Tag Archives: Endurance Record

17 March 1929

Louise Thaden at Oakland Municipal Airport with a Beech Travel Air, 1929. (NASM-SI-83-2145)

17 March 1929: Louise Thaden, flying a Beech Travel Air 3000, NC5426, over Oakland, California, set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Duration, staying aloft for 22 hours, 3 minutes.¹ This flight broke the previous record which had been set five weeks earlier, 10–11 February, by Evelyn (“Bobbie”) Trout—which had broken the record set 2 January 1929 by Elinor Smith.

The Oakland Chapter of the National Aeronautic Association wanted to have all new U.S. records set at Oakland, and Mrs. Thaden’s duration flight was a part of that campaign. Officials from the Oakland NAA group observed her flight in order to certify the record for the international body, the FAI.

Douglas C. Warren’s Travel Air 3000, NC5426, flown by Louise Thaden to set a World Record for Duration, (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 00072288)

The airplane flown by Mrs. Thaden for her duration record was a Travel Air 3000, registration NC5426, serial number 51?. The airplane was modified with an auxiliary fuel tank in the forward cockpit.

The Travel Air 3000 was a single-engine, three-place, single-bay biplane with fixed landing gear. The airplane was 24 feet, 3 inches (7.391 meters) long, with an upper wing span of 34 feet, 8 inches (10.566 meters), and lower span of 28 feet, 8 inches (8.738 meters). The airplane had an overall height of 9 feet, 0 inches (2.743 meters). The 3000 had an empty weight of 1,664 pounds (755 kilograms), and gross weight of 2,590 pounds (1,175 kilograms).

Louise Thaden flying the Travel Air 3000, NC5426, during her duration record attempt, 17 March 1929. The auxiliary fuel tank fills the airplane’s forward cockpit. (San Diego Air & Space Museum)

Travel Air biplanes could be ordered with several different air-cooled or water-cooled engines, such as the Curtiss OX-5, the 120 h.p. Fairchild Caminez 4-cylinder radial, or the Wright Whirlwind. The 3000 was equipped with a liquid-cooled, normally-aspirated Hispano-Suiza 8Ac V-8 (according to FAI records). For the record flight the engine was replaced with a “souped-up” engine.

The Travel Air 3000 had a cruise speed of 105 miles per hour (169 kilometers per hour), and a maximum speed of 119 miles per hour (192 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 17,000 feet (5,182 meters), and the maximum range was 400 miles (644 kilometers).

The Travel Air Manufacturing Company built approximately 50 of the “Hisso-powered” Travel Air 3000 variant.

Louise Thaden waves from the cockpit of the Travel Air 3000, NC5426. The forward cockpit has been modified to accept a large auxiliary fuel tank. (San Diego Air & Space Museum)

The Oakland Tribune reported:

WOMAN FLIER BREAKS RECORD

Oakland Aviatrix Sets World Mark for Endurance Flight

     Mrs. Louise McPhetridge Thaden wants to break more aviation records, she declared at Oakland airport today. Already holder of the altitude record for women and having brought her biplane to earth here yesterday with a new women’s endurance flight record, she now is thinking about establishing new altitude and speed marks for women.

     For 22 hours, 3 minutes and 25 seconds, Mrs. Thaden kept her plane in teh air over Oakland airport yesterday, fighting against drowsiness and night cold to beat the former women’s sustained flight record of 17 hours, 5 minutes, 37 seconds, recently established by Miss Bobby Trout of Los Angeles.

      It was at noon yesterday that Mrs. Thaden signalled to planes flying close to her that her gasoline supply was getting low.. Still she kept circling over the airport while thousands waited on the ground below, eager to see her and greet her when she landed.

12 GALLONS OF GAS REMAIN AT FINISH.

     Mrs. Thaden made one last great circle of the flying field and brought her plane to earth at 1:55 p.m. She taxied her plane to a hangar, where officials of the Oakland chapter, National Aeronautic association, newspaper men and friends waited to welcome her. Examination of the plane showed that only 12 gallons of 196 gallons of gasoline were left.

     As friends helped her out of the cockpit where she had sat in a cramped position without sleep, she smiled and said: “Well, I made it. But, gosh, I’m tired.”

     Thousands who had waited at the Oakland airport since early morning cheered Mrs. Thaden, and police were busy keeping them from crushing her in their desire to see the flier and her record plane.

     Mrs. Thaden was greeted first with a hug and a kiss from Mrs. Hattie V. Thaden, her mother-in-law, who had waited through the long night at the airport, confident that her son’s wife would succeed in her record-seeking attempt.

Oakland Tribune, Vol. CX, No. 77, Monday, 18 March 1929, Page 1, Column 5, and Page 2, Column 2

Iris Louise McPhetridge was born 12 November 1905 at Bentonville, Arkansas. She was the first of three daughters of Roy Fry McPhetridge, owner of a foundry, and Edna Hobbs McPhetridge. She was educated at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, a member of the Class of 1927. She was president of the Delta Delta Delta (ΔΔΔ) Sorority, Delta Iota (ΔΙ) Chapter, head sports for basketball and president of The Panhellenic.

Iris Louise McPhetridge Thaden (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

Louise McPhetridge had been employed by Walter Beech as a sales representative for his Travel Air Manufacturing Company at Wichita, Kansas, and he included flying lessons with her employment. Beech asked her to go to Oakland as an employee of Douglas C. Warren, the new Travel Air dealer for the western region of the United States. He included flying lessons with her employment. (Warren owned the airplanes used by Mrs. Thaden to set her altitude and endurance records.) She received her pilot’s license from the National Aeronautic Association, signed by Orville Wright, 16 May 1928.

Louise Thaden’s original pilot license, No. 6850, issued by the National Aeronautic Association and signed by Orville Wright. (The Central Arkansas Library System)

Miss McPhetridge married Mr. Herbert von Thaden at San Francisco, California, 21 July 1928. Thaden was a former military pilot and an engineer. They would have two children, William and Patricia.²

In 1929, Mrs. Thaden was issued Transport Pilot License number 1943 by the Department of Commerce. She was the fourth woman to receive an Airline Transport Pilot rating.

Mrs Thaden set an FAI World Record for Altitude of 6,178 meters (20,269 feet) over Oakland, California, 7 December 1928.¹  On 17 March 1929, she set an FAI record for duration of 22 hours, 3 minutes.²

Louise Thaden served as secretary of the National Aeronautic Association, and was a co-founder of The Ninety-Nines. She served as that organization’s vice president and treasurer. She set several world and national records and was awarded the national Harmon Trophy as Champion Aviatrix of the United States in 1936.

Louise Thaden stopped flying in 1938. She died at High Point, North Carolina, 9 November 1979.

Louise Thaden with her 1936 Vincent Bendix Trophy, circa 1975. (NASM)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12223

² Thaden had founded the Thaden Metal Aircraft Company, builder of the all-metal Thaden T-1, T-2, and T-4 Argonaut. Thaden went on to design molded plywood furniture for the Thaden-Jordan Furniture Corporation. His designs are considered to be works of art, and individual pieces sell for as much as $30,000 today.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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15 January 1915

Lieutenant Byron Quimby Jones, United States Army. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lieutenant Byron Quinby Jones, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

15 January 1915: At San Diego, California, Lieutenant Byron Quinby Jones, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, set a flight endurance record of 8 hours, 53 minutes, flying a Glenn L. Martin Company Martin T Army Tractor. The flight consumed 30 gallons (114 liters) of gasoline. Lieutenant Jones estimated that he had sufficient fuel remaining for another two hours in the air, but approaching darkness forced him to land.

For this and other flights at San Diego, Lieutenant Jones was awarded the Mackay Trophy.

Martin T Army Tractor. (U.S. Air Force)
Martin T Army Tractor. (U.S. Air Force)
Clarence H. Mackay

The Mackay Army Aviation Cup was established in 1911 by Clarence Hungerford Mackay, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Postal Telegraph and Cable Corporation. Now known as the Mackay Trophy, it is awarded yearly for “the most meritorious flight of the year” by U.S. Air Force personnel.

Lieutenant Jones was the sixth aviator to be awarded the trophy. The trophy is kept at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. It was appraised in the 1960s at a value of $65,000, though it was also estimated that it would cost $650,000 to duplicate it.

The Mackay Trophy. (NASM)
Lieutenant Byron Quimby Jones, United States Army (1888–1959)
Lieutenant Byron Quinby Jones, 14th Cavalry Regiment, United States Army

Byron Quinby Jones was born at Henrietta, New York, 9 April 1988. He was one of four children of Samuel Titus Jones and Sarah Minerva Quinby Jones. He attended School 24 and East High School, Rochester, New York.

Jones entered the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, 15 June 1907, and graduated 12 June 1912 with a bachelor of science degree. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 14th Cavalry Regiment, United States Army.

