Tag Archives: Oakland Municipal Airport

11–12 January 1935

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega 5C, NR965Y, at Wheeler Field, Oahu, Hawaii, 11 January 1935. (Getty Images/Underwood Archives)

11 January 1935: At 4:40 p.m., local time, 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.

(This Vega was not the same aircraft which she used to fly the Atlantic, Vega 5B NR7952, and which is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.)

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, the Model 5 Vega is a single-engine high-wing monoplane 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 or other astronomical objects.

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5C, NR965Y, being run up at Wheeler Field, 11 January 1935. Amelia is sitting on the running board of the Standard Oil truck parked in front of the hangar. (Hawaii Aviation)

Lockheed Model 5C Vega serial number 171 was completed in March 1931, painted red with silver trim, and registered NX965Y. The airplane had been ordered by John Henry Mears. Mears did not take delivery of the new airplane and it was then sold to Elinor Smith. It was resold twice before being purchased by Amelia Earhart in December 1934.

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).

Earhart’s Vega 5C was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C, serial number 2849, a single-row, nine cylinder, direct-drive radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58-octane gasoline. 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).

“Before parting with her ‘little red bus’ (as she affectionately called it), Amelia removed the upgraded Wasp engine and substituted an obsolete model; she wanted her well-tried engine for the new airplane, also a Lockheed Vega. It was a later model, in which Elinor Smith had been preparing to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic, a plan abandoned after Amelia successfully took that record. It was originally built to exacting specifications for Henry Mears of New York, who had a round-the-world flight in mind. Called the Vega, Hi-speed Special, it carried the registration 965Y and was equipped with special fuel tanks, radio, and streamlined landing gear and cowling. These latter appointments, together with a Hamilton Standard Controllable-Pitch Propeller, gave the plane a speed of 200 mph and Amelia had her eye on further records as well as her constant journeys across the continent.”

The Sound of Wings by Mary S. Lovell, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1989, Chapter 17 at Page 206.

Crowds of spectators greet Amelia Earhart on her arrival at Oakland from Hawaii, 12 January 1935. (Associated Press)
Crowds of spectators greet Amelia Earhart on her arrival at Oakland, California, from Hawaii, 12 January 1935. (Associated Press)

“. . . At Oakland Airport a good ten thousand had been waiting for several hours, yet when she came in she surprised them. They had been craning their necks looking for a lone aircraft flying high and obviously seeking a place to land. But Amelia did not even circle the field; she brought the Vega in straight as an arrow at a scant two hundred feet, landing at 1:31 p.m. Pacific time. The crowd set up a roar, broke through the police lines, and could be halted only when dangerously near the still-whirling propeller. From the road circling the airport, a chorus of automobile horns honked happily.”

Amelia: The Centennial Biography of an Aviation Pioneer by Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, Brassey’s, Washington and London, 1997, Chapter 13 at Page 132.

Amelia Earhart stands in the cockpit of her Lockheed Model 5C Vega, NR965Y, on arrival at Oakland Municipal Airport, 12 January 1935. (National Geographic/Corbis)

Amelia Earhart sold the Vega in 1936. It appeared in “Wings in the Dark,” (Paramount Pictures, 1935), and  “Border Flight,” (Paramount Pictures, 1936) which starred Frances Farmer, John Howard and Robert Cummings. It changed hands twice more before being destroyed in a hangar fire 26 August 1943.

Lockheed Model 5C Vega NR965Y, on the set of a motion picture production, “Border Flight,” (Paramount, 1936). The woman to left of center is Frances Farmer. Roscoe Karns, who performed in both movies, is at center. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

25–27 October 1931

Ruth Rowland Nichols (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale 12430–1)

25 October 1931: At 5:17:30 p.m., Pacific Standard Time, Saturday afternoon (01:17:30, Sunday, 26 October, G.M.T.), Ruth Rowland Nichols took off from Oakland Municipal Airport, in California, and headed east. Her destination was New York City, New York, non-stop.

Miss Nichols was flying a 1928 Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special, serial number 619, registered NR496M, and owned by Powell Crosley, Jr. The airplane had just been repaired following a landing accident three months earlier, in which she had suffered five fractured vertabrae. [TDiA 22 June 1931] The Vega was white with gold wings. A list of records which had been previously set by Miss Nichols was lettered in gold on the forward fuselage.

