Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


“I GOT this great screenplay! It has everything. Action. Glamor. International rivalry. Airplanes for the guys. Romance for their girlfriends.”
“Old hat….”
“Wait! There’s this World War I pilot who’s a Kiwi. Get the Hobbit angle?”
“Sorry. It’s already been done.”
“Listen—then this Kiwi goes barnstorming across America, but ends up in Honduras where he loses an eye. Geez, he could even wear an eyepatch.…”
“Yes, I know. His name is Lowell Yerex—and he was a real person.”

Lowell Yerex, “riding a spirited steed on a hill in Toncontin,” [near the site of today’s Toncontin International Airport, Honduras]. This and the following image from

On the other hand, as Oscar Wilde noted, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.”

And life isn’t always definitive on details. My primary sources for what follows in Parts 1 and 2, today and tomorrow, are the newspaper report, “Touring with Pyle,” by famed U.S. war correspondent Ernie Pyle, and academic research by Erik Benson, “The Man Without a Country: Lowell Yerex, His Airline, and U.S. Policy Concerning International Commercial Aviation, 1939-44.” and “Aviator of Fortune: Lowell Yerex and the Anglo-American Commercial Aviation Rivalry, 1931-46.” The international rivalry angle is contested a bit in Robert Greehill’s review of Benson’s work. And there are differing details offered in Last, there’s mention of Lowell Yerex, spelled Yerez, here at SimanaitisSays in discussing Harry Franck’s Pan American Highway book.

Lowell Yerex, 1895–1968, New Zealand-born adventurer, aviation executive, founder of Transportes Aérores Centro Americanos, British West Indian Airways, and Aerovias Brasil.

Lowell Yerex was born in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1895 to a family with ardent American feelings. He and several siblings were named after Yanks; might he (like one of my nephews) have been named for American astronomer Percival Lowell? In any case, he emigrated to the United States where he attended Valparaiso University in Indiana. In 1916, Yerex earned a degree from its College of Business.

Like others of his generation, Yerex was keen on aviation. Given the war and his British dominion heritage, he volunteered for the Royal Air Force. Yerex learned to fly, earned the rank of Lieutenant, engaged in World War I combat, and soon rose to Captain.

After several enemy kills, late in the war Yerex was shot down and spent four months in a German prisoner-of-war camp. Upon release, he returned to the U.S. where he followed a pattern of other WWI pilots exercising his piloting skills barnstorming in a “flying circus.”

Tomorrow, we’ll learn that Yerex’s adventures were just off to a good start. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

2 comments on “A SCREENPLAY PITCH PART 1

  1. Cynthia
    April 3, 2020

    Dear Sir

    Lowell Yerex was my grandfather, Jack Alexander’s first cousin. They were the same age and great friends before WW1. As 15 year olds, they went gold mining together in the South Island.

    I have some stories about Lowell which were passed down and therefore may be exaggerations but I thought you’d like to hear them.

    Sometime after the war Lowell had a flying act with a wing walker. The wing walker was also a hemophiliac. It was said that he survived these antics. Other wing walkers did not.

    The most exciting story has Lowell with only $10 left, deciding to spend it on an extravagant night out. A lavish meal and a box at the opera/ music hall. During an intermission, Lowell, surveying the theatre from his box, noticed a man in a box below with a gun trained out across the audience. He clambered over the railings and dropped onto the man below. The gun went off but the intended target survived. I was always told this was the president of Honduras.

    Lowell was as a result, taken on as the pilot (only pilot?) of The Honduran airline: Taca. His chief rival Pan Am used to turn off the runway lights when he was coming in to land.

    Somehow, Lowell ends up gun-running for the rebels (of Honduras?) and loses his eye being shot at while flying. For years after, when billiards was dull, he would take out his glass eye and roll it around the table for effect.

    As some of this is family mythology, you should take it with a grain of salt but it might enhance the screen play!

    • simanaitissays
      April 3, 2020

      It’s wonderful, be it mythology or not. Thanks sincerely. —Dennis

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