Tag Archives: Aero Club of America

23 April 1915

Lieutenant Commander Patrick Neison Lynch Bellinger, United States Navy.

23 April 1915: Lieutenant Patrick Neison Lynch Bellinger, United States Navy, flew a Burgess-Dunne hydroaeroplane to an altitude of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) over Pensacola Bay, Florida.

The Aero Club of America certified Lieutenant Bellinger’s record:

     Homolgation of the altitude record made by Lieut. P. N. L. Bellinger at Pensacola Bay, Fla., on April 23rd last has been officially recognized and awarded as follows: American altitude record, aviator alone, hydroaeroplane, 10,000 feet. This height was reached in one hour, nineteen minutes. It is interesting to note the climbing record in connection with this flight, 6,000 feet being attained in 24 minutes and 8,000 feet in 41 minutes.

Flying, Vol. IV, No. 5, June, 1915, The Aero Club of America, Club News, Page 554 at Column 1

Burgess-Dunne Model BD-5, U.S. Navy serial number AH-10.
Burgess-Dunne hydroaeroplane, U.S.N. serial number AH-10. (United States Navy)
Lieutenant John William Dunne, Wiltshire Regiment, British Army. (The Sketch, 19 May 1909)

The Burgess-Dunne Model BD-5, U.S. Navy serial number AH-10, was a licensed variant of the British Short Brothers-built Dunne D.5. The configuration was designed by Lieutenant John William Dunne, F.R.Ae.S., and was based on his observations of the Roemer’s Alsomitra macrocarpa seeds, although his design essentially reversed the aerodynamic features of the seed.

According to Wikipedia:

The seed or samara of this species is unusual in having two flat bracts extending either side of the seed to form a wing-like shape with the seed embedded along one long edge and the wings angled slightly back from it. As the seed ripens the wings dry and the long edge furthest from the seed curls slightly upwards. When ripe, the seed drops off and its aerodynamic form allows it to glide away from the tree.[6][7] The wing spans some 13 cm and can glide for great distances. The seed moves through the air like a butterfly in flight — it gains height, stalls, dips and accelerates, once again producing lift, a process termed phugoid oscillation.[8] In the past it was often found on the decks of ships at sea.

The seed’s relative stability in pitch and roll inspired Igo Etrich, a pioneer of early aviation. The contemporary pioneer J.W. Dunne also studied the seed but discarded it as inspiration because it was not directionally stable.

Alsomitra macrocarpa seed. (Scott Zona/Wikipedia)

The BD-5 was a two-place, single-engine, four-bay biplane with a single pontoon and wingtip-mounted floats. The wings were swept 30° and the lower wing was staggered significantly behind the upper. Both wings had anhedral, and the upper wing had slightly more area and a negative twist. There was no tail, rudder or elevators. The ailerons also acted as elevators. The design was very stable and it could not be forced into a stall.

Burgess-Dunne Hydroaeroplane, 1914. (FLIGHT First Aero Weekly in the World, No. 286 (Vol. VI, No. 25), 19 June 1914 at page 645.)

The Burgess-Dunne was 24 feet, 8 inches (7.518 meters) long, with a wingspan of 46 feet, 0 inches (14.021 meters). The wings have a chord of 6 feet, 0 inches (1.829 meters) vertical gap between the wings was 6 feet, 0 inches (1.829 meters). The total wing area is 545 square feet (50.63 square meters). The airplane’s empty weight was 1,450 pounds (658 kilograms), and it had a gross weight of 1,700 pounds (771 kilograms).

The pontoon had a single hydrodynamic step. It was 17 feet, 8 inches (5.385 meters) long, 3 feet, 1 inch (0.940 meters) wide and had a maximum depth of 1 foot, 2 inches (0.356 meters).

The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 567.450-cubic-inch-displacement (9.299 liter) Curtiss OXX-2 overhead valve 90° V-8 engine with dual ignition. It had two valves per cylinder, a compression ratio of 4.92:1, and produced 100 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m. The OXX-2 was a direct-drive engine and turned a two-bladed, 8 foot (2.4 meter) diameter propeller in a pusher configuration.

