8 August 1929: The rigid airship Graf Zeppelin, LZ 127, under the command of Dr. Hugo Eckener, departed Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, heading east across the Atlantic Ocean on the first circumnavigation by air. The flight was sponsored by publisher William Randolph Hearst, who had placed several correspondents aboard.
Graf Zeppelin was named after Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin, a German general and count, the founder of the Zeppelin Airship Company. The airship was constructed of a lightweight metal structure covered by a fabric envelope. It was 776 feet (236.6 meters) long. Contained inside were 12 hydrogen-filled buoyancy tanks, fuel tanks, work spaces and crew quarters.
A gondola mounted underneath contained the flight deck, a sitting and dining room and ten passenger cabins. The LZ-127 was manned by a 36 person crew and could carry 24 passengers.
LZ 127 was powered by five water-cooled, fuel injected 33.251 liter (2,029.1 cubic inches) Maybach VL-2 60° V-12 engines producing 570 horsepower at 1,600 r.p.m., each. Fuel was either gasoline or blau gas, a gaseous fuel similar to propane. The zeppelin’s maximum speed was 80 miles per hour (128 kilometers per hour).
The route of the flight was from Lakehurst NAS to the LZ 127 home base at Friedrichshafen. Germany. After refueling, it continued across Europe, Russia and Siberia, non-stop to Tokyo, Japan, where it moored and refueled at the Kasumigaura Naval Air Station. This leg crossed 7,297 miles (11,743 kilometers) in 101 hours, 49 minutes. After five days in Japan, Graf Zeppelin headed east across the Pacific Ocean to Mines Field, Los Angeles, California. This was the first ever non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean. The distance was 5,986 miles (9,634 kilometers) and took 79 hours, 54 minutes. The transcontinental flight from Los Angeles back to the starting point at Lakehurst NAS, 2,996 miles (4,822 kilometers), took 51 hours, 13 minutes.
The total elapsed time for the circumnavigation was 21 days, 5 hours, 31 minutes. The route covered 20,651 miles (33,234 kilometers). The actual flight time was 12 days, 12 hours, 13 minutes, an average of 68.786 miles per hour (110.7 kilometers per hour).
Graf Zeppelin made 590 flights and carried more than 13,000 passengers. It is estimated that it flew more than 1,000,000 miles. After the Hindenburg accident, it was decided to replace the hydrogen buoyancy gas with non-flammable helium. However, the United States government refused to allow the gas to be exported to Germany. With no other source for helium, in June 1938, Graf Zeppelin was deflated and placed in storage.
24 July 1897: Amelia Mary Earhart was born at Atchison, Kansas. She was the older of two daughters of Edwin Stanton Earhart, an attorney, and Amelia Otis Earhart.
Amelia attended Hyde Park School in Chicago, Illinois, graduating in 1916. In 1917, she trained as a nurse’s aide with the Red Cross. While helping victims of the Spanish Flu epidemic, she herself contracted the disease and was hospitalized for approximately two months. In 1919 Earhart entered Columbia University studying medicine, but left after about one year.
Amelia first rode in an airplane at Long Beach, California with pilot Frank Monroe Hawks, 28 December 1920. The ten-minute flight began her life long pursuit of aviation. She trained under Mary Anita Snook at Kinner Field near Long Beach, California.
Earhart was the sixteenth woman to become a licensed pilot when she received her certificate from the National Aeronautic Association on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) on 16 May 1923.
Amelia Earhart became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air when she accompanied pilot Wilmer Lower Stultz and mechanic Louis Edward Gordon as a passenger aboard the Fokker F.VIIb/3m, NX4204, Friendship, 17–18 June 1928. The orange and gold, float-equipped, three-engine monoplane had departed from Trepassey Harbor, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and arrived at Burry Port on the southwest coast of Wales, 20 hours, 40 minutes later. (Although Earhart was a pilot with approximately 500 hours of flight experience at this time, she did not serve as one of the pilots on this flight.)
On 1 May 1930, the Aeronautics Branch, Department of Commerce, issued Transport Pilot’s License No. 5716 to Amelia Mary Earhart. On 25 June 1930, the newly-licensed commercial pilot set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Record for Speed Over a a Closed Circuit of 100 Kilometers With a 500 Kilogram Payload, averaging 275.90 kilometers per hour (171.44 miles per hour) with her Lockheed Vega.¹ That same day, she set another World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers of 281.47 kilometers per hour (174.90 miles per hour).² About two weeks later, Earhart increased her Vega’s speed across a shorter, 3 kilometer course, with an average 291.55 kilometers per hour (181.16 miles per hour).³
Amelia Earhart was a charter member of The Ninety-Nines, Inc., an international organization of licensed women pilots. She served as their first president, 1931–1933.
