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Walter J. Carr Sr.

Walter J. Carr


Walter J. Carr was born on January 15, 1896 in Ladd, Illinois. As an "early bird" in aviation, he had a multi-faceted career as a designer of aircraft, test pilot, instructor, and military officer, logging more than 20,000 hours of flight time.

Trained as a railroad engineer, Carr first became interested in aviation when he helped repair two planes at a county fair in 1912. He entered the Chicago Flying School, receiving federal license 442, and after graduation entered the exhibition circuit, performing at fairs and other events throughout the country.

When World War I broke out, Carr joined the aviation section of the Army Signal Corps and served as a flight instructor. After the war, he continued barnstorming began to design and build aircraft for the Paramount Aircraft Manufacturing Company of Saginaw. He also helped operate the Detroit, Saginaw, and Northern Airway. The depression put the company in receivership, but he was soon back in business, operating a skywriting service. In 1932, he designed and built the "Carr Special," a long-wing monoplane with OX-5 engine in which he won 22 races in two years. In 1937, he test piloted the "Explorer" aircraft built by Abrams Aerial Survey Company.

While serving as chief test pilot for Barkley-Grow at Detroit City Airport in the 1930s, Carr was chosen by Eddie Stinson to fly the first tri-motor to China and form the first Chinese airline. He flew the Canton to Hanoi route for a year before returning to the U.S.

Carr joined the Michigan Aeronautics Commission in 1942 as a pilot and inspector, but when World War II broke out the 45 age limit was waived so he could return to uniform. When the war was over, he returned to the MAC where he remained until his retirement in 1962.

In 1967, at the age of 71, Carr took over the controls of a Lear executive jet and flew it at 535 miles per hour at an altitude of 28,000 feet.
Carr was enshrined on November 7, 1991. He was a legend in Michigan aviation and his contributions to the development of aviation were many.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program