Tag Archives: Distance Record

12 April 1918

Malcolm and Allan Loughead in cockpit of their F-1 flying boat, 1918. (San Diego Air & Space Museum)

12 April  1918: Allan and Malcolm Loughead, owners of the Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company of Santa Barbara, California, set speed and distance records as they flew their twin-engine, ten-place F-1 flying boat from Santa Barbara to San Diego. The F-1 traveled 211 miles (340 kilometers) in 3 hours, 1 minute.¹

The F-1 took off from the waters off West Beach at Santa Barbara at 9:21 a.m., passed Point Fermin at 10:40 a.m., Oceanside at 11:55 a.m., and arrived at North Island at 12:23 p.m.² The airplane was flown by the two Loughead Brothers and carried two passengers.

The Southern California shorline from Santa Barbara, at the upper left, to San Diego, at the lower right. (Google Maps)


     SAN DIEGO, April 12.—The big seaplane F-1, piloted by Malcolm Loughead and carrying three passengers, arrived here at 12:23 this afternoon.

     The F-1 left Santa Barbara at 9:21 this morning and the estimated distance of 190 miles between that city and San Diego was therefore covered in exactly three hours and two minutes, a speed of approximately 63 1-3 miles an hour. The big seaplane was first sighted over Point Loma and within a few minutes alighted on the surface of San Diego Bay a short distance from the United States army aviation station at North Island. At 12:23 the seaplane reached the North Island landing and was hauled ashore by army men in waiting. According to Pilot Loughead, the trip was made without incident, although during the latter part of the trip headwinds were met with which retarded the speed of the aircraft.


     Three hours and two minutes by air flight to San Diego from Santa Barbara—that’s the record established today by Allan and Malcolm Loughead, in their big hydroplane, F-1, carrying as passengers Alfred Holt and Carl Christopherson, employees of the Loughead Aeroplane Manufacturing Company.

     The distance of 190 miles, by airplane, was made without mishap. The start from Santa Barbara gathered quite a group of citizens, among them being a number of stockholders in the Loughead company, and thousands would have been there to witness the notable start had it been known at what hour the flight would start.

     During the morning the Lougheads received a dispatch from government officials at the aviation headquarters on North Island, San Diego, informing them that air and ocean conditions were perfect all the way south, and asking that the flight be made today.

     The Lougheads were even at that moment getting ready for the departure, and arrangements were hastened. The bay was ruffled by a breeze, and the combers sparkled in the warm sunlight, as the hydroplane motors were started, and the big fans began to whirr. There were hasty farewells, and every man waved his hat and every woman present shook a kerchief, while the cheers broke forth from all as the big plane sped down the ways, and went skidding into the sea.

     At the wheels were Allan and Malcolm Loughead, while Christopherson and Holt occupied places in the passengers’ quarters at the head of the big plane. The machine was guided in a half circle, taking a southwesterly course at first, until beyond the pleasure pier, where it rose from the bosom of the sea, and rapidly ascended to an altitude of about 500 feet, when it took a southeasterly course, and heading down the channel toward Oxnard.

     It was a perfect get-away, and no bird ever took to the air more gracefully than the big plane rose above the sea and soared away, easily, the very hypothesis of graceful motion, and the speed at which it was travelling soon took it out of sight to the south.

     From Ventura and Hueneme the flight was witnessed by a large number of citizens, and at Point Fermin, near San Pedro, the passing of the plane attracted great interest. In fact, all the way south, great crowds watched eagerly and it was a continuous ovation that greeted the airmen from the land.

     At San Diego the fliers were met by a big crowd, and their stay in the southern city is being made one prolonged reception. From many points along the coast today telephone and telegraph messages have flashed, reporting the passing of the machine, whose eventful trip is the biggest sensation of the day in aviation circles.

     It is stated that the flight establishes a long distance record for a passenger-carrying hydroplane. The plane will be tested out by the government aviation officials, and it is expected that within a very few days the announcement will be made of a contract awarded the Loughead Brothers by the government for other machines.

     Experts who have examined the F-1 state that it is perfectly built, and the finest machine of its class afloat.     

The Santa Barbara Daily News and the Independent, Friday, 12 April 1918, Page 1, Column 6

Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company F-1. (Lockheed Martin).

Designed by friend and employee John Knudson (“Jack”) Northrop, and built in a garage on State Street, the F-1 was launched on a wooden ramp at West Beach.

The airplane was intended for the U.S. Navy, but the end of World War I ended the requirement for new airplanes.

The Loughead F-1 was a twin-engine, three-bay biplane flying boat operated by a crew of 2. It could carry 8–10 passengers. The airplane was 35 feet (10.668 meters) long. The span of the upper wing was 74 feet (22.555 meters) and the lower wing was 47 feet (14.326 meters). The height was 12 feet (3.658 meters). The F-1 had an empty weight of 4,200 pounds (1,905 kilograms) and gross weight of 7,300 pounds (3,311 kilograms).