The Burgess-Dunne had a fuel capacity of 22 Imperial gallons (100 liters) and carried 4 gallons (18 liters) of lubricating oil.

During flight testing, the Burgess-Dunne Hydroaeroplane averaged 58.75 miles per hour (94.55 kilometers per hour) ground speed over a triangular course with a 10 knot wind (11.5 miles per hour, or 5.4 meters per second).

One Burgess-Dunne had been ordered by the Navy on 5 December 1914. The cost was $5,000.00, less engine. It was delivered in April, 1915. After being flown to the altitude record, AH-10 was used for artillery spotting at Fort Monroe, Virginia. It was the first U.S. Navy aircraft to be armed with a machine gun, a .30-caliber Benét-Mercié machine rifle, and bomb racks.

On 7 March 1916, AH-10 was damaged in a collision with a sailing vessel off Mobile, Alabama. The pilot, Lieutenant Edward Orrick McDonnell, U.S. Navy, was not hurt. After repair, the airplane was returned to service. (Lieutenant McDonnell had been awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Veracruz, 21–22 April 1914. He rose to the rank of Vice Admiral.)

Burgess-Dunne AH-10 hydroaeroplane at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, circa 1917. (National Naval Aviation Museum)

Patrick Neison Lynch Bellinger was born 8 October 1885 at Cheraw, South Carolina. He was the son of Carnot Ambrose Bellinger and Eleanor Lynch Bellinger.

A 1907 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, he served at sea aboard the battleship USS South Carolina (BB-26) before being assigned as captain of the C-class submarine, C-4 (SS-14). He was then assigned to aviation. Lieutenant Bellinger was Naval Air Pilot No. 4.

During the Veracruz campaign, 1914, Lieutenant Bellinger flew reconnaissance over enemy lines. It was here that a United States military airplane first came under enemy fire. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his actions there.

Lieutenant Commander Bellinger, United States Navy, circa 1919.

In 1919 he was awarded the Navy Cross, “For distinguished service in the line of his profession as commanding officer of the seaplane NC-1 which made a long overseas flight from Newfoundland to the vicinity of the Azores in May 1919.”

Lieutenant Commander Bellinger married Elsie McKeown of Pennsylvania, 24 July 1915. She died at Washington, D.C.,  9 February 1920. He married his second wife, Miriam Georgia Benoist, 14 April 1921.

Bellinger progressively rose in rank and responsibility. As rear admiral, he commanded Patrol Wing 2 at Pearl Harbor at the time of the surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy. During World War II, he was promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral and served as Commander Air Force, Atlantic Fleet. Vice Admiral Bellinger retired from the Navy in 1947.

Vice Admiral Patrick Neison Lynch Bellinger, United States Navy (Retired), died 29 May 1962 at the Chesapeake & Ohio Hospital, Clifton Forge, Virginia. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Lieutenant Commander Patrick N. L. Bellinger, U.S. Navy. (Portrait by Harris & Ewing, Washington D.C., 18 January 1920)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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19 April 1919

Dayton-Wright DH-4, A.S. 30130, at South Field, Dayton-Wright Airplane Company, 1918. (Dayton-Wright Airplane Company/Wright State University Libraries)
Dayton-Wright DH-4, A.S. 30130, at South Field, Dayton-Wright Airplane Company, 1918. (Wright State University Libraries)

19 April 1919: Captain Earl French White, Air Service, United States Army, and H.M. Schaffer, “his mechanician,” took off from Ashburn Aviation Field, Chicago, Illinois, at 9:50 a.m, Central Standard Time, in the Dayton-Wright DH-4, Air Service serial number A.S. 30130. At 5:40 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, the airplane and its two-man crew landed at Hazelhurst Field, Mineola, Long Island, New York. They flew 738.6 miles (1,188.7 kilometers) in 6 hours, 50 minutes at an average speed of approximately 106 miles per hour (170.6 kilometers per hour).

