Was Christian Kautz really a test pilot for Lockheed during World War II? This seems to be one of those ‘received wisdom’ things and is stated in many places - on Wikipedia, obviously, plus Historic Racing and many other F1 sites. Or is this a bit of 'promoter's fiction' designed to remind people of his existence when he returned to racing in Europe after the war? Or maybe even either a complete fiction or just a simple error?
In late 1939, Christian Kautz - who, while a student, had represented Oxford University as a skier - had qualified as a ski instructor and he and his German-born wife Marie-Laure emigrated to the United States in early 1940, apparently with the intention of setting up a ski school in partnership with his friend Martin Fopp, who later became a multiple US champion skier. However, he and Marie-Laure seem to have divorced almost as soon as they arrived there and he remarried in mid-1940, to department store heiress Mignon Woidemann. In mid-1942 he became a US citizen, at which point he described himself as a 'flying student' - when he had registered for the draft in 1940 he didn't declare an occupation. So would someone who apparently didn't even have a full pilot's licence in 1942 really have been hired as a test pilot? Seems unlikely. I can believe he might have been a ferry pilot, taking planes from the factory to operational air bases, so could that be the real story?
However, it gets more confusing. There are several post-war travel records for a 'Christian Kautz-Scanavy'. The home address on two of them, in 1946 and 1948, in Loma Vista Drive, Beverly Hills, tallies with that of Christian and Mignon Kautz. The 1946 one – TWA from Paris to New York - is near-illegible, but in 1948, travelling KLM from Amsterdam to Boston, he is described as a pilot. So far so good – other details like the middle initials CR (for Constantin Richard) also tie in. And as we know, Christian Kautz was one of the three fatalities during the ‘black weekend’ at Bremgarten in 1948, the others being Achille Varzi and Omobono Tenni.
So, the next mystery is where did the second half of the surname come from? And why?
Researching this further I discovered that Mignon remarried, less than a month after Christian’s death, to one William W Winans. Marriage records show her as Mignon Kautz-Scanavy.
However, in later years there are records of a Christian C Kautz-Scanavy travelling by sea from New York to Cannes (‘in transit to Switzerland’ on a one-year visa) in 1956 and two return journeys – Paris-Los Angeles on Pan-Am in 1958 and Zurich-New York by Swissair in 1960. No ages given, unfortunately. But the 1956 outward record says that this chap was born in California. Mr and Mrs Winans – as well as Neva Nadine W Winans, who was their daughter, born in 1949, were also on board, in transit to Switzerland. The two airport arrivals both give an address in Pacific Palisades CA. As do later arrival records for William and Mignon Winans. What I haven’t been able to find is any trace of the birth of Christian C Kautz-Scanavy. There are no 1940s Kautz births which fit and the name Scanavy seems exceedingly rare; possibly Greek. So who was he?
At some point Christian C Kautz-Scanavy seems to have moved to Virginia and apparently died in 2005. So was Christian C Kautz-Scanavy actually the test pilot? Has someone put two and two together and made five? Is there any evidence to be found in the period 1942-48 confirming that Christian Kautz the racing driver actually was a test pilot?