At 7:35 p.m., Mountain Standard Time (02:35, Sunday,  G.M.T.) the Vega was sighted over Reno, Nevada. It was over Salt Lake City, Utah, at 11:00, local time (06:00 G.M.T.), and Cheyenne, Wyoming, at 1:07 a.m., Sunday, Central Standard Time (07:07 G.M.T.).

Ruth Nichols and her Lockheed landed at Bowling Field, Louisville, Kentucky, at 9:40 a.m., Sunday, local time (15:40 G.M.T.). Though well short of her intended destination, she had set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance in a Straight Line Without Landing of 3 182,65 kilometers (1,977.607 statute miles). This broke the record set 29 June 1931 by Mlle Maryse Bastie during a flight from Paris, France, to Udino, Russia.²

Ruth Rowland Nichols’ Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special, NR496M. (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale 12340–2)

Ruth Nichols described her flight for a newspaper syndicate:

Miss Nichols Tells the Story of Her Flight

Says High Altitudes During Trip Caused Dizziness.

     The following account of her non-stop flight from Oakland, Calif., to Louisville was written by Miss Ruth Nichols for the Courier-Journal and the North American Newspaper Alliance.

By RUTH NICHOLS.

(Copyright, 1931, By North American Newspaper Alliance, Inc.)

     Twelve hours of darkness is a long time, particularly when the sky is overcast. Although the moon was out, the horizon line was hazy, and over the Western plains, where there are only a few towns, the only contact with civilization that a flier has is a twinkling beacon that is often lost behind a gigantic mountain peak.

    Because of the difficulty in seeing the mountain passes easily, an average high altitude is wise, but I found that after eight hours of flying around 15,000 feet made me dizzy.

Used Oxygen Supply.

     I had an oxygen tank with me, and I have spent a considerable amount of times at high altitudes, but the indistinctness of the night has a tendency to diffuse one’s senses, and the oxygen resulted in too much of a boost.

     At times I felt myself soaring out of the ship, and, twice while the sky was overcast and the ship still heavily loaded, I had a nightmare of a time to keep from slipping off into a power spin.

     At times like that, it is necessary to keep busy doing something. It keeps the circulation going.

     The cube-like boundary lights of emergency fields are a welcome sight in those barren places. Many of the mountains are now snow-capped, and the lakes and rivers glisten white when the moon is out, making navigation simple.

     About every hour I saw a cobweb of lights, which meant a large town, and marked off a milestone in the long night. There was a strong drift at times, but I always had a favorable wind.

     The hour before dawn is certainly the darkest. Then the horizon seems often to disappear entirely. My, how welcome that streak of red dawn is!

     To avoid low ceilings over the Alleghanies, I headed south, and thus ran low in gas, and landed here.

     People often ask me what a flier thinks about. Much and many things! I wondered what the fields are like if a forced landing is necessary, how long will the batteries last, my goodness! There I dropped the coffee thermos.

     Every time I took my foot off the rudder to pick it up by means of my toe and hand, teh ship slid off into a near spin.

     I wondered how much gas that good old motor was using. I thought: Why, there is Orion!—and then wondered where the Little Bear constellation was hiding. And finally, I observed: That looks like nice country for a horseback trip!

     Then there is the question: “What is the value of establishing all these records?”

     The answer is that for a girl to fly long distances shows the facility and safety of handling a present-day airplane.

     That ride over our country at night is really a most inspiring event. I advise everyone to try it!

The Courier-Journal, Vol. CLIV. New Series—No, 22,944, Monday 26 October 1931, Page 1, Column 6, and Page 2, Column 7

Nichols had planned to resume her flight to New York at 9:00 a.m., Monday morning, 27 October. That was not to be, however:

WOMAN FLYER’S SHIP DESTROYED

Ruth Nichols Jumps From Blazing Plane

Defective Valve Deluges Craft With Gasoline

Aviatrix Unhurt in Leap From Cabin Window

     LOUISVILLE (Ky.) Oct. 26. (AP)—Ruth Nichols’s monoplane caught fire today as she was warming up to take off for New York. She leaped from a window of the cockpit barely in time to escape the flames.

     The young aviatrix stumbled as she reached the ground, but mechanics grabbed her and hustled her away from the fiery plane. The plane was reported almost a total loss.

     The was caused by a stream of gasoline that suddenly burst from beneath the plane. Attendants at Bowman Field said they believed a dump valve had been released by the vibration of the engine.

