Biographical / Historical
Charles F. Blair, Jr. (1909-1978) graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Vermont in 1931. After flight training with the Navy and completing a tour of duty as a naval aviator, Blair went on to be a pilot for United Airlines, American Airlines, and for Pan American Airways. In 1951 he set a record for an Atlantic crossing (7 hours, 48 minutes) in his converted North American P-51 Excalibur III. The next year, Blair became the first individual to fly over the North Pole in a single engine aircraft, an achievement that earned him the Harmon International Trophy, Thurlow Award, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Because of his Arctic solo, the Strategic Air Command invited Blair to help develop techniques for delivering thermonuclear weapons from long-range fighter aircraft. Blair worked as a special consultant to the Air Force during the week, and on weekends he continued to fly for Pan American. In 1956 Blair commanded Operation Sharkbait, a flight of jet fighters nonstop across the North Atlantic, and in 1959 he led Operation Julius Caesar, the first flight of jet fighters to cross the Arctic and the North Pole. After his retirement from the Air Force Reserves (as a Brigadier General) and Pan American, Blair operated Antilles Air Boats, a charter air service in the Caribbean. While piloting a regularly scheduled flight between St. Croix and St. Thomas, the aircraft crashed claiming Blair's life and those of three of his passengers.