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Flying Carpets, Flying Wings: The Biography of Moye W. Stephens

by Barbara H. Schultz, Little Buttes Publishing, Lancaster, Calif., 2012, $24.95.

Moye Stephens was emblematic of aviation’s Golden Age, the astonishing technological transition from the powered kites of early flight to the powerful warbirds and long-distance aerial haulers of World War II. One of the small circle who made it happen during the 1920s and ’30s, Stephens demonstrated the promise of aviation to a public that was both enthusiastic and skeptical, first by instructing would-be pilots (including Jack Northrop, whose company he would later help organize); then by serving fledgling airlines as a safe and resourceful captain; and finally by piloting popular adventure travel writer Richard Halliburton on a globe-girdling, 18-month aerial odyssey in The Flying Carpet, a single-engine, open-cockpit Stearman biplane.

Stephens’ life virtually spanned 20thcentury aviation: At age 4 he saw the 1910 Dominguez Air Meet; by the time he died in 1995, he knew that the N-1M Flying Wing he had test-piloted in 1940-42 (now in the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center) was an ancestor to Northrop’s B-2 stealth bomber.

Stephens was quite a raconteur, and Schultz wisely bases much of her book around his riveting and often hilarious stories about flying and the extraordinary people he encountered in odd corners of the world while piloting The Flying Carpet, including Timbuktu, Iraq, Persia, the slopes of Mount Everest and the jungles of Borneo. In addition, Schultz treats readers to a wealth of anecdotes about other aviators and their interactions with Hollywood’s rich and famous and the Southern California scene of the 1920s and later.

In a way, this book expands on some of the material Schultz brought to light in her earlier work, Pancho: The Biography of Florence Lowe Barnes. Her exhaustive research is reflected in a treasure trove of informatively captioned photographs. Herself a pilot and a member of the Ninety-Nines, Schultz offers up memorable depictions of flying incidents that are spot-on. This is a must read for Golden Age researchers and enthusiasts alike.


Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.