Tag Archives: Transcontinental Flight

11 September 1920

Edison E. (“Monte”) Mouton (left) and fellow Air Mail pilot Rexford Levisee, with Curtiss JN-4H at Reno, Nevada, ca. 1921. (National Postal Museum, Curatorial Photo Collection)

11 September 1920: At 2:33 p.m., Edison E. (“Monte”) Mouton landed at Marina Field near The Presidio of San Francisco, completing the final leg of the first transcontinental air mail flight by the U.S. Postal Service. Airplane No. 151 carried 6 sacks of First Class mail from New York.

Mouton, a pilot assigned to Salt Lake City, taking over the flight for another pilot, flew No. 151 from Reno, Nevada to San Francisco, a distance of 250 miles (402 kilometers), in 1 hour, 58 minutes.

The mail sacks were immediately taken from the airplane to the central post office, where they were distributed. Two of the mail sacks were sent to Washington State and one sack to Oregon on the 4 o’clock train.

The entire cross-country flight had taken 75 hours.

Edison Esadore Mouton was born in California, 10 December 1894, the first of three children of Edward E. Mouton, a farmer, and Gertrude F. Winters Mouton.

Monte Mouton, then living in Carson City, Nevada, enlisted in the U.S. Army when the United States entered World War I. He served as a pilot with the Lafayette Escadrille in France during World War I, and was commissioned a second lieutenant, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces. He rose to the temporary rank of colonel. Lieutenant Mouton was honorably discharged 14 May 1919. He was later an officer in the Air Corps Reserve, holding the rank of major.

Mouton was employed by the United States Aerial Mail Service from 8 September 1920 to 22 May 1927. During that time, Edison flew 3,804.54 hours and covered 369,730 miles (595,023 kilometers), flying the mail. He then became a supervising inspector for the Department of Commerce, serving for six years before resigning to enter private industry. Mouton was vice president and general manager of Nevada Air Transport, Inc., a regional airline serving the state of Nevada.

Edison E. Mouton married Miss Claire Yerington, 27 April 1921, at Reno, Nevada. (“Yerington,” as in, Yerington, Nevada. Miss Yerington’s grandfather was the superintendent of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, which serviced the “Comstock Lode” silver mines.) Miss Yerington was described as “a strikingly beautiful blonde,” and “an intrepid devotee of the air and knows the intricacies of an automobile as well as any mechanician.” They divorced in November 1928 but were remarried 20 March 1929. They had two children.

Edison Esadore Mouton died at San Francisco Airport, San Francisco, California, 5 July 1940, an apparent suicide. He is buried at the San Francisco National Cemetery, San Francisco, California.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 September 1922

Jimmy Doolittle with his DH-4 during a refueling stop at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas, 4 September 1922. (National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution)
Jimmy Doolittle with his DH-4B-1-S, A.S. 22-353, during a refueling stop at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas, 4 September 1922. Photograph by H.L. Summerville. (National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution)

4 September 1922: First Lieutenant James H. (“Jimmy”) Doolittle, Air Service, United States Army, made the first transcontinental crossing of the United States in a single day when he flew a DH.4B-1-S single-engine biplane, Air Service Serial Number 22-353, from Pablo Beach, Florida, to Rockwell Field, San Diego, California, a distance of 2,163 miles (3,481 kilometers). He made one refueling stop at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas, which lasted 1 hour, 16 minutes. The total duration of the flight was 21 hours, 19 minutes.

Lieutenant James H. Doolittle, in the cockpit of the DH-4B, is greeted on his arrival at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas. (Peter M. Bowers Collection)
Lieutenant James H. Doolittle, in the cockpit of the DH-4B, is greeted on his arrival at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas. (Peter M. Bowers Collection)

Lieutenant Doolittle was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “demonstrating the possibility of moving Air Corps units to any portion of the United States in less than 24 hours.”

Maintenance technicians service Lieutenant Doolittle's DH-4B-S-1 at Kelly Field.
Maintenance technicians service Lieutenant Doolittle’s DH-4B-1-S at Kelly Field.