The New York Times reported the event on its front page on the following day:

. . . Captain White had great difficulty in taking to the air in the soft ground of Ashburn Field, the take-off grounds approved by the Aero Club of Illinois. The ground there was soft and the heavy army plane, with her load of more than 190 gallons [719.2 liters] of gasoline, cut into it deeply, but after the aviator had had his plane dragged to a drier and harder spot in the field he managed to take to the air.

Circling over Chicago, Captain White ascended to a height of more than 10,000 feet [3,048 meters] and throughout his flight he did not go below this level until he was ready to land, and at intervals he flew as high as 12,000 feet [3,658 meters] He followed the route of the New York Central Railroad for the greater part of the distance, and cities along the route reported seeing him flying at great height and at high speed.

About 5 o’clock yesterday persons visiting on the ships of the Atlantic Fleet in the Hudson River and pedestrians on Riverside Drive saw a dark blue airplane come down from the north at high speed, turn sharply to the east when it was about opposite Fiftieth Street and then gradually came to a lower level as it circled about over the city.

All thought it was only one of the many airplanes and seaplanes that take their daily practice flights over the Hudson River and Manhattan Island, but it was Captain White and the first Chicago-New York non-stop airplane, bearing the army number 30,130.

Plane a Standard Army Machine.

After sailing over the city for about ten minutes, Captain White turned his machine toward the army aviation field at Mineola, where he landed at about 5:40 o’clock. Colonel Archibald Miller, Director of Aviation in the Department of the East and one of the commanders of the Hazelhurst Field, was waiting there to meet captain White and his mechanician, H.M. Schaefer, and they were taken to the field headquarters where an informal reception was held.

Officers at the Hazelhurst Field said that the biplane used by Captain White in his flight was one of the standard De Havilland Four machines constructed for the use of the army in France, and that it was equipped with a twelve-cylinder Liberty motor of about 400 horsepower.

The New York Times, 20 April 1919, Page 1, Column 4, and continued on Page 9.

Captain White’s flight was observed by members of the Aero Club of America. The time of White’s departure from Chicago was telegraphed to New York. The flight was certified by the Aero Club, which represented the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) within the United States. This was the first non-stop flight between Chicago and New York, and was the longest non-stop flight that had been made anywhere in the world up to that time.

The Dayton-Wright Airplane Company DH-4 was a variant of the British Airco DH.4, designed by Geoffrey de Havilland (and commonly known as the de Havilland DH.4). It was a two-place, single-engine biplane intended as a bomber, but served in virtually every capacity during World War I and the years following.

The Airco DH.4 had a crew of two. It was 30 feet, 8 inches (9.347 meters) long with a wingspan of 43 feet, 4 inches (13.208 meters) and height of 11 feet (3.353 meters). Empty weight was 2,387 pounds (1,085 kilograms) and loaded weight was 3,472 pounds (1,578 kilograms). British-built DH.4s were powered by a 1,239-cubic-inch-displacement (20.32 liter) liquid-cooled Rolls-Royce Eagle overhead cam 60° V-12 engine which produced 375 horsepower. A gear-reduction system kept propeller r.p.m. below engine speed for greater efficiency.

The Liberty L12 aircraft engine was designed by Jesse G. Vincent of the Packard Motor Car Company and Elbert J. Hall of the Hall-Scott Motor Company. It was a  water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Liberty L-12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine and it turned turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms). This engine was produced by Ford Motor Company, as well as the Buick and Cadillac Divisions of General Motors, The Lincoln Motor Company (which was formed by Henry Leland, the former manager of Cadillac, specifically to manufacture these aircraft engines), Marmon Motor Car Company and Packard. Hall-Scott was too small to produce engines in the numbers required.

Dayton-Wright DH-4, U.S. Army Air Service serial number A.S. 30130, was built at the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company factory in 1918. It was used for engineering tests at McCook Field, and carried project number P78 painted on its rudder. What became of the airplane after Captain White left it at Hazelhurst Field is not known.