     The dump valve, Miss Nichols said, gave her some trouble in California, but she had a new one installed there. She talked while city firemen arrived and after a half hour’s work extinguished the flames.

     The Rye (N.Y.) aviatrix, who landed here yesterday from Oakland, Cal., after getting lost in the early morning, but still making what is believed to be a new distance record for women, first noticed something wrong from the frantic signals of mechanics. It was doubtful if she heard their cries above the roar of the motor.

     Miss Nichols throttled down her engine before getting out, but had only a moment in which to escape. The accident occurred just as she gave the motor “the gun” for warming up after she had inspected the refueling and checked up on the monoplane and had studied weather reports for the New York flight.

AVIATRIX SUFFERING FROM LAST CRASH

     NEW YORK, Oct 26. (AP)—Friends of Ruth Nichols, pleased that she was unhurt when she leaped from the high cockpit of her burning plane at Louisville, recalled today she is still wearing a steel corset to protect the vertebra she smashed in the first stage of a proposed Atlantic flight last summer.

     Miss Nichols crashed in landing at St. John, N.B., on the first leg of her projected ocean flight, which was abandoned. Her plane was demolished and she was injured seriously. For a long time she wore a plaster cast to protect her spine and this was recently replaced by the steel corset.

Los Angeles Times, Vol. L., Tuesday, 27 October 1931, Part I, Page 3, Column 6

Ruth Rowland Nichols with “Akita,” the Crosley Radio Corporation’s Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special, NR496M. Note the Detroit Aircraft Corporation/Lockheed Aircraft Company logo on the tail fin. Thanks to Tim Bradley Imaging for the digital restoration of this photograph. (NASM-NAM-A-45905-A)

Nichols’ airplane was a 1928 Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special, serial number 619, registered NR496M, and owned by Powell Crosley, Jr., founder of the Crosley Radio Corporation, a manufacturer of radio equipment and owner of a broadcast network based in Cincinnati, Ohio. He had named the airplane The New Cincinnati. Miss Nichols called it Akita.

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, California, the Vega was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit and could be configured to carry four to six passengers.

The Lockheed Vega was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. The prototype flew for the first time 4 July 1927 at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of molded plywood. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.

The Model 5 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).

Nichols’ Lockheed Vega crashed at St. John, New Brunswick, 22 June 1931.

Nichols’ airplane was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. It was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58-octane gasoline. The engine drove a two-bladed controllable-pitch Hamilton Standard propeller through direct drive. The Wasp C was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.3-7 meters) in diameter and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

The standard Vega 5 had a cruising 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 (4,572 meters). Range with standard fuel tanks was 725 miles (1,167 kilometers).

¹ FAI Record File Number 12340

² FAI Record File Numbers 12345, 12346 and 14886: 2 976,31 kilometers (1,849.39 statute miles)

24–25 October 1931

Ruth Rowland Nichols (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale 12430–1)

24–25 October 1931: Ruth Rowland Nichols set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance in a Straight Line Without Landing when she flew from Oakland Municipal Airport, Oakland, California, to Bowman Field, Louisville, Kentucky. The official distance credited by the FAI was 3 182.65 kilometers (1,977.61 stature miles).¹

Flying a Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special, serial number 619, registered NR496M, Ruth Nichols took off from Oakland at 5:17:30 p.m., Pacific Standard Time (01:17:30 UTC), 24 October, after a takeoff roll of approximately 2,500 feet (762 meters). Present to observe her flight were National Aeronautic Association officials R. W. St. John and Eddie Cooper.

Her route took her to Reno, Nevada, where she was reported overhead at 6:35 p.m.; Salt Lake City, Utah, at 9:57 p.m.; and Cheyenne, Wyoming at 12:07 a.m., 25 October.

The flight had been in good weather until she passed Chicago, Illinois. Then with low ceilings and high winds, she was blown off course. After another hour, she decided to land at Louisville, Kentucky, to refuel. At 9:40 a.m., Central Standard Time (15:40 UTC), 25 October, she landed at Bowman Field, (now known as Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, LOU). Her flight took 14 hours, 23 minutes.

