Tag Archives: Engineering Division

25 November 1920

Lieutenant Corliss C. Moseley, United States Army Air Service (1894–1974)
Lieutenant Corliss Champion Moseley, Air Service, United States Army (Library of Congress)

25 November 1920: Lieutenant Corliss Champion Mosely, Air Service, United States Army, won the first Pulitzer Trophy Race flying an Engineering Division-designed-and-built Verville-Packard R-1, serial number A.S. 40126. The race, the first of a series, started at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York. Turning points were at Henry J. Damm Field, near Babylon, and Lufberry Field at Wantagh. The total length of the race was approximately 132 miles (212 kilometers).

Lieutenant C.C. Moseley with the Verville-Packard R-1 at Mitchell Field, Long Island, New York, 25 November 1920. (U.S. Air Force)

Weather was cold and cloudy, with a threat of snow. The New York Times reported that, With the sun for the most part of the time concealed behind snow clouds, it was possible to watch the contest without suffering eye strain. . . .

Still, more than 25,000 spectators watched the race at Mitchell Field, and several thousand more at each of the turns.

The race began at 11:30 a.m. The 34 entrants took off at intervals for spacing. They would race against the timer’s clock. The first to take off was Captain Harold E. Hartney, U.S. Army Air Service, flying a Thomas-Morse biplane.

Verville-Packard R-1, serial number A.S. 40126. (Wiggins-Fitz Collection)
Verville-Packard R-1, serial number A.S. 40126. (Wiggins-Fitz Collection)

Again, from the New York Times:

The interest to the spectators seemed to centre in the much heralded Verville-Packard, which has been undergoing secret tests. . . This machine was the last to start. A cheer went up as the dark gray machine with lightning-like speed mounted into the air, its course being marked by a stream of smoke several hundred feet in length. For a few moments it was lost in the haze and then the powerful craft swooped again into view, crossed over the starting line headed for the Henry J. Damm Field.”

Of the 34 airplanes to start, 11 dropped out from mechanical trouble and 1 was disqualified.

Colonel Harold E. Hartney, USAAS (U.S. War Department General Staff)

Lt. Moseley’s airplane covered the first lap in eleven minutes six and seventy one hundredths seconds.”  The Verville-Packard R-1 won the race with an elapsed time of 44 minutes, 29.57 seconds, for an average speed of 178 miles per hour. Captain Hartney finished second  with an elapsed time of 47:00.03.

The 1920 Pulitzer Trophy won by C.C. Moseley. (Bonham’s)

The Chicago Daily Tribune wrote: At last the pride of the Army air service, the Verville-Packard chasse biplane, has established its worth by romping ahead of thirty-four starters in the first Pulitzer trophy aeronautical race, held Thanksgiving day at Mitchel field, Mineola. . . Never in the history of official flying in America has a man traveled with such great velocity. . . .”

Albert Victor Verville

The Verville-Packard R-1 was developed from an experimental fighter, the Verville-Clark Pursuit (VCP-1), designed for the U.S. Army by Alfred Victor Verville, and was the first of a series racing airplanes built for the Army. A single-place, single-engine, single-bay biplane, it had a plywood monocoque fuselage with wood wings and control surfaces covered with doped fabric. The ailerons were on the lower wing, only. The R-1 had an upper and lower wingspan of 23 feet, 0 inches (7.010 meters), with a total area of 222.7 square feet (20.7 square meters). Its gross weight was 3,394 pounds (1,539 kilograms).

Verville-Packard R-1 (VCP-R) A.S. 40126 was damaged 20 August 1920 when it collided with an automobile when landing at Wright Field. (U.S. Air Force)

In the original pursuit configuration, the VCP-1 was powered by a liquid-cooled Wright Hispano-Suiza V-8 engine producing 300 horsepower. The R-1 Racer substituted a Packard Motor Car Company 1A-2025 engine.

The 1A-2025 was a water-cooled, normally-aspirated,  2,025.444-cubic-inch-displacement (33.191 liter), 60° single overhead cam (SOHC) V-12 engine with four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 5.08:1. The engine was rated at 540 brake horsepower (b.h.p.) at 1,800 r.p.m. at Sea Level, 379 horsepower at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and 299 horsepower at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The total dry weight of the Packard 1A-2025 was 1,142 pounds (518 kilograms).

The Verville-Packard Racer at Étampes, France, for the Coupe Gordon-Bennett d’ aviation race, September 1920. (Tennessee State Library and Archives)

During tests at Wright Field in 1922, the Verville-Packard R-1 reached a speed of 175 miles per hour (282 kilometers per hour). Two R-1 airplanes were built but the second, A.S. 40127, never flew.

This is the engine from Lt. Moseley's airplane. It is a Packard 1A-2025 60° SOHC V-12, serial number 10. It is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
This is the engine from Lt. Moseley’s airplane, a Packard 1A-2025 60° SOHC V-12, serial number 10. It is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Corliss Champion Moseley

Corliss Champion Moseley was born at Boise, Idaho, 21 July 1894. He was the first of six children of David Henry Moseley, a farmer, and Clara Leigh Moseley. He attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School, in Long Beach, California, and the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, from 1914 to 1917.

Moseley enlisted as a private in the Signal Corps, U.S. Army, 20 August 1917. Following his graduation from the School of Military Aeronautics at Berkeley, California, he was commissioned a 1st lieutenant, 29 May 1918.