On 7 February 1931, Miss Earhart married George Palmer Putnam in a civil ceremony at Noank, Connecticut. Judge Arthur P. Anderson presided. In a written prenuptial agreement, Miss Earhart expressed serious misgivings about marrying Mr. Putnam, and wrote, “. . . I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly.”
Earhart had her own line of women’s fashions, made from wrinkle-free fabrics. She modeled for her own advertisements. In November 1931, Earhart was the subject of a series of photographs by Edward Steichen for Vogue, an American fashion magazine.
At Warrington, Pennsylvania, 8 April 1931, Amelia Earhart (now, Mrs. George P. Putnam) flew a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro to an altitude of 5,613 meters (18,415 feet). Although a sealed barograph was sent to the National Aeronautic Association for certification of a record, NAA does not presently have any documentation that the record was actually homologated.
On the night of 20–21 May 1932, Amelia Earhart flew her Vega 5B from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, solo and non-stop, across the Atlantic Ocean to Culmore, Northern Ireland. The distance flown was 2,026 miles (3,260.5 kilometers). Her elapsed time was 14 hours, 56 minutes. On 18 July 1932, Earhart was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by President Herbert Hoover, for “extraordinary achievement in aviation.”
Earhart next flew her Vega non-stop from Los Angeles, California, to New York City, New York, 24–25 August 1932, setting an FAI record for distance without landing of 3,939.25 kilometers (2,447.74 miles).⁴ Her Lockheed Vega 5B, which she called her “little red bus,” is displayed in the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.
At 4:40 p.m., local time, 11 January 1935, Amelia Earhart departed Wheeler Field on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, for Oakland Municipal Airport at Oakland, California, in her Lockheed Vega 5C Special, NR965Y. She arrived 18 hours, 15 minutes later. Earhart was the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the Mainland.
Amelia Earhart is best known for her attempt to fly around the world with navigator Frederick J. Noonan in her Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, in 1937. She disappeared while enroute from Lae, Territory of New Guinea, to Howland Island in the Central Pacific, 2 July 1937. The massive search effort for her and her navigator failed, and what happened to her and Noonan remains a mystery.
Although the exact date of her death is not known, Amelia Mary Earhart (Mrs. George Palmer Putnam) was declared dead in absentia by the Superior Court, County of Los Angeles, 5 January 1939. (Probate file 181709)
22 July 1983: Richard Harold (“Dick”) Smith landed his Bell JetRanger III helicopter, VH-DIK, at the Bell Helicopter Hurst Heliport (0TE2), in Hurst, Texas, United States of America. He had completed the first solo around-the-world flight by helicopter.
352 days earlier, 5 August 1982, Dick Smith had departed from Hurst on an eastbound circumnavigation. He had purchased the helicopter specifically to make this flight, and named it Australian Explorer. The aircraft, as standard production Bell Model 206B-3, serial number 3653, had been built at the Bell Helicopter TEXTRON plant in Hurst. It was registered VH-DIK by the Australia Department of Aviation, 2 June 1982.
The JetRanger was equipped with a Collins LRN 70 VLF/Omega navigation system, and a Collins autopilot. A larger fuel tank was installed.
Smith’s journey was made in three major segments:
Leg 1: Hurst, Texas, U.S.A., to London, England, from 5 August to 19 August 1982
Leg 2: London, England, to Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 13 September to 3 October 1982
Leg 3: Sydney, N.S.W., Australia, to Hurst, TX, U.S.A., 25 May to 22 July 1983
The total distance flown was reported in FLIGHT as 32,258 miles (51,914 kilometers). The total flight time was over 260 hours.
Smith’s circumnavigation had also included the first solo flight by helicopter across the Atlantic Ocean. During the journey, he set five separate Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world records for Speed Over a Recognized Course. ¹
The Bell JetRanger is a 5-place, single-engine light civil helicopter based on the Bell Helicopter’s unsuccessful OH-4 entrant for the U.S. Army’s Light Observation Helicopter (LOH, or “loach”) contract. It is flown by a single pilot in the right front seat. Dual flight controls can be installed for a second pilot. The helicopter was certified for VFR flight, but could be modified for instrument flight.