Lieutenant Jones volunteered for pilot training and was sent to the Signal Corps Aviation School at North Field, San Diego, California. After earning a rating as one of the earliest U.S. military pilots and serving for a year with an active squadron, Jones was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, 23 November 1914. He was then sent to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the very first post-graduate course in aeronautical engineering.

In addition to he endurance records, “B.Q.” Jones was also the first Army pilot to perform a loop, an intentional stall and recovery, and a “tail spin.”

During World War I, Jones rose to the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel.

Jones married Mrs. Evelyn Clark Chadwick (née Evelyn Kennerly Clark, grand daughter of William Clark, co-leader with Meriwether Lewis of the 1804–1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition), 4 June 1917.

For the next twenty-four years, Jones steadily rose in rank and was an important figure in Army aviation. Assigned to the newly established Air Service, Jones was promoted to the rank of major, 1 July 1920, and lieutenant colonel, 1 August 1935.

In 1939, because of a disagreement with senior Air Corps officers over military aviation doctrine, Lieutenant Colonel Jones requested a return to the Cavalry. He was promoted to the rank of colonel, Army of the United States, 16 November 1940, and colonel, United States Army, 1 February 1942.

Byron Jones graduated from the Army Industrial College in 1926, Command and General Staff School, 1927, and the Army War College, 1929.

Colonel Byron Q. Jones, United States Army

Colonel Jones was a leader in forming a mechanized cavalry and combined arms service. During World War II, he served in the Guadalcanal Campaign, and the staff of General Douglas MacArthur in Australia. He then held several assignments within the continental United States. He was hospitalized for lengthy periods several  times, and finally was discharged from the Army, 31 January 1944.

Colonel Byron Quinby Jones, United States Army (Retired), died at Walter Reed Army Hospital, 30 March 1959, at the age of 70 years. His remains were interred at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Martin T Army Tractor in flight at San Diego. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Martin T Army Tractor in flight at San Diego. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

The Martin T was a two-place, single-engine biplane ordered as a trainer for the Signal Corps. Three were built and given serial numbers S.C.31–33. The airplane was a tractor configuration, with an engine and propeller at the front of the fuselage, rather than behind in a pusher configuration. The Martin T also had a wheeled tricycle undercarriage. Both of these features were relatively new and would become standard.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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5–6 October 1922

Lieutenants John A. Macready and Oakley G. Kelly with their Fokker T-2. (NASM)

5–6 October 1922: Lieutenants John Arthur Macready and Oakley George Kelly, Air Service, United States Army, set an unofficial world endurance record for an unrefueled airplane when they flew a Fokker T-2, Air Service serial number A.S. 64233, for 35 hours, 18 minutes, 30 seconds at San Diego, California.

The Fokker F.IV was built by Anthony Fokker’s Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek at Veere, Netherlands, in 1921. The Air Service purchased two and designated the type T-2, with serial numbers A.S. 64233 and A.S. 64234.

Several modifications were made to prepare the T-2 for the transcontinental flight. Normally flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit, a second set of controls was installed so that the airplane could be controlled from inside while the two pilots changed positions. The standard airplane had a 130 gallon (492 liter) fuel tank in the wing. The Army added a 410 gallon (1,552 liter) tank to the wing center section, and a 185 gallon (700 liter) tank in the passenger cabin.

The Fokker F.IV was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit which was offset to the left of the airplane’s centerline. The airplane was designed to carry 8–10 passengers in an enclosed cabin. The F.IV was a scaled-up version of the preceding F.III. It was built of a welded tubular steel fuselage, covered with three-ply plywood. The wing structure had plywood box spars and ribs, and was also covered with three-ply plywood.

For its time, the Fokker was a large airplane. Measurements from the Fokker T-2 at the Smithsonian Institution are: 49 feet, 10 inches (15.189 meters) long, with a wing span of 80 feet, 5 inches (24.511 meters), and height 12 feet, 2 inches (3.708 meters). On this flight, it carried 735 gallons (2,782 liters) of gasoline in three fuel tanks.

The Fokker F.IV was offered with a choice of engines: A Rolls-Royce Eagle IX V-12, Napier Lion II “broad arrow” W-12, or Liberty L-12 V-12. The T-2 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Ford-built Liberty L-12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 5.4:1. (Serial number A.S. No. 5142) The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine. Installed on A.S. 64233, the engine turned turned a two-bladed Curtiss fixed-pitch walnut propeller with a diameter of 10 feet, 5 inches (3.175 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 airplane had a maximum speed of 93 miles per hour (150 kilometers per hour), a range of 2,550 miles (4,104 kilometers) and a service ceiling of 10,500 feet (3,200 meters).