Loughead F-1 at Santa Barbara, 1918. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Loughead F-1 at Santa Barbara, 1918. (San Diego Air & Space Museum)

The F-1 was powered by two right-hand tractor, water-cooled, normally-aspirated 909.22-cubic-inch-displacement (14.899 liters) Hall-Scott A-5-engines. These were inline six-cylinder single-overhead-camshaft (SOHC) engines with a compression ratio of 4.6:1. It was rated at 150 horsepower and produced 165 horsepower at 1,475 r.p.m. The engines were mounted on steel struts between the upper and lower wings. The engines were direct-drive and turned two-bladed, fixed pitch propellers with a diameter of 8 feet, 8 inches (2.642 meters). The Hall-Scott A-5-a was 5 feet, 2.5 inches (1.588 meters) long, 2 feet, 0 inches (0.610 meters) wide and 3 feet, 7.875 inches (1.114 meters) high. It weighed 595 pounds (270 kilograms).

The F-1 had a cruise speed of 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 84 miles per hour (135 kilometers per hour).

The F-1 was converted to a land plane with tricycle undercarriage and redesignated F-1A. During an attempted transcontinental flight, it twice suffered engine failure and was damaged. Reconfigured as a flying boat, the airplane was used for sight-seeing before being sold. It was abandoned on a beach at Santa Catalina Island, off the coast of Southern California, and was eventually destroyed.

Loughead F-1, 1918. (San Diego Air & Space Museum)

The Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company would go on to become one of the world’s leading aerospace corporations.

¹ The certifying source for this “record” is not known. The distance flown and elapsed time for the flight cited here are from Wikipedia. The Great Circle distance from today’s Santa Barbara Airport (SBA) to NAS North Island (NZY) is 193 statute miles (311 kilometers). However, contemporary news reports suggest that the Loughead brothers flew the F-1 along California’s southern coastline, rather than making a direct flight across the Santa Barbara Channel, Santa Monica Bay, the Catalina Channel, and on to San Diego Bay. At the time of this flight, the governing body for aviation in the United States was the Aero Club of America, while official flight records were certified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, which was based in France. The ACA ceased to exist in 1923, replaced by today’s National Aeronautic Association. The FAI online records database list only two world records set in 1918, both altitude records set by Major Rudolph Schroeder, 18 September 1918, at Dayton, Ohio.

² The Los Angeles Times, the Oakland Tribune and the San Bernardino Daily Sun state that the time of the takeoff was 9:23 a.m. The Tribune cites the arrival time as 12:24 p.m., while the Daily Sun reported the time as both 12:32 and 12:24. Various newspapers reported the distance flown by the F-1 as 190 miles (306 kilometers), while The Salt Lake Herald-Republican-Telegram printed that it was 200 miles (322 kilometers).

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

31 December 1908

Wilbur Wright at Camp d'Avours, 1 January 1909. (Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University Libraries)
Wilbur Wright at Camp d’Avours, 1 January 1909. (Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University Libraries)

31 December 1908: At Camp d’Auvours, 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) east of Le Mans, France, Wilbur Wright flew a 1907 Wright Flyer a distance of 124.7 kilometers (77.48 miles) over a triangular course in 2 hours, 20 minutes, 23 seconds, setting a record for duration and distance. He won the first Michelin Trophy and a 20,000 prize.

1908 Michelin Trophy. (Le Mans-Sarthe Wright, 1906–2008)
1908 Michelin Trophy. (Le Mans-Sarthe Wright, 1906–2008)

The International Michelin Trophy was a prize given over eight years by Michelin et Cie, the French  tire company, to the Aéro-Club de France, to award on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. The winner would be the pilot who by sunset, 31 December of each year, held the record which had been established by the Aéro-Club. The actual trophy would be given the aeronautical club whose members had won the most times during the eight year period. 160,000 was to be divided and presented to each winning pilot.

The Wright Model A, produced from 1907 to 1909, was the world’s first series production airplane. It was slightly larger and heavier than the Wright Flyer III which had preceded it. It was a two-place, single-engine canard biplane built of a wooden framework braced with wires and covered with muslin fabric. A new system of flight controls allowed the pilot to sit upright rather than lying prone on the lower wing.

The dual horizontal elevators were placed forward and the dual vertical rudders aft. The biplane was 31 feet (9.449 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters). The wings had a chord of 6.6 feet, and vertical separation of 6 feet. The airplane had an empty weight of approximately 800 pounds (363 kilograms).

The Model A was powered by a single water-cooled, fuel-injected, 240.528 cubic-inch-displacement (3.942 liter) Wright vertical overhead-valve inline four-cylinder gasoline engine with 2 valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.165:1. It produced 32 horsepower at 1,310 r.p.m. During three years of production (1908–1911) Wright “4-40” engines were built that operated from 1,325 to 1,500 r.p.m. Power output ranged from 28 to 40 horsepower. These engines weighed from 160 to 180 pounds (72.6–81.6 kilograms).

Two 8½ foot (2.591 meters) diameter, two-bladed, counter-rotating propellers, driven by a chain drive, are mounted behind the wings in pusher configuration. They turned 445 r.p.m.

The Wright Model A could fly 37 miles per hour (60 kilometers per hour).

Wilber Wright's Model A Flyer in France, 1909. The derrick supporst a weight, which, when dropped, pulls the airplane across the ground until it reaches flying speed. (Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company)
Wilber Wright’s Model A Flyer in France, 1909. The derrick supports a weight, which, when dropped, pulls the airplane across the ground with a cable and puller arrangement until it reaches flying speed. (Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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 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:


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