J. Clifford Turpin
J. Clifford Turpin
Collection of Jerry Blanchard, 11-9-07


History of the Purdue School of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Although the Purdue University School of Aeronautics and Astronautics was not formally established as a separate academic unit until July 1, 1945, the Purdue and Lafayette community have a much longer aerospace tradition. The first airmail delivery in the U.S., for example, originated by hot air balloon. in Lafayette on August 17, 1859. Flown by John Wise of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, this balloon carried 123 letters and 23 circulars approximately 25 miles to Crawfordsville, Indiana, until forced to land by lack of buoyancy. Mr. Wise also conducted experiments for a local resident to detect the presence of ozone in the upper atmosphere during this flight. Thus, ten years before Purdue University was founded in 1869, Lafayette already had a history of experimentation with air travel, and with using that new technology for scientific exploration.
    Community interest in aviation continued when Purdue was established across the Wabash River in what was to become West Lafayette. The Purdue Aero Club was organized in 1910 under the direction of Professor Cicero B. Veal of mechanical engineering, and the community's first aircraft demonstration was held on June 13, 1911. Sponsored by the Purdue Alumni Association and the Lafayette Journal newspaper, this "Aviation Day" attracted an estimated 17,000 people. Other flights to campus during the next few years continued to draw large crowds.
    The first Purdue graduate to become an aviator was J.Clifford Turpin (class of 1908), who was taught to fly by Orville Wright. Turpin set an altitude record of 9,400 feet in 1911, establishing an alumni tradition that was continued 55 years later, when an X-2 aircraft flown by Captain Iven C. Kincheloe (BSAE 1949) set an altitude record of 126,000 feet in 1956. That record was subsequently surpassed by alumni Neil A. Armstrong (BSAE 1955) and Eugene A. Cernan (BSEE 1956) during their flights to the moon. Lieutenant George W. Haskins (BSME 1916) was the first alumnus to land on campus, as he flew from Dayton, Ohio, in 1919 with a resolution from the Dayton alumni group proposing formation of a School of Aviation Engineering at Purdue.
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History of the Purdue School of Aeronautics. and Astronautics
You may read the rest of the article by clicking on the title.
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Aeronautics and Astronautics
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June 14, 2001
Ralph, I am an author based at Purdue University. I am seeking all
information I can find about Cliff Turpin. I see you have a short piece
from Purdue on your site. Do you know anything else about him? Anyplace
else I can look. I would really like to find surviving family. He had a
daughter who could still be alive. Perhaps grandchildren. This is for a
book. I appreciate any help I can get.
John Norberg
June 14, 2001
Dear John: All I have on Cliff Turpin is what you see on his page on my
site. If you haven't already sent an inquiry to Bob Larzalere, I would
recommend that you do so. As you see in his email to me, on the Turpin page,
he does know something of the lady whose name appears on the postcard.
Perhaps he can help.
I think Bob's emailaddress is:
I have recently initiated a practice of putting email inquiries on the page
of the various aviators. If you wish, I will add your request to Turpin's
page and perhaps some visitor will be able to help. Let me know if you want
me to do this. If you do, let me know if you want to include your email
address directly on the page. If by good luck you happen to learn anything
of value regarding him, and care to share it with me to add to his page, I
would be very appreciative.
Good luck,
June 14, 2001
I'll be happy to share what I find and I would appreciate having my name and
e-mail posted. Thanks very much for your help.
Editor's Note: John's email address is: He would welcome any help you can offer.


Overturned By Wind On Exhibition Flight At North Yakima, Wash.
Newsclipping courtesy of J. N. Parmalee

     Phillip O. Parmalee, son of Charles Parmalee, St. Johns, and a former Marion boy, who was considered to be one of the best and most careful aviators in America, fell to his death in North Yakima, Wash., Saturday afternoon before the eyes of thousands of visitors to the fair grounds.
     Phillip was holder of the American endurance record in aviation and was used to remaining in the air for three hours without accident, had been up only three minutes when a contrary gust of wind caught the tail of his aeroplane and turned it completely over. Parmalee clung to the frame work, but the plane shot straight for the ground from a height of 400 feet, where it crumbled into a shapeless heap in a field three miles distant from the fair grounds. The young aviator was beneath the wreckage.
     Officials of the fair and attendants of the hanger rushed across the open fields to the spot where the wreck lay, but Parmalee was dead when they reached him.
     Parmalee, an especial protege of Wilbur Wright, who died on Thursday, was a carefully trained airman. It is believed that some imprecedented atmospheric condition must have had a part in causing the wreck of his machine.      J. Clifford Turpin, grief stricken over the death of his friend and flying partner, Phillip Parmalee, has announced he will fly no more.
     Turpin, himself, had a narrow escape from death Decoration Day at Seattle, Wash., when his machine crashed to the ground, killing a spectator and injuring fifteen. Turpin left at once from North Yakima, Wash., to St. Johns with the body of Parmalee.
     Phillip Parmalee was 27 years of age. He spent his early years with his parents in this vicinity and it was here that his mother was killed in a run a way accident. He leaves a devoted father and a host of admiring friends in Marion, St. Johns and many other places.

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