The JetRanger is 38 feet, 9.5 inches (11.824 meters) long, overall. On standard skid landing gear the overall height is 9 feet, 4 inches (2.845 meters). The Bell 206A has an empty weight of approximately 1,700 pounds (771 kilograms), depending on installed equipment. The maximum gross weight is 3,200 pounds (1,451.5 kilograms). With an external load suspended from the cargo hook, the maximum gross weight is increased to 3,350 pounds (1,519.5 kilograms).
The two-bladed main rotor is semi-rigid and under-slung, a common feature of Bell’s main rotor design. It has a diameter of 33 feet, 4.0 inches (10.160 meters) and turns counter-clockwise (seen from above) at 394 r.p.m. (100% NR). (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) The rotor blade has a chord of 1 foot, 1.0 inches (0.330 meter) and 10° negative twist. The airfoil is symmetrical. The cyclic and collective pitch controls are hydraulically-boosted.
The two-bladed tail rotor assembly is also semi-rigid and is positioned on the left side of the tail boom in a pusher configuration. It turns at 2,550 r.p.m., clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor diameter is 5 feet, 6.0 inches (1.676 meters).
The turboshaft engine is mounted above the roof of the fuselage, to the rear of the main transmission. Output shafts lead forward to the transmission and aft to the tail rotor 90° gear box. The transmission and rotor mast are mounted tilting slightly forward and to the left. This assists in the helicopter’s lift off to a hover, helps to offset its translating tendency, and keeps the passenger cabin in a near-level attitude during cruise flight.
A vertical fin is attached at the aft end of the tail boom. The fin is offset 4° to the right to unload the tail rotor in cruise flight. Fixed horizontal stabilizers with an inverted asymmetric airfoil are attached to the tail boom. In cruise flight, these provide a downward force that keeps the passenger cabin in a near-level attitude.
The 206A was powered by an Allison 250-C18 turboshaft engine (T63-A-700) which produced a maximum of 317 shaft horsepower at 104% N1, 53,164 r.pm. The improved Model 206B JetRanger and 206B-2 JetRanger II used a 370 horsepower 250–C20 engine, and the Model 206B-3 JetRanger III had 250-C20B, -C20J or -C20R engines installed, rated at 420 shaft horsepower at 105% N1, (53,519 r.p.m.). Many 206As were upgraded to 206Bs and they are sometimes referred to as a “206A/B.” The Allison 250-C20B has a 7-stage compressor section with 6-stage axial-flow stages, and 1 centrifugal-flow stage. The 4-stage axial-flow turbine has a 2-stage gas producer (N1) and 2-stage power turbine (N2). These were very light weight engines, ranging from just 141 to 173 pounds (64.0 to 78.5 kilograms).
The helicopter’s main transmission is limited to a maximum input of 317 shaft horsepower (100% Torque, 5-minute limit). The engine’s accessory gear unit reduces the output shaft speed to 6,016 r.p.m. N2, which is further reduced by the transmission’s planetary gears, and the tail rotor 90° gear box.
The JetRanger has a maximum speed, VNE, of 150 miles per hour (241 kilometers per hour) up to 3,000 feet (914 meters). Its best rate of climb, VY, is at 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour) and best speed in autorotation (minimum rate of descent and maximum distance) is at 80 miles per hour (129 kilometers per hour), resulting in a glide ratio of about 4:1. The service ceiling is 13,500 feet (4,145 meters) with the helicopter’s gross weight above 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms), and 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) when below 3,000 pounds. The helicopter has a maximum range of 430 miles (692 kilometers).
¹ FAI Record File Numbers 2286, 2287, 2288, 10033 and 10272
22 July 1933: At 11:50½ p.m., Wiley Hardeman Post and his Lockheed Model 5C Vega, NR105W, The Winnie Mae of Oklahoma, landed at Floyd Bennett Field, Long Island, New York.
Post had departed from there on 15 July and in 7 days, 18 hours, 49½ minutes, he flew 15,596 miles (25,099.3 kilometers), circling the Northern Hemisphere. He made 11 stops for fuel and rest, and had one minor accident which required repairs to the airplane. (Note the Standard propeller clearly visible in the photograph below.)
In 1931, he had flown approximately the same route, with a navigator, Harold Gatty, aboard. For this flight Post was by himself.
This was the first solo around-the-world flight. Wiley Post was the first pilot to have flown around the world twice.
