Joseph H. Thomas
Joseph H. Thomas - 1962

Joseph H. Thomas
Joseph H. Thomas
Joe Thomas Solos, 1911
At the Controls of the Romano
Speed King in A Romano
Joe Thomas, the famous Northwest Speed King who battled deep-holed dirt tracks and splintery boards in race cars, is one of our early pioneers in the air.
     Thomas, now 70 years old and a resident of Pacific Beach, Calif., first soloed on July 4, 1911, and was at the controls, briefly, for the last time while aboard a Convair 440 enroute to Helsinki, Finland, on Sept. 15, 1958.
     The handsome daredevil, noted then as the Northwest Speed King while a member of the Mercer race car team, met Gene Romano, a former Italian aviator, at Seattle in 1910.
     "Romano built two planes and made me a proposition," Thomas recalls. "He would teach me to fly if I would be one of his test pilots. This was in the fall of 1910 and I soloed on July 4, 1911, where the present Boeing Aircraft Company is located."
     Joe said that the early aviators felt they could "fly a barn door if they had enough horsepower. Horsepower was our biggest problem in those days."
     Interestingly, Thomas turned down a chance to remain with Romano and accepted what appeared to be a more lucrative offer with the Mercer driving team of $50 a week and 50 percent of the prize money. It looked better than flying airplanes," he commented.
     "I flew a plane with a two-cycle Elbridge and later a Hall-Scott V8 with 60 horsepower," he said. Thomas remained with Romano until 1912, when he returned to auto racing.
     He raced until June 16, 1917, when he was sworn into the Signal Corps, as an aircraft inspector at the old Wright-Martin plant in Los Angeles.
     He turned to auto racing and competed through the 1920's. The call of flight brought him to Convair in San Diego at the start of World War II where he was a designer for the government.
     He was with Convair for 20 years and retired in August, 1958
From The Early Birds of Aviation CHIRP, June, 1962, Number 68

Joseph H. Thomas died in 1965
From The Early Birds of Aviation Roster of Members, 1996

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