When The Lights Went Out In Saginaw

by Phyllis Moses
Special Feature Article from the December 1999
issue of the Red River Swift Wing newsletter


Every year in September, Swifter Stan price hosts a Red River Swift Wing Cookout in his hangar at Northwest Regional Airport, Roanoke, Texas. R.L. "Cotton" Conder attended this year. We were privileged to talk with him about his years at Globe Aircraft and TEMCO. Cotton, age 83, has not lost his enthusiasm for the Swift, his zest for life, nor his ability to tell his story. 
We want to share his experiences with other Swifters.
--  Phyllis Moses

In September, 1945, Cotton Conder started working at Globe Aircraft on Blue Mound Road in Saginaw, a small community north of Ft. Worth, Texas. He recalls the early days; the days when designers, engineers and test pilots watched a feisty personal sport plane roll out the factory doors into the hearts of eager purchasers. Wow! Was it sharp-looking. Returning veterans admired its "hot fighter" look, even though the horsepower of the first run was only 85 hp.

Aircraft production for general aviation following WWII had slowed to a crawl. The Globe Aircraft came out with the Swift. Cotton considers himself lucky to have been part of this aggressive aircraft company.

Cotton recalls many experiences about those vintage years. His recollection of Globe Aircraft and the production of the Swift in those early days is remarkable. He told us about the struggles they faced as a new aircraft manufacturer - struggles that would ultimately prove to be the downfall of a promising corporation. The first production run filled the initial demand for this airplane; yet because of the exciting outlook for its future, the purchasing agents continued to buy up thousands of dollars worth of parts: engines, brakes, propellers, landing gears and other materials not needed at the time. In the early days, Globe furnished TEMCO parts and assemblies to build the standard model Swift under sub-contract.

Globe's warehouses, as well as TEMCO's, were bulging with excess parts. Cotton said, "If the purchasing agent had stopped buying supplies at the same time sales slowed down, and if the work force had been reduced, then Globe might have survived until sales picked up again. But the sales department's projections for future sales, and the purchasing department's free hand to spend were not coordinated properly."

Before anybody figured this out, all of the operating cash was gone and the creditors were taking a long hard look at Globe's ability to pay their bills.

Another bright young man joined Globe in 1946. His name was Roy Gowin. Cotton and Roy worked together to facilitate bringing the Swifts and new owners together. They were always available when Swift owners needed advice regarding repairs and maintenance, and Cotton ferried the Swifts all over the United States. The two of them were convinced there was no other airplane like it, so they even bought one for themselves.

The created the A. & E. flying club, and spent many enjoyable hours flying the Swift. Eventually, they sold it to a Swift Executive, George Newman.

Cotton and Roy took care of the hundreds of new planes sitting in storage. These were trying times for those who watched the great Swift manufacturer, Globe aircraft, slide further and further into bankruptcy. After TEMCO acquired Globe's assets, the two stayed on doing whatever was necessary for the transition. Cotton took over the task of ferrying the stored airplanes to TEMCO. Roy stayed at the Globe plant to prepare the remaining aircraft for delivery to TEMCO. Cotton ferried one plane a day in the beginning until TEMCO's pilots joined in the process; then they ferried four and five a day. Then came the final move. Several weeks before the closing of the plant at Saginaw, TEMCO people were at the factory with 18-wheel trucks. They tagged tools, fixtures and parts for the smooth transition to the TEMCO plant at Grand Prairie.

Cotton remembers those days vividly, "Roy and I were sad to see the Globe plant close; however, we were happy to know someone like Bob McCulloch was enthusiastic about the future of the Swift airplane".

When TEMCO built the Buckaroo, based on the Swift design, Cotton got the assignment to take ten of them to Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. In May of 1953, each was packed in a large crate, and loaded on board a freighter bound for Saudi. Cotton recalls this trip, "I flew over there to meet the freighter and to supervise the unloading from the ship. After the planes were assembled, I check out the pilots and mechanics. This operation took six months. Every day the temperature was 120 degrees, Fahrenheit, and no rain."

It's quite an emotional distance between the Globe plant were the original Swifts were manufactured to where they are today; about one-half of them still exist. Most of these Swifts are faster now, and infinitely more valuable. They are, perhaps, more revered than any other type aircraft. The owners admire the beauty of their airplanes, and they appreciate the history of their birth.

Cotton says, "There's not another aircraft in the world quite like a Swift; it was built before its time. It's unbelievable that the 85hp Swift as I knew it, could become what it is today with up to 210 hp. I ferried them all over the U.S. and thought they were great. Then when they produced a series of Swifts with 125hp, I thought I was in heaven." The clean lines, the lean styling, gives this little sport aircraft a look that is unmatched everywhere it is shown.

Many stories are told about the closing of the Globe Swift plant, but still, there is no happy ending.

Cotton Conder, who officiated at the birth of this coveted airplane, and who also was there at the death of the plant, says, 'There was no dramatic end when Globe closed the doors. We all just simply walked away."


About the author...

Phyllis Moses is a freelance writer, with a special emphasis on aviation and aviation history. Her articles appear in Vintage Airplane, Woman Pilot magazine, Flyer, Flight Journal, Aviation Buyers Directory, and the Good Old Days magazine. She is currently newsletter editor of the texas Pilot ASsociation, and Secretary/Treasurer of the Texas Chapter, Antique Airplane Association. She is historian of the newly formed Dallas/Ft. Worth chapter of women in Aviation International Association, long time friend and supporter of the Swift Association and former editor of the Red River Swift Wing newsletter. Phyllis continues to make substantial contributions to the RRSW newsletter with articles such as this.

Back To Swift History Index