The Vega was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane was designed by John Knudsen (“Jack”) Northrop and Gerrard Vultee. It was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of spiral strips of vertical grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and held together with glue. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.
The techniques used to build the Vega were very influential in aircraft design. It also began Lockheed’s tradition of naming its airplanes after stars and other astronomical objects.
The Winnie Mae was built by Lockheed Aircraft Company at Burbank, California in 1930 as a Model 5B Vega, serial number 122. It was purchased by an Oklahoma oil driller, Florence C. (“F.C.”) Hall, on 21 June 1930, and named for his daughter, Winnie Mae Hall, The Winnie Mae of Oklahoma. The new airplane was painted white with purple trim. In 1932, NC105W was modified to the Vega 5C standard.
The Lockheed Model 5C Vega is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). Its empty weight is 2,595 pounds (1,177 kilograms) and gross weight is 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms).
Winnie Mae was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.80-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C, serial number 3088, a single-row, nine cylinder, direct-drive radial engine. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level. It was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).
The standard Model 5C had a cruise speed of 165 miles per hour (266 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 185 miles per hour (298 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,570 meters) and range in standard configuration was 725 miles (1,167 kilometers).
The techniques used to build the Vega were very influential in aircraft design. It also began Lockheed’s tradition of naming its airplanes after stars and other astronomical objects.
Wiley Post flew the Winnie Mae for F.C. Hall, and flew it around the world in 1931 with Harold Gatty as navigator. Post used it to set several speed records and to compete in the National Air Races. Post purchased the airplane from Hall, 8 July 1931.
When the Vega and its Wasp engine had reached 745 hours of operation, they were overhauled by Braniff Airways at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Wasp C was modified with cylinders from a Wasp C1. This increased the compression ratio from 5.25:1 to 6.0:1. Using 87-octane aviation gasoline, it could produce 500 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. (5-minute limit). The airplane’s original two-bladed Standard fixed-pitch steel propeller was later replaced by a Smith 450-SI controllable-pitch propeller with Pittsburgh Screw and Bolt hollow steel blades.
Among other modifications, Post had the wing’s angle of incidence decreased 10° which increased the Vega’s speed by 10 miles per hour (16 kilometers per hour). The fixed tail skid was shortened to allow the airplane to reach a higher angle of attack for takeoff and landing. For the 1933 around-the-world flight, six auxiliary tanks were installed in the fuselage, giving the Vega a total fuel capacity of 645 gallons (2,442 liters). It was also equipped with a Sperry gyroscopic autopilot.
These modification required the Vega to be licensed in a restricted category, and it was re-registered NR105W.
After Wiley Post was killed in an airplane crash near Barrow, Alaska, 15 August 1935, his widow, Mae Laine Post, sold NR105W to the Smithsonian Institution. It is on display in the Time and Navigation Exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.
Wiley Post’s Lockheed Model 5C Vega, NR105W, Winnie Mae of Oklahoma, at the National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Dane Penland, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
20 July 1933: At 11:58 a.m. (17:58 UTC) on the fifth day of his solo around-the-world flight, Wiley Post took off from Khabarovsk, Siberia, heading toward Nome, Alaska, 2,416 miles (3,888 kilometers) to the east-northeast (great circle route).
Post missed his destination and, exhausted, became lost. He flew over Alaska for approximately seven hours before sighting a remote U.S. Army Signal Corps radio station at Flat, Alaska, a small gold mining town located along the Iditarod Trail in southwestern Alaska.
Post landed his Lockheed Model 5C Vega, NR105W, The Winnie Mae of Oklahoma, on a small landing field at the eastern edge of the town. The airplane’s wheels sank into the soft surface and Winnie Mae nosed over, damaging its propeller, engine cowling and right landing gear strut. Wiley Post was unhurt.
The International News Service (INS) reported:
“. . . Utter exhaustion which numbed his mind so that he could not properly pilot his course caused him to become lost for seven hours over Alaska yesterday after he had been in the air more than 22 hours on his 3,000-mile hop from Siberia to Alaska during which he battled the most adverse weather conditions, he revealed today.
“Sighting the Flat radio station caused him to land here. He said that he could at least get his directions again. He ran into soft ground on the landing field, nosing over, breaking his right wheel strut, damaging the engine cowling and valves and bending the propeller. Post was uninjured. . . .”
A replacement propeller was flown in from Fairbanks and repairs were made. He continued the following day, taking off at 7:28 a.m., local.