22 February 1928: Herbert John Louis Hinkler arrived at Darwin, Northern Territories, Australia, after flying solo from Croydon, London, England. He had departed Croydon on 7 February, flying his Avro 581E Avian, G-EBOV. He had navigated by using a London Times atlas.
The previous record time for the 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) had been 28 days. An estimated 10,000 spectators watched his arrival.
The government of Australia awarded Bert Hinkler a prize of £2,000. He was appointed a squadron leader in the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve and awarded the Air Force Cross.
During World War I, Bert Hinkler had served as an aerial gunner in the Royal Naval Air Service. He served in France. He was trained as a pilot, serving in Italy with the Royal Air Force.
After the War, Hinkler went to work for A. V. Roe & Co.,, Ltd., where he was the Chief Test Pilot from 1921 to 1926. He then flew with England’s Schneider Trophy racing team.
Avro 581 Avian G-EBOV had been the prototype Avian. (Production Avians were designated 594.) The airplane had been successfully raced for several years in England before it was modified to the 581E standard for Hinkler’s flight to Australia. The airplane was powered by an 80 horsepower A.D.C. Aircraft Cirrus II engine.
Bert Hinkler was later the first pilot to fly an airplane solo across the South Atlantic Ocean. He was killed 7 January 1933 when he crashed into a mountain in Italy.
Hinkler’s airplane, G-EBOV, was the first A. V. Roe and Company, Limited, Avro 581 Avian prototype, c/n 5116. It received its Certificate of Registration 7 July 1926. The prototype was originally equipped with an air-cooled Armstrong Siddely Genet 5 cylinder radial engine. The radial engine was replaced with an A.D.C. Cirrus II inline 4-cylinder engine and the airplane was redesignated 581A.
The Avian was sold to Bert Hinkler and registered to him by the Air Ministry, 4 July 1927. G-EBOV received further modifications, including shortened wings, for Hinkler’s planned long distance flight. It was again redesignated, this time as 581E.
The A.D.C. Cirrus Mark II was an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 304.66-cubic-inch-displacement (4.993 liter) four-cylinder vertical inline engine. This was a right-hand tractor, direct-drive, overhead-valve engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.9:1. It had a normal power rating of 75 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. and a maximum power rating of 80 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. The engine drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller. The Cirrus Mk.II was 3 feet, 9.3 inches (1.151 meters) long, 1 foot, 7 inches wide (0.483 meters) and 2 feet, 11.6 inches (0.904 meters) high. It weighed 280 pounds (127 kilograms).
16 January 1929: After a 10-month, 18,000-mile (29,000-kilometer) solo flight from Croydon Aerodrome, London, England, to Cape Town, South Africa, Mary, Lady Bailey, arrived back at the Stag Lane Aerodrome at Edgeware, London, flying a de Havilland DH.60X Cirrus II Moth, G-EBTG.
A contemporary newspaper reported the event:
LADY BAILEY’S FLIGHT.
(British Official Wireless.)
LONDON, Jan. 16.
Lady Bailey landed at Croydon this afternoon in her De Havilland Moth aeroplane, thus completing a flight from London to Capetown and back. She was greeted at Croydon by a large and cheering crowd.
Lady Bailey is the first woman to fly from London to Capetown and back. She has made the longest flight ever accomplished by a woman, and her 18,000 miles journey is the longest solo flight by either a man or a woman. She is the first woman to have flown over the Congo and the Sahara.
The Royal Aeronautical Society, in congratulating Lady Bailey, pays tribute to her as one of the gallant pioneers of Aeronautics.
— The Sydney Morning Herald, No. 28,405. Friday, 18 January 1929, Page 13, Column 1.
Flight offered the following commentary:
A Great Little Lady
Exactly how many miles she has covered during her long flight is difficult to estimate; nor is this necessary for a full appreciation of the merits of Lady Bailey’s flight from London through Africa to the Cape, around Africa and home again. The general press has made much of the fact that Lady Bailey’s flight is the longest ever accomplished by a woman, and the longest solo flight ever undertaken, thus establishing two “records.” To us that is of very minor importance. What matters is that an Englishwoman should have chosen to see Africa from the air, and should have been prepared to rely entirely on her own resourcefulness in making the tour. Everyone who knows Lady Bailey at all well realises that personal “advertisement” is the last thing she would desire; she is the most modest and unassuming of women. But her great achievement must unavoidably bring her into the “limelight.” From her point of view the whole thing resolved itself into this: She wanted to tour Africa; she was already a private owner-pilot. What more natural, then, than that she should make the tour by air? Only those who have a fairly good knowledge of Africa, with its variety of country and climate, can realise the sort of task Lady Bailey set herself. That she should have completed the tour, as far as Paris, there to be held up by fogs, is but the irony of fate, and is an experience which has befallen many air travelers. Her great flight was in any case a tour and not a spectacular “stunt” flight intended to break records, so we should not let the delay on the final stage be regarded as other than one of many incidents on a tour that must have been full of surprises and disappointments. Through tropical heat, in rain or snow, across mountains, deserts and seas, Lady Bailey carried on with a quiet determination which is, we like to think, a characteristic of our race, and her de Havilland “Moth” and “Cirrus” engine did not let her down. England is proud of the trio and its achievements.
— FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, No. 1046. (No. 2. Vol. XXI.) 10 January 1929, at Page 20.
The Royal Aero Club (R.Ae.C.) awarded its Britannia Trophy for 1929 to Lady Bailey for the “most meritorious flight of the year.”
Lady Bailey was born The Hon. Mary Westenra, 1 December 1890, the daughter of the 5th Baron Rossmore. She married Colonel Sir Abe Bailey, 1st Bt., 5 September 1911 at the age of 20.
Soon after becoming a licensed pilot in early 1927 (Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate 8067), she flew across the Irish Sea, the first woman to do so. She set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude, 5,268 meters (17,283 feet), 5 July 1927.¹ She set several long distance solo flight records, including an 8,000-mile flight from Croydon, South London, England, to Cape Town, South Africa, with her DH.60X Cirrus II Moth, G-EBSF, and an 10,000-mile return flight made with another DH.60 (after G-EBSF was damaged). These were the longest solo flight and the longest flight by a woman to that time.
Lady Bailey was twice awarded the Harmon Trophy (1927, 1928). In 1930, she was invested Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. During World War II, The Hon. Dame Mary Bailey, D.B.E., served with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force with the rank Section Officer, equivalent to a Royal Air Force sergeant.
Lady Mary died 29 July 1960 at the age of 70.
G-EBTG (s/n 469) was a de Havilland DH.60X Cirrus II Moth which had been sold to Lady Bailey by Commander Lionel Mansfield Robinson of Nairobi, Kenya, as a replacement for her own Moth, G-EBSF (s/n 415), which had been damaged at Tabora, Tanganyika, 4 October 1928.
G-EBTG was reconditioned by de Havilland’s and a more powerful engine was installed. The airplane changed ownership several times, and was finally written off as damaged beyond repair after a collision with a furniture van in 1938.
The de Havilland DH.60X Cirrus II Moth was a two-place, single-engine light biplane with a wooden airframe which was covered with plywood, with sheet metal panels around the engine. The wings and tail surfaces were fabric-covered, and the wings could be folded to fit inside a small hangar. The “X” in the type designation indicates that the airplane has a split-axle main landing gear, which forms an X when seen from the front of the airplane.
The DH.60X Cirrus II Moth (also referred to as the Moth Type X) was 23 feet, 8½ inches (7.226 meters) long with a wingspan of 30 feet, 0 inches (9.144 meters). Its height was 8 feet, 9½ inches (2.680 meters). The airplane was designed so that the wings could be folded parallel to the fuselage, giving it a width of 9 feet, 10 inches (2.997 meters). The wings had a chord of 4 feet, 4⅜ inches (1.330 meters). The vertical gap between the wings was 4 feet, 10 inches (1.473 meters) and lower wing was staggered 3 inches (7.62 centimeters) behind the upper. Both wings had 3.5° angle of incidence and 3.5° dihedral. There was no sweep. The airplane had an empty weight of 885 pounds (401 kilograms) and gross weight of 1,550 pounds (703 kilograms).
The Cirrus II Moth was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 4.942 liter (301.563-cubic-inch-displacement) A.D.C. (Aircraft Disposal Corporation, Ltd.) Cirrus Mark II four-cylinder vertical inline engine. This was a right-hand tractor, direct-drive, overhead-valve engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.9:1. It had a normal power rating of 78.5 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. and a maximum power rating of 84 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. The engine drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller. The Cirrus Mk.II was 1.165 meters (3 feet, 9.87 inches) long, 0.482 meters (1 foot, 6.98 inches) wide and 0.904 meters (2 feet, 11.59 inches) high. It weighed 268 pounds (121.56 kilograms).
The DH.60X Cirrus II Moth had a cruise speed of 80–85 miles per hour (129–137 kilometers per hour) at 1,000 feet (305 meters). Its maximum speed at Sea Level was 102 miles per hour (164 kilometers per hour), and 97 miles per hour (156 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). It could climb to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) in 14 minutes, and to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) in 37 minutes. Its absolute ceiling was 14,000–15,000 feet (4,267–4,572 meters). The airplane’s maximum range was 410 miles (660 kilometers).
