“Blind Flyer”

From Bob Martin

The following article was the cover story from the July 1937 issue of the famous but  now-defunct Scribner’s Magazine, which reflects on the career of TWA Captain Charles G. “Chick” Fredericks. It was submitted from the personal files of Bob Martin, Capt. Fredericks’ nephew.



Blind Flyer

 Captain Charles G. Fredericks is a twenty-nine-year-old expert in blind flying and, like experts the world over, a serious man. That’s the reason he isn’t smiling in the picture on our cover this month, the second of a series of portraits of people in various professions and occupations. When Harry Trede and James Lemmerz were battling high winds to get his photograph at Newark Airport , one of them leaned from his ladder to ask for a smile. “No,” Captain Fredericks called back. “It isn’t that kind of a job.” Sometime before that, he and Mrs. Fredericks were in Jack Dempsey’s restaurant in New York . A waiter brought a message from another table, a message asking whether he was Gary Cooper. Mrs. Fredericks, who comes from New Orleans , wanted him to say yes, but Captain Fredericks wouldn’t do that either.

 His job is twofold: piloting a TWA transport on the New York - Los Angeles line and instructing TWA copilots in blind flying. As a pilot he is especially noted for his timing. Let him say he’s bringing his ship into Newark at 10:30 a.m., only to arrive at at 10:31, and he’ll find people standing around, shaking their heads and wondering what’s up.  

His blind flying work has earned him the term “Professor.” He’s one of the pioneers in this, but it’s far too intricate to explain. He goes up with a pilot, puts him “under the hood” where he can’t see a thing, and he himself stays out in the open, talking to pilot by phone. Sometimes Captain Fredericks teaches the pilot, sometimes he merely gives him a test in blind-flying  -- instrument-flying, as the airlines call it.  

The Captain has had 4600 hours aloft, 2000 of them blind flying. He was born in Chicago and learned aviation at at the Great Lakes Training Station of the Marine Corps. For a while he was in New Orleans , flying mail down to Pilotstown and ships going out to sea. Later he taught blind flying in Los Angeles , where he attracted the attention of Transcontinental and Western Air , Inc. He has been with TWA since 1935, part of the time at Kansas City and more recently in the East. He and Mrs. Fredericks live in East Orange – in a house with a view of the New York skyline. Mrs. Fredericks flies a little herself, in good weather, but her husband didn’t teach her. She got her flying lessons from Colleen Moore’s brother – it seems that like bridge lessons they shouldn’t come from husbands.

 Captain Fredericks is a reserve officer in the Marine corps, which thereby gets part of his summers. He goes in heavily for tennis, swimming and golf, holds the bowling record at the Newark Athletic Club, and plays a good game of bridge. He doesn’t play poker, for the reason that he doesn’t like to gamble. To him, a precise aviator, it’s like smiling for cameramen.