Nichols’ record broke the previous record which had been set by Maryse Bastié (née Marie-Louise Bombec) of 2 976,91 kilometers (1,849.77 statute miles), 29 June 1931, when she flew from Paris, France to Yurino, Mari Autonomous Oblast, USSR.²

Ruth Rowland Nichols with the Crossley Radio Corporation’s Lockheed Vega 1 NR496M, serial number 619, which she had named “Akita.” (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)

The Pomona Progress Bulletin had reported on 20 October that a shipment of 648 gallons of special aviation gasoline, along with 36 gallons of oil, consigned to Nichols, had arrived at Oakland from Baltimore, Maryland. There was speculation in several newspapers that she would fly from Oakland to Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Scranton Republican reported:

Society Flier Hangs Up New Distance Mark

Ruth Nichols Claims Record held by Frenchwoman Following Hop Of Over 2,000 Miles

     LOUISVILLE, Ky., Oct. 25 (AP)—Ruth Nichols, Rye, N. Y., aviatrix who left Oakland, Ca., last night on a projected nonstop flight to New York, landed at Bowman field here at 9:40 a .m. today. Officials at the airport said she evidently had lost her way.

     Although some distance from the end of her flight, the aviatrix apparently had achieved her goal, a new distance record for women. Airport officials said they were positive she had flown more than 2,000 miles, although the sealed instruments of the plane had not been examined. The air mileage from Oakland to Louisville is approximately 2,000 miles in a direct line.

Takes Off Today

     The present woman’s distance record of 1.810 miles is held by Maryse Bastie, French woman.

     Miss Nichols planned to refuel here and proceed to New York in the morning.

     NEW YORK, Oct. 25 (AP) — Ruth Nichols, society aviatrix, Rye, N. Y., landed at Louisville, Ky., at 11 a. m. today, having flown from Oakland, Cal., somewhat more than 2,000 miles. In a long distance telephone message to her mother, at Floyd Bennett field here, she said she had said a new women’s distance record.

     Miss Nichols left Oakland at 8:17:30 p.m. (E. S. T.) yesterday.

     She planned to reach Floyd Bennett field tomorrow morning.

     The world’s distance flight for women at which Miss Nichols aimed was established June 30, last, by Mlle. Maryse Bastie, Paris flyer,who flew from the French capital across southern Europe into Russia, a distance of 1,810 miles.

     LOUISVILLE, Ky., Oct. 25 (AP) — Ruth Nichols, who landed at Bowman field here today, plans to leave early Monday morning for New York, officials at the airport said. Miss Nichols was reported resting at the home of a friend.

     Breaking aviation records is nothing new to Miss Nichols. She already has established women’s records for a one-stop transcontinental flight, altitude and speed.

     She set the transcontinental mark in a flight from Los Angeles to New York, Dec. 10, 1930, with a stop at Wichita, Kans. Her time for the 2,300 miles coast-to-coast flight was 13 hours, 21 minutes and 43 seconds.

Holds Altitude Mark

     Her plane is credited with flying to a height of 28,743 feet last March 6, at Jersey City to create a women’s altitude record. He altimeter showed a height of 30,064 feet, but the national aeronautic association, in approving the new mark, fixed the height at the lower figure.

     The following month—April 13—Miss Nichols flew more than 210 miles an hour at Detroit for a new women’s speed record.

     Miss Nichols was severely injured June 22, when she damaged her plane in landed at St. John, N. B.,preliminary to a transatlantic flight. She had flown from Floyd Bennett field in Brooklyn and while trying to land in the face of the sun misjudged her distance.

     She was taken home a week later by airplane, the pilot being Clarence Chamberlin, transatlantic flier who had been Miss Nichols’ adviser in her aviation activities.

     Her managers announced last month that she had definitely postponed another attempt at spanning the ocean because of unfavorable weather conditions.

The Scranton Republican, Vol. 157, No. 22, 26 October 1931, Page 1, Column 6 and Page 2, Column 6

The following day, 26 October, Nichols was preparing to depart Louisville enroute to Floyd Bennett Field, New York. Leaking fuel caught fire while she was warming up the Vega’s engine. The Oakland Tribune reported:

RUTH NICHOLS ESCAPES AS PLANE BURNS

Society Girl on Flight From Oakland Leaps Out of Flaming Ship in Kentucky

Gasoline Catches Fire After ‘Record’ Hop; Plans for Atlantic Trip Revealed

     Ruth Nichols’ monoplane, in which the aviatrix had just set an unofficial non-stop distance record for women in a flight from Oakland, was virtually destroyed by fire today at Louisville, Ky., according to dispatches received here.