Lieutenant Moseley was sent to France, and is credited with having shot down one enemy airplane. He was promoted to captain, 12 May 1919. Following World War I, the Air Service was reorganized and Moseley was appointed a 1st lieutenant, 1 July 1920. On 15 September 1924, Moseley was promoted to the rank of major. He was assigned as the first commanding officer of the 115th Observation Squadron based at Clover Field, Santa Monica, California. This was the first aviation unit of the California National Guard.

Moseley left the military and in 1925, he founded Western Air Express at Los Angeles, which would become Western Airlines.

Corliss C. Moseley with the Western Air Express Sikorsky S-38, NC8021, Circa 1928. (Catalina Goose)

Moseley founded several aviation schools, including the Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute at Glendale, California. During World War II, his schools trained tens of thousands of pilots and mechanics. Following World War II, Moseley founded the Grand Central Rocket Company, which became the Lockheed Propulsion Company.

Corliss Moseley married Viola Holmes at Dayton, Ohio, in 1923. They had four children, but divorced after 30 years of marriage. He then married Audrienne Langenham Harvey at Bernalillo, New Mexico, in 1953.

Corliss Champion Moseley died at his home in Beverly Hills, California, 17 June 1974, at the age of 79 years. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 October 1922

1st Lieutenant Harold Ross Harris, Air Service United States Army. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

20 October 1922: 1st Lieutenant Harold Ross Harris, Air Service, United States Army, the Chief, Flight Test Branch, Engineering Division, at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, was test flying a Loening Aeronautical Engineering Company PW-2A monoplane, a single-engine, single-seat fighter. The PW-2A, serial number A.S. 64388, had experimental balance-type ailerons. During this flight, Lieutenant Harris engaged in simulated air combat with Lieutenant Muir Fairchild (future Vice Chief of Staff, United States Air Force) who was flying a Thomas-Morse MB-3.

While banking the PW-2A into a right turn, Harris’ control stick began to vibrate violently from side to side and the airplane’s wings were “torn apart.” With the Loening diving uncontrollably, Harris jumped from the cockpit at approximately 2,500 feet (762 meters). After free-falling about 2,000 feet (610 meters), he pulled the lanyard on his parachute which immediately deployed. Harris then descended with his parachute providing aerodynamic deceleration, coming safely to earth in the back yard of a home at 335 Troy Street. He suffered minor bruises when he landed on a trellis in the garden.

Loening Aeronautical Engineering Company PW-2A, A.S. 64388. This is the airplane from which Lieutenant Harold R. Harris “bailed out” over Dayton, Ohio, 20 October 1922. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

Harris’ PW-2A crashed into a yard at 403 Valley Street, three blocks away. It was completely destroyed.

This was the very first time a free-fall parachute had been used in an actual inflight emergency. Lieutenant Harris became the first member of the Irvin Air Chute Company’s “Caterpillar Club.”

Crash scene at 403 Valley Street, Dayton, Ohio, 20 October 1922. (U.S. Air Force)

The Pittsburgh Post reported:

Flyer Quits Plane in Parachute, Saves Life; Unique Case

     Dayton, O., Oct. 20.—Leaping from his Loenig [sic] monoplace in a parachute when the plane became uncontrollable over North Dayton today, Lieutenant Harold R. Harris, chief of the flying section of McCook Field, escaped death when his plane crashed to earth.

     Technical data, officials at McCook Field said, show that Lieutenant Harris’ escape is the first time an air pilot has ever actually saved himself by use of a parachute. A mail plane flyer leaped in a parachute over Chicago several years ago, but the necessity of his leaving the plane was questioned.

     Harris won the commercial plane event in the Pulitzer races in Detroit last week, flying the “Honeymoon Express” plane.

The Pittsburgh Post, Saturday, 21 October 1922, Vol. 80, No. 303, Page 1, Column 1

Harold R. Harris was born at Chicago, Illinois, 20 December 1895, the first of four children of Ross Allen Harris, M.D., and Mae Ermine Plumb Harris. He enlisted as a private in the Aviation Section, Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps (E.R.C.), 2 May 1917. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Officers Reserve Corps (O.R.C.) on 15 December 1917. Harris was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant on 19 January 1918. His commission was vacated 18 September 1920 and commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army, effective 1 July 1920.

Married Grace C. Harris, circa 1920. They had two children.

Ross attended the Air Service Engineering School, graduating in 1922. He also earned a Bachelor of Science degree (B.S.) from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California (“Caltech”).

Harris left the Air Service in 1926. He founded the world’s first aerial crop dusting business, the Huff Daland Company. Next he became a vice president and chief of operations for Grace Airways, a joint venture of Grace Shipping and Pan American World Airways, providing passenger service between South America and the West Coast of the United States.

During World War II, Harris, using his airline experience, helped to establish the Air Transport Command. In 1942, he was commissioned as a colonel in the U.S. Army Air Corps. By 1945, he was Chief, Air Transport Command, with the rank of Brigadier General.

Following World War II, Harris joined American Overseas Airlines, which soon was absorbed by Pan American. Harris was once again a vice president for Pan Am.

In 1955, Harris became president of Northwest Airlines.

Brigadier General Harold Ross Harris, United States Army Air Corps (Retired) died 28 July 1988 at the age of 92 years.

Harold Ross Harris, circa 1950. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Harold Ross Harris, circa 1950. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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