Key Brothers Film
Scope and Contents
This collection contains film, a VHS tape, DVD, and articles about the Al and Fred Key’s endurance flight in 1935.
- Creation: 1935-1985
Conditions Governing Access
Noncirculating; available for research.
Conditions Governing Use
This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).
Biographical / Historical
Brothers Fred and Al Key became interested in aviation after World War I. They started doing some barnstorming in the 1920s and continued their interest as the managers of the Meridian Municipal Airport, in Meridian, Mississippi.
With the onset of the Great Depression, the city of Meridian began doing whatever it could to save money. The airport was considered unnecessary, given the economic conditions, and was slated to be closed.
The Key brothers had no desire to see this happen, so they came up with a plan to draw attention to Meridian and its airport by breaking the standing flight endurance record of 23 days. At that time, air-to-air refueling was dangerous. If gasoline was spilled, which often happened, it could be ignited by the hot engine exhaust.
To solve this problem, the Key brothers, along with local inventor and mechanic A. D. Hunter, invented a spill-free fueling system that consisted of a valve on the end of the fuel nozzle which was opened by a probe in the neck of the fuel tank. The valve would not allow fuel to flow unless it was inserted into the fuel tank. During fueling, if the nozzle was removed from the tank, the fuel would automatically stop flowing. This nozzle was later adopted by the US Army Air Corps, and is still in use today with some modifications.
Refueling the plane wasn't their only concern. The engine needed regular maintenance during the flight in order to stay in good running order. To facilitate this, a catwalk was built so that Fred could walk out and work on the plane while it was airborne.
On June 4, 1935, The Flying Keys, as the brothers later became known, lifted off in a borrowed Curtiss Robin monoplane named Ole Miss from Meridian, Mississippi's airport. For the next twenty-seven days, they flew over the Meridian vicinity. Several times each day, the crew of a similar plane would lower food and supplies to the brothers on the end of a rope, as well as supply fuel via a long flexible tube. They landed on July 1 after traveling an estimated 52,320 miles and used more than 6,000 gallons of gasoline.
Their non-stop endurance flight lasted 653 hours, 34 minutes. The Ole Miss is permanently displayed in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C..
After this historic flight, Meridian's public airport was renamed Key Field in the brothers' honor.
.40 Cubic Feet
Language of Materials
Al and Fred Key set a record for their endurance flight in 1935. They flew their plane Ole Miss over the Meridian area for twenty-seven days. Fred Key died in 1971 while Al Key died in 1976. Key Field is named in their honor.
The materials in the collection were organized by subject, grouping items by organization when possible (articles, film, etc.).
Donated by Joseph McClanny on July 14, 1992.
• Case File
• Contents from the collection
- Key Brothers Film
- Collection processed and finding aid written by Brandon Ball
- 15 October 2019
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository
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