This Carrollton Urban Legend begins in the year 1927. It was during that time pilot William Portwood Erwin, who was considered one of America’s greatest flying aces during World War I, was among the many pilots trying to borrow some of Charles Lindbergh’s shine; hence the Dallas Spirit, its name borrowed quite obviously from The Spirit of St. Louis.
The Dallas Spirit was unveiled at Love Field Airport in Dallas, Texas on August 6, 1927, in front of thousands of spectators and city and state officials, including Mayor R.E. Burt and Texas Governor Dan Moody. Three days later, Erwin took off from Love Field for California, landing in Oakland on August 11.
It was in Oakland, California where the Dallas Spirit was to attempt to win back to back prizes offered at the peak of record-setting aviation accomplishments in 1927. The first was to win the $25,000 Dole Air Derby between Oakland California and Honolulu Hawaii.
On the 18th of August in 1927, The Dallas Spirit disappeared during the Dole Air Race from Oakland to Hawaii. At 9 pm, a message that the aircraft went into a spin and recovered was reported. That message was followed by a second S.O.S that the plane had encounter an unidentified aircraft with unusual lights before going into another spin. The signal was lost abruptly in the middle of the call. It is believed the Dallas Spirit then crashed into the ocean about 650 miles west of Oakland.
That was the story until the year 1966 when a small airport called Air Park-Dallas in Hebron, Texas was built. Former mayor of Addison, Texas, Milton Noell claimed a vintage airplane appeared out of nowhere and attempted to land. Mr. Noell quickly ran to a radio and asked the pilot to identify himself and asked if he was lost. The pilot identified himself as William Erwin of the Dallas Spirit. He requested to land. Mr. Noell didn’t hesitate to grant him access. Once he landed, the pilot looked around and seemed very puzzled. Before any introduction could be made, the pilot returned to his plane and took off again. After researching the Dallas Spirit and William Erwin, Mr. Noell believed the person he saw was in fact William Erwin and the plane was the Dallas Spirit.
This story could be an Urban Legend, but many people saw this vintage plane land and disappear. On that sunny summer day of 1966 Mr Noell and his son David were hosting a meeting on the premises of Air Park. More than 20 North Texas businessmen observed this strange encounter.
Since 1966, many North Texas residents claim they have seen the same plane landing on the small runway. Is it the ghost of Lt Erwin in the Dallas Spirit, trying to find Love Field? Is he confused with the changes the Dallas metroplex has experienced in the past century? Is he drawn to the small Air-Park Dallas because he believes that looks more like the kind of airport of his time? Many locals have shared the same illusion for over a half of a century. Next time you find yourself in the Hebron, Parker, Midway area of North Dallas, look up to the sky and see if you can spot the Dallas Spirit trying to find his way home.