American-built DH.4 airplanes were produced by the Boeing Airplane Company, Dayton-Wright Airplane Company, Fisher Body Corporation, and Standard Aircraft Corporation. Most were powered by the Liberty L12 engine. Following World War I, many DH-4s were rebuilt by Boeing and Atlantic Aircraft. An improved version, the DH-4M, used a tubular steel framework instead of the usual wood construction. DH-4s remained in service with the United States Army as late as 1932. At McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, the U.S. Army’s aviation engineering center, DH-4s were commonly used as test beds for engines and other aeronautical equipment.

Hazelhurst Field was renamed Roosevelt Field in 1920, in honor of Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt, 95th Aero Squadron, son of former President Theodore Roosevelt, who was killed in aerial combat during World War I.

Earl French White was born at Minneapolis, Minnesota, 12 July 1888. He was the son of Clarence Otis White, a manufacturing engineer, and Harriet (“Hattie”) Isabel French White. He enlisted in the United States Army, 8 October 1910, and was assigned to the 11th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Myer, Virginia. In 1915 he transferred to the Aviation Section, Signal Corps. He completed flight training 27 March 1917.

Earl French White, U.S. Air Mail pilot. (Smithsonian National Postal Museum)

Earl French White was commissioned as a Captain, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, on 8 November 1917, and qualified as a Reserve Military Aviator in January 1918. In August 1918, Captain White was assigned to Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, and later, the Technical Flying Field in Dayton.

On 1 July 1919, Captain White was one of three pilots who flew the inaugural U.S Air Mail Service route from New York City, New York, to Chicago, Illinois. Captain White flew a DH-4 on the route segment from Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, to Cleveland, Ohio. He carried 6 pouches containing 330 pounds (150 kilograms) of mail, and arrived at Cleveland at 9:30 a.m.

Earl French White married Miss Mary Esther Edmondson at Sarasota, Florida, 26 February 1923. Miss Edmondson had served in France during World War I as a civilian aide with the American Red Cross. They would have a daughter, Patricia.

From 14 April 1923 to 30 June 1925, White flew for the U.S. Air Mail Service at Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, North Platte and Omaha, Nebraska, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. He flew scheduled night air mail from July 1924 to July 1925.

From 1928 to 1931, Earl White was a pilot for Pan American Airways in the Caribbean area.

Pilot Earl French White (left) and flight engineer/mechanic Henry Gerstung with Vanderbilt’s Sikorsky S-43, circa 1937. (Vanderbilt Museum)

In 1935, White was employed by William Kissam Vanderbilt II to fly his Sikorsky S-43 amphibian, NC-16825. Vanderbilt described White as “one of the most reliable and resourceful aviators in the game.”

William K. Vanderbilt II’s Sikorsky S-43 amphibian, NC-16925, serial number 4314. This airplane was impressed by the U.S. Army Air Corps 14 September 1941 and designated OA-11, 42-001. It was destroyed in a crash landing at Corcorite Bay, Trinidad, 5 November 1941. All five persons on board were killed.

As of 11 February 1937, White had logged a total of 5,370 hours, 50 minutes, of flight time.

During World War II, White was employed as a delivery pilot for the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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28 March 1913

Thomas DeWitt Milling and William C. Sherman, with Burgess Model H biplane, 28 March 1913. (Photograph by Higby Photo)
Lieutenant Thomas DeWitt Milling and Lieutenant William C. Sherman, with the Burgess Model H biplane, 28 March 1913. (Higby Photo)

28 March 1913: Lieutenants Thomas DeWitt Milling and William C. Sherman, Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps, United States Army, set two American Cross-Country Nonstop Records for Distance and Duration by flying a single-engine Burgess Model H Military Tractor (also known as the Burgess-Wright Model H) biplane from Texas City to San Antonio, Texas, a distance of 220 miles (354 kilometers), in 4 hours, 22 minutes.

During the flight Lieutenant Sherman drew a map of the terrain.

Aero and Hydro reported:

American Cross-Country Nonstop Records.—The Aero Club of America, on recommendation of its Contest Commitee, has adopted the following, relative to cross-country flying, nonstop records: Duration—Aviator With Passenger.—Lieutenant T. DeWitt Milling, Texas City, Tex., to San Antonio, Tex., March 28, 1913, Burgess-Wright tractor biplane, 70-horsepower Renault motor; time, four hours, 22 minutes.