     The Aviatrix escaped by leaping from the cockpit and was pulled away from the blazing plane by mechanics. She was not injured.

     The plane burst into flames as the society girl aviatrix was warming up the motor by taxiing the ship over the turf preparatory to taking off for New York.

     Spectators saw a burst of flame from gasoline pouring out of a valve and mechanics shouted to Miss Nichols to cut off the motor. She said she was unable to hear their voices but knew from their gestures that something was wrong and closed the throttle before leaping from the ship.

     Field attendants armed with extinguishers succeeded in putting out the fire.

VALVE RELEASED AND LETS OUT GASOLINE.

     Attendants at the field said they believed a dump valve had been released by the vibration of the motor as Miss Nichols was warming up the ship and that in some manner not determined the fuel flowing from the valve had been ignited.

     Miss Nichols was bespattered with liquid from the fire extinguishers. She said she was not frightened and would be in the air again as soon as she could get another plane. She estimated the loss at $10,000, explaining that the plane cost $25,000 but the motor and other parts could be salvaged.She said she would remain to supervise dismantling the ship for reconstruction if the factory so desired.

     The dump valve, she said, had given her some trouble in California but she had had a new one installed before starting.

     Miss Nichols landed at Bowman field, Louisville, at 7:40 a. m. yesterday, approximately 14 hours after leaving the Oakland airport in an attempt to set a new woman’s non-stop distance record.

     She and airport attendants were confident that she had achieved her goal, estimating the distance from Louisville to Oakland at 2000 miles and pointing out that the course flown by Miss Nichols was even longer. The official women’s distance record is 1810 miles held by Maryse Bastie, of France.

     The barograph from Miss Nichols’ ship, sealed here before she took off, was removed at Louisville for shipment to the bureau of aeronautics at Washington for computation.

LOW CEILING, WINDS BLEW HER OFF COURSE.

     The aviatrix said she had a “fine trip” from Oakland to Chicago but then encountered a low ceiling and winds which blew her from her course.

     “Wandering around used up lots of gasoline and I decided to land and refuel,” Miss Nichols said. “I flew around about an hour trying to get my bearings.”

     Miss Nichols spent the night at the home of Lieutenant Albert M. Moody and this morning telephoned to Clarence Chamberlain to meet her at Floyd Bennett airport in New York “to have a sundae.”

     The mishap today was the second the aviatrix has experienced in recent months. Last summer she wrecked her ship at St. John, N. B., on the first leg of  projected Atlantic flight and suffered several broken vertebrae. For a long time she wore a plaster cast and now wears a steel corset to protect her injured spine.

PLANS STILL CONSIDERED FOR ATLANTIC FLIGHT.

     Dispatches from Louisville said Miss Nichols apparently had not given up her plans for an Atlantic flight although she said she did not care to “talk about plans I might not be able to carry out.”

     “Possibly I will attempt the flight next summer,” she said. “I feel sure that I can make it and have absolutely no fear. The main obstacle to success is the wear and tear on nerves and body. While considerable skill is required, endurance is the more important qualification.”

Oakland Tribune,  Vol. CXV, No. 118, 26 October 1931, Page 1, Column 1

Ruth Nichols’ Lockheed Vega. (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale 12340–2)

Nichols’ airplane was a 1928 Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special, serial number 619, registered NR496M, and owned by Powell Crosley, Jr.

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, California, the Vega was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit and could be configured to carry four to six passengers.

The Lockheed Vega was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. The prototype flew for the first time 4 July 1927 at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of molded plywood. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.

The Model 5 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).

Nichols’ airplane was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. It was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58-octane gasoline. The engine drove a two-bladed controllable-pitch Hamilton Standard propeller through direct drive. The Wasp C was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.3-7 meters) in diameter and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

The standard Vega 5 had a cruising 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 (4,572 meters). Range with standard fuel tanks was 725 miles (1,167 kilometers).

NR496M was destroyed by fire at Louisville, Kentucky 26 October 1931. The registration was cancelled in 1933.