The DH.4 was a very successful airplane of World War I, designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. It was built by several manufacturers in Europe and the United States. Army Air Service DH-4s were powered by the water-cooled Liberty 45° V-12, a 1,649.3-cubic-inch (27 liter) engine producing 400 horsepower. The DH-4B was a rebuilt DH.4 with fuel capacity increased to 110 gallons (420 liters). It had a maximum speed of 128 miles per hour (206 kilometers per hour) and a service ceiling of 19,600 feet (5,975 meters).

This same airplane, DH.4B-1-S, A.S. No. 22-353, was flown from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border by Lieutenant H.G. Crocker, 26 May 1923.

Lieutenant Doolittle's DH-4B-S-1 is serviced by maintenance technicians at Kelly Field, Texas.
Lieutenant Doolittle’s DH-4B-1-S is serviced by maintenance technicians at Kelly Field, Texas.
First Lieutenant James Harold Doolittle, Air Service, United States Army. “Jimmy Doolittle is wearing the Military Aviator badge and the World War I Victory Medal ribbon.

Jimmy Doolittle was one of America’s foremost pioneering aviators. He set many records, won air races, tested and developed new flying equipment and techniques. He was a highly-educated military officer, having earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California Berkeley School of Mines, and M.S and D.Sc. degrees in Aeronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

During World War II Colonel Doolittle planned and led the famous Halsey-Doolittle Raid against Japan, 18 April 1942, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. As a brigadier general he commanded Twelfth Air Force in North Africa. Promoted to major general, he was given command of the Fifteenth Air Force in the Mediterranean Theater. From 1943 until 1945, Lieutenant General Doolittle commanded Eighth Air Force. He was preparing his command to move against Japan, equipped with Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers when World War II came to an end.

After the war, Lieutenant General Doolittle was placed on the inactive list. On 4 April 1985, by Act of Congress, James H. Doolittle was promoted to General.

Similar to the DH.4B-1-S flown by Lieutenant Jimmy Doolittle on his transcontinental flight, this is a reproduction DH.4B from the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 August 1938

Major Alexander P. de Seversky in his Seversky AP-7, NX1384, at Floyd Bennett Field, 1938. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

29 August 1938: At 7:37 a.m., Alexander Nikolaevich Prokofiev-Seversky departed Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, flying a Seversky AP-7 Pursuit, NX1384, an all-metal monocoque monoplane of his own design and manufacture, enroute to the Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank, California, a distance of 2,457 miles (3,954 kilometers). He completed the flight in 10 hours, 2 minutes, 55.7 seconds, setting a new speed record for an East-to-West Transcontinental Flight. Major Seversky refueled during a 30-minute stop at Kansas City.

Larry Therkelson of the National Aeronautic Association was the official timer for the record attempt.

Sversky AP-7 NX1384, seen from below. In this configuration, the landing gear folds rearward.
Seversky AP-7 NX1384, seen from below. In this configuration, the landing gear retracts rearward.

The Los Angeles Times reported:

SEVERSKY SETS RECORD

Flies across Country in Few Minutes More than Ten Hours

     Maj. Alexander P. (Sascha) de Seversky, who flew fighting planes for the Czar of Russia and now builds pursuit ships for the American Army, yesterday notched another hour off the already incredibly narrow time-space separating the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

In a “civilianized” fighter made at his Long Island factory, de Seversky thrashed along the 2600-mile airway from Floyd Bennett Field, N.Y., to Union Air Terminal, Burbank, in ten hours, three minutes, seven seconds, better than 260 miles per hour.

START AND FINISH

He had gobbled a husky breakfast of oatmeal, orange juice and toast in Manhattan as dawn arose over the skyscrapers (at 3:37 a.m. P.S.T.)

Under a blazing Southland sun that shot the mercury to 100 deg. at Burbank, he toyed with a chicken sandwich fifteen minutes after he set his pursuiter’s trim wheels down at exactly 1:40:07 p.m.

De Seversky was greeted—warmly—by Jacqueline Cochran, America’s No. 1 woman speed flyer for whom he was ferrying the all-metal monoplane to Los Angeles. She will retrace his course in the small hours of Saturday, seeking the lion’s share of the $30,000 Bendix Trophy purse.

It was, he said, “Practically nothing.”

TIME WASTED

     In a new age of aeronautics, when pilots break records just in the day’s work during routine assignments, de Seversky stands with the best of ’em.