Distance—Aviator With Passenger.—Lieut. T. DeWitt Milling, Texas City, Tex., to San Antonio, Tex., Burgess-Wright tractor biplane, 70-horsepower Renault motor; distance covered, 220 miles.

AERO AND HYDRO, Noel & Company, Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, Volume VI, No. 10, 7 June 1913, at Page 190, Column 1

The U.S. Army Signal Corps purchased six Model H biplanes for $7,500, each. They were assigned serial numbers S.C. 9 and S.C. 24–S.C. 28.

The Burgess Model H was a two-place, single-engine biplane which could be ordered with either wheeled landing gear or floats. It was built by the Burgess Company and the Curtiss Aeroplane and Engine Company, under license from Wright.

The biplane was 27 feet, 9 inches (8.458 meters) long with a wingspan of 34 feet, 6 inches (10.516 meters), and weighed 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms)

The airplane was powered by a normally-aspirated, air-cooled, 6.949 liter (424.036 cubic inch displacement) Renault Limited left-hand tractor 90° V-8 engine with a compression ratio of 4.12:1. The engine produced 70 horsepower at 1,750 r.p.m., burning 50-octane gasoline. The V-8 drove a two-bladed propeller at one-half of crankshaft speed. (The propeller was driven by the camshaft.) This engine, also known as the Type WB, was manufactured by three British companies: Renault Limited, Rolls-Royce Limited, and Wolseley Motors Limited.

The airplane had a maximum speed of 72 miles per hour (116 kilometers per hour).

Thomas Milling was issued the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale‘s pilot certificate number 30, and the Army’s Military Aviator Certificate No. 1. He was the first U.S. military officer authorized to wear a military aviator badge as part of his uniform.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 February 1920

Major Rudolph William Schroeder, Air Service, United States Army

27 February 1920: Major Rudolph William Schroeder, Chief Test Pilot of the Engineering Division, McCook Field, Ohio, flew a Packard Lepère L USA C.II biplane to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record Altitude of 10,093 meters (33,114 feet).¹ The biplane was powered by a turbosupercharged Liberty L-12 aircraft engine producing 443 horsepower.

There are differing accounts of what occurred during the flight. One report is that the L USA C.II created the very first contrail as it flew at altitudes and temperatures never before reached. Also, there are differences in explanations of some type of problem with Major Schroeder’s oxygen supply. A valve may have frozen, the regulator did not operate correctly, or one of his tanks was empty. Another source says that he ran out of fuel. But he apparently suffered hypoxia and began to lose consciousness. He may have lost control, or intentionally dived for lower altitude. The airplane dived nearly 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) before Schroeder pulled out and safely landed. He was in immediate need of medical attention, however.

Recording instruments indicated that he had been exposed to a temperature of -67 °F. (-55 °C.). His goggles had iced over, and when he raised them, his eyes were injured by the severe cold.

Schroeder’s barograph recorded a peak altitude of 37,000 feet (11,277.6 meters). When the device was calibrated after landing, it indicated that his actual maximum altitude was 36,020 feet (10,979 meters).

The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) delegated responsibility for certifying the record to the Aero Club of America, whose representatives apparently felt that procedures for setting the record had not been correctly followed, and declined to accept the altitude record.

The National Bureau of Standards next evaluated the data and credited Rudolph Schroeder with having reached 33,180 feet (10,113 meters). Regardless, the current official record altitude, according to FAI, remains 10,093 meters (33,114 feet).

Major Rudolph W. Schroeder, USAAC, flying a Packard Lepère LUSAC 11 over McCook Filed, Ohio, 24 September 1919. (U.S. Air Force)
Major Rudolph W. Schroeder flying a Packard Lepère L USA C.II, A.S. 40015,  over McCook Field, Ohio, 24 September 1919. (U.S. Air Force)

The Packard Lepère L USA C.II was a single-engine, two-place biplane fighter which was designed by the French aeronautical engineer, Capitaine Georges Lepère, who had previously designed the Section Technique de l’Aeronautique Dorand AR.1 reconnaissance airplane for France’s military air service. The new airplane was built in the United States by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan. It was a two-place fighter, or chasseur, light bomber, and observation aircraft, and was armed with four machine guns.

