Ernie Allison and O.C. Wilke


William Bond didn’t have any airline experience AT ALL when he arrived in China in 1931. None. Up to that point, he’d been a construction foreman. As such, he was very dependent on the professional aviators already engaged by the airline. The two most crucial were Ernie “Allie” Allison, his chief pilot, and his chief mechanic, O.C. Wilke.

I never had the opportunity to meet either man, but both of their daughters have been a tremendous help in the creation of China’s Wings.

Nancy Allison Wright with one of the first copies of her book, Yankee on the Yangtze

Allie’s daughter, Nancy Allison Wright (who was born during the airline’s darkest time in 1937), granted me unfettered access to the trove of her father’s CNAC-related letters and photographs, and through the years, we enjoyed much fruitful conversation and email correspondence. She was working on her own book about her father, and it has just been published.

I found Shirley Wilke Mosley, daughter of the chief mechanic, to be equally delightful, and as I explained earlier in this blog, a day I spent with her soon after I committed to this project really opened my eyes to the full glory of CNAC’s story before Pearl Harbor. Here’re the two links: something-more-substantial and the-most-exciting-undertaking. Seven-year old Shirley, wearing her prettiest flower print dress, makes a cameo appearance in China’s Wings, at the airline’s gala celebrating the arrival of its first DC-2 — she remembers being amazed that she could stand upright under the wing of an airplane so enormous.)

Ernie Allison (photo courtesy of Nancy Allison Wright)

Ernie Allison was one of aviation’s true pioneers. In 1931, he already had 14 years of flying experience and more than 8,000 hours of flight time. He’d been flying since 1917. He’d flown patrols along the Mexican border and instructed for the Army Flying Service during the World War and barnstormed around Philadelphia after demobilization. In 1920, he joined the United States Post Office’s fledgling airmail service, and Allison flew the airmail for seven years, pioneering air commerce and night flying alongside another young, then-obscure aviator named Charles Augustus Lindberg. Allison had been President of the American Pilot’s Association, and Lindberg was carrying a membership card signed by Allison when he flew the Atlantic in 1927. Allie and Bond were about the same age and height, but Allie was a much more powerfully built, formidable-looking man. Allie had a toothbrush mustache, a gruff bark, and although he was a pleasant, good-humored man away from the airport, on-duty, his pilots seldom saw him smile.

Bond quickly came to appreciate Allison one of the best, safest, most dependable aviators in the world.

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4 Responses to Ernie Allison and O.C. Wilke

  1. U.S. Consulate General, Shanghai says:

    Dear Mr. Crouch,

    Please kindly pass a message to Ms. Nancy Allison Wright from the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai. We received Ms. Wright’s package that included a copy of her book, Yankee on The Yangtze. The book will be added to the Information Resource Center which resides in the office of the Public Affairs Section. Please thank her for the newest addition to our library!

    Best Regards,

    American Citizen Services (ACS) unit
    Consular Section / U.S. Consulate General, Shanghai
    1038 W Nanjing Rd – Westgate Mall, 8th floor
    梅龙镇广场8楼 (Méi’lóng’zhèn guǎngchǎng)

  2. ZHANG Kui says:

    Dear Mr. Crouch,

    First, I would like to express all our gratitude on behalf of the international association “A Better World via Education (PMME). Thanks to your website and books, we gain so much valuable information on China before 1949 as well on Aviation history.

    2) I am contributing and editing a proceeding book on the famous Chinese romantic poet, Xu Zhimo, who died in 1931 in an air crash accident in Jinan. My paper’s name is “Revisiting
    quesitions on XuZhimo’s death place”, in which I am replacing a Stinson SM-1 picture by yours (with the chinese character 郵). May I have your courtesy of doing this? I will certainly send you before the book publication a copy of my research paper for your reviewing, even it is in Chinese but with figure captions in English.

    3) I need your help to get into contact with Mrs. Nancy Allison Wright. Her father, E.M. Allison, the famous American pilot of CNAC was also the unique expert sent by CNAC to the air crash place near Jinan for investigation. Alas, the original report was never published in China, and all reports by Chinese newspapers etc. after the accident made a number of confusions – even on the mountain’s name where the crashed Stinson SM-1F plane was found.

    So we do hope you can help us on this fascinating investigation.

    Thank you in advance for your precious cooperation.

    Sincerely yours,

    Mrs. ZHANG Kui
    President of the international educatoinal association PMME (www.asso-pmme.com)
    Professor of Reims University (Dept. Physics), France

    associationpmme@163.com or kui.yu@univ-reims.fr

    L’indifférence est la première marche qui mène à la destruction des valeurs essentielles de l’humanité.
    Indifference is the first step on a path which leads ultimately to the destruction of the values which define us as human beings.

    • Gregory says:

      Dear Mrs. Zhang,

      Your project sounds very interesting, and I’d be happy to connect you with Nancy Allison Wright, who’s a good friend of mine and a very nice woman. I’ll send you an email with her contact information.

      Thanks for making contact, Greg

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