the col carl J. crane collection (gateway archives)

The Lackland Gateway Archives Collection now has a small collection of documents and photographs of the early aviation pioneer USAF Col Carl J. Crane.

Our early efforts of indexing and digitizing the collection has uncovered many of his patents and his tireless work not only behind the patents he created but his body of work in the aviation field as a whole.

CRANE, CARL JOSEPH (1900–1982). Carl Joseph Crane, aviation pioneer and inventor, was born in San Antonio on October 20, 1900, the son of John Paul and Ida (Witmer) Crane. At age ten he witnessed the birth of aviation in Texas when, at Fort Sam Houston, Capt. Benjamin Foulois first flew experimentally the only airplane owned by the United States government, a pusher-type, twenty-five-horsepower Wright Brothers biplane. Crane studied at St. Mary's University, San Antonio, and the University of Dayton (Ohio), where he received the bachelor (1924) and the master of mechanical engineering (1934) degrees. After graduating from the United States Army Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field in 1925, he spent two years with the First Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field in Michigan, and then for five years was a flight instructor at Kelly, Brooks, and Randolph fields in Texas. In 1929 he teamed with William C. Ocker to devise revolutionary flying systems and to write the world's first manual for instrumental flight, Blind Flight in Theory and Practice (1932).

On August 23, 1937, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, with assistance from G. V. Holloman and Raymond Stout, Crane made the world's first fully automated landing, for which he had designed the key instruments. He served in military aviation until 1949. During WWII he performed training and logistics duties in the United States, then served overseas with the Ninth Air Force and attained the rank of colonel. He was senior air officer with the Army Advisory Group in China, 1948–49. In more than sixty years as a pilot, Crane flew almost every experimental and production craft, from the earliest biplane to jet aircraft.

Among his more than 100 patented inventions were radio signaling equipment for use in aircraft trainers, which was licensed for use in the Link Trainer; the Navitrainer, designed with Colonel Ocker; the B-3 Drift Meter; the Gyro Panoramic Sextant; and numerous other navigational devices. He had inventions on the drawing board and patents pending when he died.

Crane was a member of the Daedalians and of the Institute of Navigation, a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the holder of the Mackay Trophy, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and distinguished alumnus awards from both St. Mary's and the University of Dayton. In 1979 he (and Ocker, posthumously) received the Flight Safety Foundation's Pioneer Award. Crane married twice and had five children. He was a devout Catholic. He died on April 26, 1982, in San Antonio.

Crane Papers

The Lackland Gateway Collection continues to process, sort and archive hundreds of pages of material from the late Col Carl J. Crane.

Additional material will be added to this site as work continues.


the Patents

Colonel Crane created and recieved approval on more than 200 patents - both in the United States and patents abroad.  In a few instances, he worked against varying opposing forces on patents, but his tenacity and incredibly effeicient work ethic kept him moving through the varying administrative processes --  all of which is clearly reflected in the document collection in the Lackland Gateway Archives and thus reflected in this on-line collection.

The Crane Patents