing store mannequins. Most were in their 20s and 30s. He was 32 years old and he is counted on the Census form as married at the age of 26 to Robbie Sue. Robbie Sue was a private secretary at the Aviation Service Company at GCAT. McKenzie's work in 1930 was as a "Commercial Salesman" in the "Aeronautics" industry. As such he was probably friends with fellow salesman and Curtiss-Wright employee, Ray McKimmey.

The same year, on March 22nd, he traveled to Agua Caliente, Mexico with a fellow Glendale pilot, Nate Morse (age 29). Coincidentally, the airplane they used was the Curtiss-Wright deHavilland NC372H. Their return from Mexico was documented by U.S. Immigrations, below. None of the 48 landing dates by NC372H at GCAT match the date of their return. March 22nd was a Sunday, so it's safe to assume they were northbound to report for work the next day. Indeed, many U.S. citizens traveled to Agua Caliente on the weekends to enjoy alcohol. Prohibition continued in the U.S. until December, 1933.

Otis McKenzie/Nate Morse, Travel From Agua Caliente, Mexico in NC372H (Source: ancestry.com)
Otis McKenzie/Nate Morse, Travel From Agua Caliente, Mexico in NC372H (Source: ancestry.com)

From the Register Morse, however, did appear to depart GCAT at 10:27AM on March 22nd flying NC971K, a Curtiss Robin belonging to Curtiss-Wright. He was headed back to Agua Caliente and noted in the destination column of the Register, "A.C.M. charter." It was a busy Sunday for Morse. McKenzie and Morse must have arrived in the U.S. earlier that morning for him to be able to head back south again mid-morning.

His marriage at age 26 to Robbie Sue didn't last. On April 12, 1939 he married Agnes Spence of Stillwell, IN (born ca. 1913). The 1940 U.S. Census cites them living in Los Angeles in a rented home ($60/month) at 10453 Riverside Drive. That site is occupied by a mansard-roofed apartment building today that doesn't look like period architecture. No matter, McKenzie and Agnes were the proud parents of three-month old twin girls (Joanne & Joyce). Robbie Sue remarried to William W. McCune around 1936 and the 1940 census shows them living in Glendale with Dalton, age 13. At some point the three moved to Rusk County, Texas, where Robbie Sue was born. McCune was a "Memorial Advisor" for a "Cemetery," and Robbie Sue was a "Hostess" at the cemetery.

In the 1940 Census, McKenzie's occupation was listed as "Registrar" for the "Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute" (CWTI) at a salary of $4,400/year, a decent wage as the Great Depression waned. He had been in that position since at least 1938. The list of faculty from the 1938 brochure for CWTI is below, courtesy of a site visitor. McKenzie is listed as Regsitrar, right under President and Register pilot C.C. Moseley. Note also, second from the bottom, A.J. Lygum, who was one of the people who sat in the GCAT tower and filled in the Register as pilots and airplanes came and went. Lygum's biography page is linked above.

Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute, Brochure, 1938 (Source: Site Visitor)
Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute, Brochure, 1938 (Source: Site Visitor)

The photograph, below, shows McKenzie reviewing airmen of the California State Militia, 115th Observation Squadron in 1938. He was identified as a captain at that time.

O.D. McKenzie, 1938 (Source: Link via Woodling)
O.D. McKenzie, 1938 (Source: Link via Woodling)

If he served further, I have no record of McKenzie's activities during WWII. I expect his efforts were focused on civilian pilot and mechanic training at Glendale or surrounds on behalf of the war effort. After the war, American Aviation, 1949 reported, "O. D. McKenzie has been appointed head of The Flying Tiger Line's aircraft maintenance sales division.  He has for the past three years been vice-president of Technical Crafts Corp., Los Angeles, and before that for 17 years was associated with Cal-Aero Technical Institute. Cal-Aero was the current name for CWTI. The transition occured as follows, fro the link, " Moseley leased the field [GCAT} in 1934 from the corporate owners and began operations under the name Aircraft Industries Company. Later he purchased the airport outright and changed the name from Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute to Cal-Aero Technical Institute."

Grosse Pointe News (MI) January
19, 1961
(Source: Woodling)
Grosse Pointe News (MI)  January 19, 1961 (Source: Woodling)


McKenzie's growing family had at least one vacation. Another immigration form documents arrival by ship from Hawaii to San Francisco of McKenzie, Agnes and the two girls, now eight years old. They left Hawaii on July 26, 1948 and arrived in San Francisco on July 31st. They sailed on the S.S. Lurline.

In 1961, daughter Joyce became engaged as documented, left, in the Grosse Pointe News (MI) of January 19, 1961. Their marriage was announced in the Grosse Pointe News May 25, 1961, and the birth of their son, McKenzie's grandson, followed as documented in the Grosse Pointe News, December 13, 1962.

Joyce's marriage to Henry Gildner must have ended at some point because his obituary names his wife as Pamela. It's interesting that, in her wedding, Joyce's matron of honor was not her twin sister, nor was she mentioned anywhere in the article.

This third article stated that McKenzie and Agnes were living in Tel Aviv, Israel. They were there almost five years, from September 1, 1961 to May 18, 1966. He had been nominated and assigned as the Chief of Project for a United Nations Development Programme-sponsored training of vocational instructors, supervisors and technicians.

O.D. McKenzie, Headstone, Ca. 1987 (Source: FindaGrave)
O.D. McKenzie, Headstone, Ca. 1987 (Source: FindaGrave)


His project developed curricula to train electrical, electronics, agro-mechanics, chemical techicians and vocational instructors, including technical Hebrew. When he was finished his work was praised in a 1967 report on the project, excerpted below.

"However, in one position the Institute was fortunate. A single Chief of Project was present from beginning to end, giving the Institute a stability that enabled it to surmount the series of crises. He was Mr. O. D. McKenzie, the first permanent project official to arrive in Israel and the last to leave. An American, his wide experience in vocational and technical training in the industry of his country, including electronics and all phases of aircraft manufacture and maintenance, proved invaluable in developing the Institute's programmes for the more complex technologies. His continuity of service aided significantly in transforming the Institute from its original conception into its final form."

McKenzie was living in the Kansas City area when he flew West during January, 1987. He is buried with Agnes at Lenexa, KS. Interestingly, the plaque, right, does not include his date of death.




Son Dalton Wright McKenzie Obituary, Longview News-Journal (TX), July 26, 2006 (Source: Woodling)

Memorial services for Dalton Wright McKenzie, 80, of Longview, will be held 2 p.m. Thursday, July 27, 2006, in the chapel of Rader Funeral Home, 1617 Judson Road, with the Reverend Dick Stagner officiating. Cremation arrangements are under the direction of Rader Funeral Home of Longview. Mr. McKenzie passed away Saturday, July 22, 2006, in Longview. He was born August 11, 1925, in Houston, to Otis and Robbie McKenzie. He was in real estate sales and served his country in the U.S. Army Air Corp during World War II. He is survived by two sons, Robert McKenzie and wife, Nancy, of Seabrook, and Mark McKenzie of Winter Garden, Florida; three grandchildren, Casey McKenzie, Jerry McKenzie, and Aaron McKenzie; and two stepsisters....





Agnes McKenzie Obituary, 1982, Newspaper Unidentified (Source: Woodling)
Agnes McKenzie Obituary, 1982, Newspaper Unidentified (Source: Woodling)



Agnes' obituary is at left. It appears she and Otis moved to the Kansas City area in 1981 to be close to their daughter Joan.

When he was in California, McKenzie was a member of the Sheriff's Aero Squadron of Los Angeles County, the Aviation Committee of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and the Board of Directors of the Gendale Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the Aviation Country Club of Southern California. His captaincy, above, suggests he was also in the reserves. He was well-prepared for the executive project in Israel.





THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 11/02/15 REVISED: 03/03/16, 0313/16