¹ FAI Record File Number 12340

² FAI Record File Numbers 12345, 12346 and 14886

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

28–29 June 1927

Atlantic-Fokker C-2, A.S. 26-202, Bird of Paradise, taking off at Oakland Municipal Airport, California,  7:09 a.m, 28 June 1927. (U.S. Air Force)

28 June 1927: At 7:09 a.m., PDT, 1st Lieutenant Lester J. Maitland and 1st Lieutenant Albert F. Hegenberger, Air Service, United States Army, took off from Oakland Municipal Airport, California, aboard an Atlantic-Fokker C-2, serial  number A.S. 26-202, Bird of Paradise. Their destination was Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, 2,407 miles (3,874 kilometers) across the Pacific Ocean.

The Air Service had been planning such a flight for many years. Specialized air navigation equipment had been developed, much of it by Lieutenant Hegenberger, and simulations and practice flights had been carried out.

Atlantic-Fokker C-2 26-202, front view. (U.S. Air Force)
Atlantic-Fokker C-2 A.S. 26-202, Bird of Paradise, front view. (U.S. Air Force)
Bird of Paradise (U.S. Air Force)
Atlantic-Fokker C-2, A.S, 26-202, Bird of Paradise, right profile. (U.S. Air Force)

Bird of Paradise was built by the Atlantic Aircraft Co., Teterboro, New Jersey, the American subsidiary of Fokker. Derived from the civil Fokker F.VIIa/3m, a three-engine high-wing passenger transport with fixed landing gear. It had been adopted by the Air Service as a military transport. A.S. 26-202 was modified with a larger wing, increased fuel capacity, and the installation of Hegenberger’s navigation equipment.

It was powered by three 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) air-cooled Wright Aeronautical Corporation Model J-5C Whirlwind nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 5.1:1. The J-5C was rated at 200 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 220 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. They turned two-bladed Standard adjustable-pitch propellers through direct drive. The Wright J-5C was 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) long and 3 feet, 9 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter. It weighed 508 pounds (230.4 kilograms).

The C-2 was fueled with 1,134 gallons (4,293 liters) of gasoline and 40 gallons (151 liters) of oil.

Lieutenants Lester Maitland and Albert F. Hegenberger ar congratulated on their transoceanic flight at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, 28 June 1927. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenants Lester J. Maitland and Albert F. Hegenberger are congratulated on their transoceanic flight at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, 29 June 1927. (U.S. Air Force)

Maitland and Hegenberger planned to fly a Great Circle route to Hawaii and to use radio beacons in California and Hawaii to guide them, in addition to celestial navigation. For most of the flight, however, they were not able to receive the radio signals and relied on ded reckoning.

Great Circle route from Oakland International Airport, California, to Wheeler Field, Hawaii, 2,093 nautical miles (2,408 statute miles/3,876 kilometers). (Great Circle Mapper)
Captain Alfred Hegenberger in the navigational sighting station of Bird of Paradise. (NASM)
Atlantic-Fokker C-2 “Bird of Paradise” interior view, looking forward from navigator compartment. (U.S. Air Force)

After 25 hours, 50 minutes of flight, Bird of Paradise landed at Wheeler Field, 6:29 a.m., local time, 29 June 1927. It had completed the first Transpacific Flight.

For their achievement, both officers were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Bird of Paradise, Atlantic-Fokker C-2 serial number 26-202, arrives at Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, after a non-stop flight from Oakland, California, 6:29 a.m., 29 June 1927. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

20 May 1937

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020.

Leg 1: After her Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, was repaired by Lockheed following a takeoff accident at Wheeler Field, Oahu, in March, Amelia Earhart repositioned it to Oakland Municipal Airport to begin her second attempt to fly around the world. Because of changing weather patterns since the earlier attempt, this time her route will be eastward.

Great Circle route between Oakland Airport and Union Air Terminal. (Great Circle Mapper)

On 20 May 1937, without any public notice, Earhart and her navigator, Captain Frederick J. Noonan, left Oakland, California, on the first leg of the trip: 283 nautical miles (325 miles (523 kilometers) to Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California (now, Hollywood Burbank Airport—BUR), where the airplane was manufactured and repaired. They arrived at about 6:00 p.m. and remained there over night.

“The rebuilt Electra came out of the Lockheed plant on May 19. Two days later we flew it to Oakland. . .  As that time we had made no announcement of my decision to reverse the direction of the flight. It seemed sensible to slip away as quietly as we could. While I was actually heading for Miami, with hope of keeping on from there eastward, technically the journey from Burbank across the country was a shake-down flight. If difficulties developed we would bring the ship back to the Lockheed plant for further adjustments.”

—Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart in the cockpit of her Electra. (Rudy Arnold Collection)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes