Sunday, March 22, 2020

Denver-area Thrifting Unearths Rare "Wings of Destiny" Record

Hey all!

So earlier this month I was out record digging around Denver (what else is new?). I walked into a store, and immediately noticed a box of dusty 78rpm discs. The clerk said they had just come in, a few minutes before I arrived.

While I didn't find any Colorado additions to the collection, in amongst the typical 1940s Big Band and Bing Crosby records, I spotted two (very trashed) 12" Presto acetates marked "KGHL Billings Montana" and "Richardson Plane Presentation." I didn't hesitate to purchase the unknown recordings ($.25 each).

When I got home, I cleaned the records as best I could, grabbed my Numark, and gave them a listen. The audio quality was still atrocious, but from what I could tell, it sounded like a radio station remote news report, out at an airport.

The record starts off with an in-studio host named Brian Robershon (?) introducing reporter Ed Yocum, who was broadcasting from Billings Municipal Airport. The station was covering the arrival of a 65 horsepower Continental Piper Cub airplane. I didn't understand what all of the hoopla was about, until it was revealed that the plane was the weekly grand prize of the "Wings of Destiny" national radio program.

 Sponsored by the Brown and Williamson tobacco corporation, makers of Wing cigarettes, "Wings of Destiny" debuted on October 11, 1940.  It featured courageous pilot, Steve Benton, his amiable mechanic, Brooklyn, and his girlfriend, Peggy Banning. According to a Variety article I found, the show was "Aimed at an air-minded generation, young enough to see only the excitement, old enough to smoke."

But it wasn't Steve Benton's adventures that kept audiences glued to the radio. Up until then, aviation radio programs usually gave away wings and badges, but only "Wings of Destiny" gave away actual airplanes. The contest rules were geared toward an older winner. In order to win the plane, a contestant had to send in 10 empty Wing cigarette packs, and write an essay.

The winner featured on the record, Fen Richardson (the "Richardson" noted on the record label), was a Ford dealer in Lovell, Wyoming, 90 miles from Billings. According to the record, this was the 53rd plane giveaway for the program. The record contained an interview with a Piper spokesperson (couldn't identify his name) who proudly noted that this was the first Continental model to be given away. The winner also received eight hours of solo course instruction.

Billings mayor Charlie T. Trott presented the plane to Richardson, who said he planned to keep it, and would be taking flying lessons.

From what I can tell, this is the only known recording of a "Wings of Destiny" radio program winner receiving an airplane. It's an incredible find.

As for the "Wings of Destiny" radio show?

Flying Magazine December 1941
(the last advertisement promoting the Wings of Destiny show and the plane giveaway)

When Pearl Harbor was attacked, and the declaration of war was announced, in December 1941, all airplane manufacturers, including the Piper plant, began producing aircraft only for the military.  On December 26, 1941,  Brown & Williamson issued a press release stating that the 63rd and last Piper Cub would be given away that very day.  The show ended February 6, 1942.


  1. Great story, forgotten history! Love it!

  2. I'm in the radio business here in Billings. Any chance I could get a mp3 of the audio? I'd love to hear it.

  3. The Piper spokesperson may have been Arthur Segar Pierce, a pilot who worked for Piper Cub in marketing who according to lore, delivered each plane to the winner. As far as I can tell, this promotion was his concept.