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Tue, 04.02.1907

Thomas C. Allen, Aviator born

Thomas Allen

*Thomas Allen was born on this date in 1907. He was a Black aviation mechanic and pilot.

Thomas Cox Allen was born in Quitman, Wood County, Texas, the youngest of three children; his parents were teachers. Allen's father died when he was three months old. His mother, Polly, continued to teach school and run the family farm. Allen became interested in flying in 1918 when an airplane made a forced landing in a pasture. The pilots paid him and his younger brother to guard the plane overnight so that cows would not eat its fabric and glue. From this experience, Allen decided to become an aviator or a mechanic.

In 1919 when Allen was twelve, the family moved to Oklahoma City, where his mother taught school. Allen often bicycled to a nearby airfield, while in his teens, he persuaded the field owner to take a saxophone as partial trade for flying lessons. He worked off the rest of the lessons. When he and James Banning took off from Los Angeles’ Dycer Airport on September 19, 1932, just four people came out to watch, a small turnout for the start of an epic flight.

As the orange and black Alexander Eaglerock biplane circled wide over the city and then nosed eastward, people on the ground likely questioned whether the two aviators Banning and Thomas Allen, would make it over the looming mountains, let alone reach their destination, 3,000 miles away. Their chances appeared slim. On October 9th, 1932, Banning and Allen circled Manhattan, looking down at what was “the biggest thrill of our trip—our goal…. I feel like looping the loop!” They safely landed at Long Island’s Valley Stream Airport. Afterward, Allen worked for Douglas Aircraft in California as a mechanic and later was a lecturer and guide at the Oklahoma Air Space Museum. He and Banning were acclaimed as aviation pioneers in a Smithsonian Institution exhibition in 1982. Thomas Allen died on September 11, 1989.

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