A very readable volume about the Grand Central Air Terminal is this book:

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


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


the register


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Ted Willis is signed in the Grand Central Air Terminal (GCAT) Register twice. Each time he flew the Great Lakes airplane NC539K 2T1A (S/N 45). Both of his landings were documented on the same day, Sunday, January 11, 1931. His first landing was 10:40AM, departing at 10:54, and the second was at 1:42PM. Tower Operator A.J. Lygum did not enter a destination in the Register. Lygum did note the owner of the airplane as Ted Willis.

While Willis is identified only twice in the Register, his Great Lakes, however, is signed seven additional times before and after Willis' visits. However, the pilot name was left blank by Operators Lygum and Wright. Chances are high that Willis was the pilot those other times. Only one of the landings recorded a ground time longer than one hour. Most were on the order of a few tens of minutes.He carried unidentified passengers only twice.

Willis was born in Pittsburgh, PA on October (one source says August) 30, 1901. Curiously, his 1918 draft card for WWI cites his birth date as June 3, 1900, below.

Ted Willis, WWI Draft Card, September 12, 1918 (Source: ancestry.com)

Regardless, the 1910 U.S. Census, his first, placed him at 8 years old living with his parents, Edward D., Sr. (age 53), mother Katherine A. (50), brother Charles E. (20), and sisters Katharine A. (16) and Eleanor R. (14). They lived at 309 Coltart Square, Pittsburgh, PA. This address today is a narrow, two-storey brick and stucco building, tightly packed between other homes in an urban, working class setting. It could be the same building. Willis' father was a bookkeeper for the gas company. His brother was a stenographer for the railroad.

In 1920, Willis was living at a different address with only his mother (61), brother Charles and sister Katharine. His mother was still cited as married, so I expect the absence of his father was due to separation. Charles was now a traveling salesman for a machine company.

The next ten years were busy for Willis. Sometime during the early 1920s he moved to California, learned to fly, got married at age 23 (ca. 1925), and he and his wife bore a daughter. The 1930 Census lists his profession as "Pilot" in the "Aviation" industry. He was married to Ruth (Bair) Willis (b. 1902). Their daughter, Joan, was two years old.They rented their home ($100/month) at 1218 Hayworth Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. He was 28 years old. They lived there a few years. The 1934 San Diego city directory lists him living with Ruth at 1043 Thompson Ave. in Glendale, CA.

He changed residences at least three times during the late 1930s. I don't know exactly where or when he learned to fly, but he didn't fly as a profession for long. The Glendale, CA city directory for 1936 cites his address and his occupation as a "Service Station Opr." By 1939, he and Ruth had moved to Long Beach, CA according to the Long Beach city directory for that year.

The 1940 Census identifies him employed as a "Salesman" in the "Oil" industry. I'm not sure that "Service Station Opr." and "Salesman" in the "Oil" industry weren't just different ways of saying the same thing. Regardless, that Census places him at 2237 Prosser Avenue, Los Angeles. This home today is a small, mission-style stucco with a red tile roof and a running-horse weather vane. It is probably a 1940-vintage structure. As well, he and Ruth now had three children. Besides Joan, then 12 years old, there was Edward D. II (9) and John W. (8). Ruth's widowed mother, Annie G. (71) also lived with them.

Willis passed away May 26, 1974 in San Diego, CA. I have no information about him between the 1940 Census and his death in 1974. If you can help fill in the blanks, or especially if you have photographs, please let me KNOW.