Several modifications were made to prepare the T-2 for a transcontinental flight. Normally flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit, a second set of controls was installed so that the airplane could be controlled from inside while the two pilots changed positions. The standard airplane had a 130 gallon (492 liter) fuel tank in the wing. The Army added a 410 gallon (1,552 liter) tank to the wing center section, and a 185 gallon (700 liter) tank in the passenger cabin.

Lieutenants John Macready and Oakley Kelly with Fokker T-2, A.S. 64233. The fuel barrels and containers represent the fuel required for the airplane to cross the content non-stop. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Lieutenants John Macready and Oakley Kelly with Fokker T-2, A.S. 64233. The fuel barrels and containers represent the fuel required for the airplane to cross the continent non-stop. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

Macready and Oakley planned to fly the T-2 across the North American continent, non-stop, from San Diego, California to New York. The starting point at Rockwell Field was chosen to take advantage of favorable westerly winds, and to use the higher-octane gasoline which was available in California.

Fokker T-2 A.S. 64223 in flight over Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. (This is now NAS North Island.) (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Fokker T-2 A.S. 64233 in flight over Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

When they encountered fog in the mountains east of San Diego, the two fliers were forced to turn back. They remained airborne over San Diego to measure the airplane’s performance and fuel consumption for another attempt. Because the airplane was not equipped with a barograph to record air pressure on a paper chart, the record endurance flight could not be officially recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). They were awarded the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year. This was Macready’s second Mackay. He and Kelly would win it again the following year.

Macready and Oakley made a second unsuccessful attempt to cross the continent from west-to-east, and were finally successful on an east-to-west flight in 1923.

Fokker T-2 A.S. 64233 is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Fokker T-2, A.S. 64233, in flight, from above, left front quarter view, circa 1922–23. (Dutch Aviation)
Fokker T-2, A.S. 64233, in flight, from above, left front quarter view, circa 1922–23. (Dutch Aviation)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 May 1941

Igor Sikorsky with his VS-300A, Stratford, Connecticut, 6 May 1941. (Sikorsky Archives)
Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky 1888–1970. Sikorsky Archives)
Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky 1889–1972. (Sikorsky Archives)

6 May 1941: At Stratford, Connecticut, Igor Sikorsky piloted his Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 helicopter to a new world’s record for endurance. He flew for 1 hour, 32 minutes, 26 seconds.¹ The previous record—1 hour, 20 minutes, 49 seconds—had been set by Ewald Rohlfs with the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 tandem-rotor helicopter, 25 June 1937.²

During its development, the VS-300 went through at least 18 changes in its rotor configuration. This photograph, taken after the record-setting flight, shows an intermediate version, with one main rotor for lift and three auxiliary rotors for anti-torque and directional control.

In the final configuration, Sikorsky arrived at what we now recognize as a helicopter, with the main rotor providing lift, thrust and roll control through variable collective and cyclic pitch, and a single tail rotor for anti-torque and yaw control.

The VS-300 had a welded tubular steel airframe and used a 28-foot (5.34 meters) diameter, fully-articulated, three-bladed main rotor, which turned clockwise (as seen from above) at 260 r.p.m. (The advancing blade was on the left. This would later be reversed.) The main rotor had collective pitch control for vertical control, but cyclic pitch (Sikorsky referred to this as “sectional control”) for directional control would not be developed for another several months.

The tail “propellers” (what we now consider to be rotors—one vertical and two horizontal) each had two blades with a diameter of 7 feet, 8 inches (2.337 meters) and turned approximately 1,300 r.p.m. The vertical rotor provided “torque compensation” (anti-torque) and the blade pitch was fully reversible. The horizontal rotors were mounted on 10-foot (3.048 meters) outriggers at the aft end of the fuselage. For lateral control, the pitch on one rotor was increased and the other decreased. For longitudinal control, the pitch of both rotors was increased or decreased together.

The VS-300 was originally equipped with an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 144.489-cubic-inch-displacement (2.368 liter) Lycoming O-145C-3 four-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine which was rated at 75 horsepower at 3,100 r.p.m. According to Mr. Sikorsky, “early in 1941,” the Lycoming engine was replaced by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 198.608 cubic inch (3.255 liter) Franklin 4AC-199-E, a four-cylinder horizontally-opposed overhead valve (OHV) direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 7:1, rated at 90 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. It is not known if this change was made prior to 6 May.

¹ During World War II, only a very few ballooning and gliding world records were certified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Although Sikorsky’s flight duration exceeded that of Rohlfs, it is not listed as an official world record.

² FAI Record File Number 13147

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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