In 1929, de Havilland offered the Moth Type X at a price of £650 (approximately £41,000, or $52,100, in 2019). The de Havilland Aircraft Co., Ltd., built 32 of the DH.60 Cirrus II Moth variant. Nearly 900 of all DH.60 Moth models were built at the company’s factory at Stag Lane, and another 90 were built under license in Australia, France, and the United States.
16 September 1910: Bessica Faith Curtis Medlar Raiche, M.D., having had no training, made a solo flight in an airplane that she and her husband, François C. Raiche, had built at their home in Mineola, New York.
Two weeks earlier, 2 September 1910, Blanche Stuart Scott had also made a solo flight in an airplane while under instruction of Glenn Hammond Curtiss at his school at Hammondsport, New York. Scott was practicing taxiing to familiarize herself with the airplane and its controls. Curtiss had rigged the throttle to prevent it advancing far enough for the airplane to takeoff. However, possibly because of a wind gust, the airplane did become airborne and Blanche Scott is considered to have been the first American woman to fly solo in an airplane.
The Aeronautical Society of America credits Bessica Raiche with the first intentional solo flight, however. The society awarded her a gold medal, studded with diamonds, and inscribed The First Woman Aviator in America.
Bessica Medlar was a many-talented woman. She received a Doctor of Medicine degree (M.D.) from Tufts University in 1903. She was a practicing dentist, a linguist and an artist. She had traveled to France to study painting, and while there, had seen Orville Wright demonstrate his Wright Flyer.
Later, back at home, she and her husband built an airplane based on the Wrights’ design. Using lighter-weight materials, though—bamboo, silk and piano wire—they assembled the components in their home before taking them outside to put together. The biplane had a length of 28 feet, 6 inches (8.687 meters) and a wingspan of 33 feet (10.058 meters). It was powered by an engine built by C.M. Crout which produced approximately 30 horsepower.
Because Dr. Raiche was lighter, it was decided that she would attempt the first flights. The airplane was transported from their home to Hempstead Plains for the attempt. During the day she made five flights. The last one covered approximately one mile (1.6 kilometers). The airplane nosed over in a depression and Dr. Raiche was thrown out. She was uninjured and the airplane was only slightly damaged.
Forming the French-American Aeroplane Company, Mr. and Mrs. Raiche built several more airplanes.
Bessica Faith Curtis Medlar was born in Wisconsin, 23 April 1875, the first of two daughters of James Burch Medlar, a photographer, and Elizabeth Ann Curtis Medlar. She graduated from Rockford High School, Rockford, Illinois, in 1894. She spent the next four years studying art in France. One her return in 1900, she entered Tufts Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated in 1903. Dr. Medlar worked at the Staten Island Children’s Hospital, New York, before opening her own medical practice.
Dr. Medlar married François C. Raiche, Esq., an attorney, in 1904. They had one child, Catherine Elizabeth.
Moving to the West Coast of the United States, Dr. Raiche opened her medical practice near Newport Beach, California, in 1912. She was a well-respected physician who specialized in obstetrics and gynecology. She served as chairperson of the Orange County Medical Association.
The Raiches divorced in 1925.
Dr. Raiche died at her home on Balboa Island, 9 April 1932, at the age of 56 years. She was buried at Fairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana, California.
24–25 August 1932: Amelia Earhart flew her Lockheed Model 5B Vega, NR7952, from Los Angeles, California, to Newark, New Jersey, a distance of 3,939.25 kilometers (2,447.74 miles), in 19 hours, 5 minutes. She had departed Los Angeles Municipal Airport (now known as LAX) at 7:26:54 p.m. Pacific Time, 24 August, and landed at Newark Municipal Airport at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time the following day. This set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) women’s World Record for Distance in a Straight Line Without Landing.¹ Her average speed for the flight was 206.42 kilometers per hour (128.27 miles per hour).
Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo coast-to-coast. Less than a year later, she would break her own record by almost two hours.
Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, the Model 5 Vega was a single-engine high-wing monoplane. The fuselage was molded wood monocoque construction and the wing was cantilevered wood. The Vega 5B 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 1,650 pounds (748.4 kilograms) and gross weight is 4,375 pounds (1,985 kilograms).
Earhart’s modified Vega 5B is powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C nine cylinder radial engine. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level.² It was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) in diameter, and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms). It drove a two-bladed Hamilton Standard controllable-pitch propeller through direct drive.
Just three months earlier, Earhart had flown solo across the Atlantic Ocean in this same airplane, which she called her “Little Red Bus.” Today, Lockheed Vega NR7952 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.
¹ FAI Record File Number 12342
² The Pratt & Whitney Wasp C was also used by the U.S. Army and Navy, designated R-1340-7. In military service, it was rated at 450 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m. at Sea Level.