Francis O. Smith Collection

Francis O. Smith Collection

Francis O. Smith Collection

Francis Smith was WWII pilot who flew 'over the Hump' - the route over the Himalayas between India and China. He received various accolades and after his service, he worked at the FAA from 1962 to 1998.

Born in Placer County, California on June 17, 1917, his family relocated to Butte County when he was a young boy, where he received his formal education. Francis Oscar “Smitty” Smith began flying lessons in 1933, earning his private pilot’s license in 1935. Before World War II he was involved in a variety of flying activities, working as a crop duster, air charter pilot, and as a flight instructor. In 1941, he taught Royal Air Force pilots at Falcon and Thunderbird Fields in Arizona.

Francis O. Smith joined the Army Air Corps Ferrying Command on June 2, 1942 as a civilian pilot, and then was commissioned as an officer on July 14, 1942. He served as a Hump Pilot during World War II, flying 60 round trips over the Himalayas, from India to China. As with other Hump pilots, he flew at high altitudes, often in terrible weather conditions. His many awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with oak leaf clusters, Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, and others.

During his distinguished military flying career, Smith piloted a wide range of vehicles, including, among others,  the Stearman PT-17, Fairchild PT-19, Ryan PT-22, Stearman PT-27, PQ-8 Cadet, AT-6 Texan, AT-9 Jeep, AT-11 Beech Twin, BT-13 and BT-15 Valiant, AT-17 Cessna Bobcat, Anson AT-20, Taylorcraft L-2A and L-2B Grasshopper, Piper L-4B Grasshopper, A-29 Hudson, B-17F Flying Fortress, Douglas B-18 bomber, B-24D Liberator, B-25D Mitchell, B-26B Marauder, Douglas DC-3 transport, Lockheed C-36A, C-47 Skytrain, C-53 Skytrooper, C-56 and C-60 Lodestar, Boeing C-73, Cessna C-78, and the Fairchild C-82.

Later, Smith flew transports for the Air Transport Command in South America, Africa, and India. He was discharged from the Army Air Forces on January 15, 1946, and then worked various flying jobs, such as aerobatic pilot, crop duster, charter pilot, and airline pilot. He joined the Federal Aviation Agency in 1962, remaining there until he retired in 1975. At the FAA, he worked as a flight inspector, flight procedures specialist and check pilot. Due to cancer, Smith died on May 18, 1998 in Sacramento, California.


For more about this collection, see the Descriptive Finding Guide.

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