The L USA C.II was 25 feet, 3-1/8 inches (7.699 meters) long. The upper and lower wings had an equal span of 41 feet, 7¼ inches (12.681 meters), and equal chord of 5 feet, 5¾ inches (1.670 meters). The vertical gap between the wings was 5 feet, 1/8-inch (1.527 meters) and the lower wing was staggered 2 feet, 15/16-inch (0.633 meters) behind the upper wing. The wings’ incidence was +1°. Upper and lower wings were equipped with ailerons, and had no sweep or dihedral. The height of the Packard Lepère, sitting on its landing gear, was 9 feet, 7 inches (2.921 meters).

Packard Lepère L USA C.II P53, A.S. 40015, left profile. The turbocharger is mounted above the propeller driveshaft. (U.S.. Air Force)

The fuselage was a wooden structure with a rectangular cross section. It was covered with three layers of veneer, (2 mahogany, 1 white wood) with a total thickness of 3/32-inch (2.38 millimeters). The fuselage had a maximum width of 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) and maximum depth of 4 feet, 0 inches (1.219 meters).

The wings were also of wooden construction, with two spruce spars and spruce ribs. Three layers of wood veneer covered the upper surfaces.

The Packard Lepère had an empty weight of 2,561.5 pounds (1,161.9 kilograms) and its gross weight was 3,746.0 pounds (1,699.2 kilograms).

The Packard Lepère was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.34-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Packard-built Liberty 12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine, which produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller with a diameter of 9 feet, 10 inches (2.997 meters). The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms).

The engine coolant radiator was positioned horizontally in the center section of the airplane’s upper wing. Water flowed through the radiator at a rate of 80 gallons (303 liters) per minute.

Packard-Lèpere L USA C.II P53, A.S. 40015. (U.S. Air Force)

The L USA C.II had a maximum speed of 130.4 miles per hour (209.9 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), 127.6 miles per hour (205.4 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), 122.4 miles per hour (197.0 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), 110.0 miles per hour (177.0 kilometers per hours) at 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) and 94.0 miles per hour (151.3 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters). Its cruising speed was 112 miles per hour (180 was kilometers per hour). The airplane could climb to 5,000 feet in 4 minutes, 24 seconds, and to 20,000 feet in 36 minutes, 36 seconds. In standard configuration, the LUSAC 11 had a service ceiling of 20,200 feet (6,157 meters). Its range was 320 miles (515 kilometers).

Packard Lepère L USA C.II, P54, S.C. 42138. (U.S. Air Force)

Armament consisted of two fixed M1918 Marlin .30-caliber machine guns mounted on the right side of the fuselage, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc, with 1,000 rounds of ammunition, and two M1918 Lewis .30-caliber machine guns on a flexible mount with 970 rounds of ammunition.

The Air Service had ordered 3,525 of these airplanes, but when the War ended only 28 had been built. The contract was cancelled.

The only Packard Lepère L USA C.II in existence, serial number A.S. 42133, is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

 Packard Lepère LUSAC 11, S.C. 42133, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Packard Lepère L USA C.II, A.S 42133, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8229: 10 093 m (33,114 feet)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 December 1917

Katherine Stinson with her Curtiss-Stinson Special. (Library of Congress)

11 December 1917: Katherine Stinson flew her custom-built Curtiss-Stinson Special from Rockwell Field, North Island, San Diego to the Presidio of San Francisco, a distance of 606 miles (975 kilometers)¹ in 9 hours, 10 minutes. This was a new American duration distance record.

Of her flight, she later said “It was easy to tell where I was all the time . . . towns, cities, farms, hills and mountains passed rapidly. . . . I never had any fear. The main thing was speed.”

