Frank T. Courtney Special Collection

Frank T. Courtney Special Collection

Frank T. Courtney Special Collection

Frank T. Courtney (1894-1982) was born in London and was one of the few aviators that could make the claim that he was there for it all.  He started his career with an apprenticeship at the Grahame-White Aircraft Company in 1913 and attained his pilot’s certificate in August 1914 flying primitive box-kite airplanes.  He attained the rank of Captain while serving in the Royal Flying Corps in WWI while flying in a Morane-Saulnier “Parasol.”

After the war Courtney became a test pilot for De Havilland and an avid air racer. The early 1920’s saw Courtney pioneer airline service routes between Britain and the European Continent across the English Channel for Daimler Airways.  He was a part of numerous pioneering ventures: in 1925 Courtney tested and helped develop the newly invented autogir and in 1927 and 1928 he tried and failed on two separate occasions to prove the concept of an airline service route between Europe and North America by flying unsuccessfully across the Atlantic from east to west.

In 1928 Courtney came to the USA as a technical-assistant to the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, went back to England in 1936 to test hydroplanes, and returned to the USA 1940 to test planes for Convair.  During WWII he served as a ferry pilot routinely flying B-24’s and PBY’s for delivery.  After the war Courtney served as an advisor to Boeing and finished up his aviation career by participating in the development of the Atlas Missile.  He published an autobiography, The Eighth Sea, in 1972 through Doubleday publishing (Published as Flight Path in the UK).  He was married to Constance May “Ginger” Filby (1901-1968).

Frank T. Courtney’s personal collection relates to nearly all aspects of his lifelong career in aviation.  The diaries cover the daily aspects of his career and life, the documents cover the legal aspect of his flying and immigration, and the correspondence covers the publication of his book, The Eighth Sea.  The records date from 1914 to 1977 and include correspondence, correspondence reply record, diaries, passports, and sport and pilot’s licenses.


For more information, see our Descriptive Finding Guide.

See part of the collection on Flickr.

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