A contemporary magazine article described her flight:

MISS STINSON FLIES OVER TEHACHAPI MOUNTAINS

Under the auspices of the Pacific Aero Club, Katherine Stinson, on December 11, flew from North Island, San Diego, to the Presidio at San Francisco via inland route, crossing the Tehachapi mountains at 8,000 feet [2,438 meters]. The official distance covered is 460.18 miles [740.59 kilometers]. Time, nine hours, ten minutes; non-stop flight. Left North Island at 7.31 a.m., flew over Tehachapi mountains at 8,000 feet, arrived at San Francisco at 4:41 p.m.

The flight was observed and timed at San Diego by Captain Henry Abbey and Captain Dean Smith, United States Army aviators, and was accompanied as far as Ocean Side by Theodore McCauley, Army Instructor, who piloted a Curtiss reconnaissance machine; the finish was observed and timed by Rear Admiral Chas. F. Pond, U.S.N., President of the Pacific Aero Club; Lowell E. Hardy, Secretary; J.C. Irvine, official observer, Aero Club of America; Robert G. Fowler, Chas F. Craig, and F.C. Porter of the Contest Committee  Pacific Aero Club. She was given a very a very hearty reception by thousands of soldiers at the Presidio upon her arrival.

The aeroplane used was built by Curtiss from two lower wings of Curtiss J.N. 4 with triplane fuselage, Curtiss OX2 90–100 H.P. engine.

Miss Stinson is now the only living aviator to fly over the Tehachapi mountains. Silas Christofferson, deceased, was the only other aviator to perform the feat. The performance does not break the American record for distance held by Miss Ruth Law, but establishes a new record for duration cross country flight and is a most remarkable performance.

Flying, Vol. VI, No. 12, January, 1918, at Page 1063

Katherine Stinson. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Katherine Stinson was born 14 February 1891 at Fort Payne, Alabama. She was the first of four children of Edward Anderson Stinson, an electrical engineer, and Emma Beavers Stinson.  Deciding to learn to fly, she sold the family’s piano to pay for flying lessons. In 1912 she became the fourth woman in the United States to become a licensed pilot. Later, her younger sister, Marjorie, also learned to fly. In 1913, Katherine and her mother formed the Stinson Aviation Company at Hot Springs, Arkansas.

After the family moved to San Antonio, Texas, the sisters taught at the Stinson School of Flying at Stinson Field (now, Stinson Municipal Airport, FAA location identifier SSF).

Katherine Stinson

During World War I, Katherine Stinson flew exhibitions on the behalf of the American Red Cross, raising more than $2,000,000. She attempted to join the Army as a pilot, but instead was sent to Europe as an ambulance driver.

While “over there,” she contracted influenza, and later, tuberculosis. Although she survived and lived a long life, her illness prevented her from continuing to fly. She moved to Santa Fe, new mexico, for its high, dry climate. Although she lacked a professional education, she he became a successful architect in Santa Fe, New Mexico, designing residences in the Spanish Pueblo Style.

in 1928, Stinson married Judge Miguel Antonio Otero, Jr., son of the former governor of New Mexico. They would adopt her deceased brother Edward’s four children.

Katherine Stinson Otero died at her home in Santa Fe, 8 July 1977, at the age of 86 years. She is buried at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

“Fear, as I understand it, is simply due to lack of confidence or lack of knowledge—which is the same thing. You are afraid of what you don’t understand, of things you cannot account for.”

—Katherine Stinson

Katherine Stinson in the cockpit of her Curtiss-Stinson Special. (World Aviation News)

The Curtiss-Stinson Special was built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, specially for Katherine Stinson. It was a single-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane intended for exhibition flights. The Special used the fuselage of a Model 10 Speed Scout fighter, new wings, and the tail surfaces of the JN-4 “Jenny.” It was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 567.45-cubic-inch-displacement (9.299 liters) Curtiss OXX-6 single-overhead-camshaft (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine, rated at 100 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m. A replica of this one-of-a-kind airplane is in the Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

¹ Some sources cite a distance for Stinson’s flight of 610 miles or 981.5 kilometers. The Google Maps Distance Calculator puts the straight line distance between North Island and the Presidio at 461.606 miles (742.883 kilometers).

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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