His time and speed would have been materially bettered if he’d been “trying,” he admitted. At Kansas City, plopping down into TWA’s hangars for refueling, he wasted a precious twenty-nine minutes while mechanics tinkered with his tricky gasoline system.

      “Once I was traveling more than 300 miles an hour,” De Seversky admitted.

MERELY A WARM-UP

     How much faster he could have flown, the esrtwhile White Russian declined to say—”Wait until ‘Jacky’ starts for Cleveland in the Bendix race,” he interposed.

      “I used oxygen part of the way, especially when I climbed to 16,000 over the Kansas prairies during a hailstorm,” he said. “This whole flight was nothing but a warm-up. I could have flown nonstop. Instead, I tried different wing loadings and paused at Kansas City. Sometimes I throttled down to less than 240 miles an hour.”

     Two hundred and forty!

     Between bites of chicken sandwich, De Seversky pointed out that his 1200-horsepower plane can soar 3000 miles without refilling its wing-to-wing tanks that carry 540 gallons of high octane fuel. That, he observed, carries huge military significance.

     “We are learning in the Army,” this builder of the nation’s fastest pursuit ships declared, “that bombardment craft are vulnerable to attack from the air unless properly convoyed.

Turn to Page 5, Column 2

Record Upset by Seversky

Continued from First Page

So—the ‘flying fortress’ that cruises 5000 miles must be accompanied by pursuit ships that can go equally as far nonstop. To Europe from America, for example.

THREE UNDER WAY

     “In the United States at least three such planes are underway today. I am building one. Others may be twin-engined—such as the ship being readied at the Lockheed plant—and capable of terrific speeds.”

     By Christmas of this year, de Seversky promised, a standard military fighter, soon to be released to Air Corps testers, will crack the long-sought-after 400-miles-an-hour mark.

BENDIX MARK SEEN

     De Seversky was cool as he braked his craft to a halt under the gaze of Larry Therkelson, official National Aeronautic Association timer. He removed his earphones, slipped out of his jumper and asked, “When’s lunch?” To statements that he had knocked Roscoe Turner’s five-year-old record of 11h. 30m. silly, he only shrugged.

OTHERS IN RACE

     Others in the Bendix race will be Frank Fuller and Miss Cochran in Seversky planes, Robert Perlick, Glendale, in a Beechcraft; Robert Hinschey and Charles LaJotte, Glendale, in a Sparton; Ross Hadley, Burbank, in a Beechcraft; George Armistead, Los Angeles, in a Q.E.D. Special; Bernarr Macfadden, New York publisher, and Ralph Francis, former TWA pilot, in a Northrop Gamma; Paul Mantz, Burbank, in a Lockheed Orion; Frank Cordova, New York, in a Bellanca; Lee Gehlbach, New York, in a Wedell-Williams, and Max Constant, Burbank, in a Beechcraft.

Los Angeles Times, Vol. LVII, Tuesday Morning, 30 August 1938, Page 1, Column 5, and Page 5, Column 2

Jackie Cochran with the Seversky AP-7A, NX1384. Her racing number, 13, has not yet been painted on the fuselage. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
Jackie Cochran with the Seversky AP-7A, NX1384, at Burbank, California. The landing gear has been modified. Her racing number, 13, has not yet been painted on the fuselage. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

NX1384 was built especially for Jackie Cochran. The AP-7 racer was an improved version of Seversky’s P-35A fighter, which was the U.S. Army Air Corps’ first all-metal single-engine airplane with an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear.

Cochran’s AP-7 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1B3-G (R-1830-11) two-row 14-cylinder radial engine with a compression ration of 6.7:1. It was rated at 850 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m. at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for take off. The engine turned a three-bladed Hamilton-Standard controllable-pitch propeller through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-11 was 4 feet, 8.66 inches (1.439 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 0.00 inches (1.219 meters), and weighed 1,320 pounds (599 kilograms).

Jackie Cochran paints her race number, 13, of the fuselage of her Seversky AP-7. (Unattributed)
Jackie Cochran paints her race number, 13, of the fuselage of her Seversky AP-7. (Unattributed)

Two days later, 1 September 1938, Jackie Cochran flew this same airplane to win the Bendix Trophy Race from Burbank to Cleveland, Ohio, a distance of 2,042 miles (3,286 kilometers). Her winning time was 8 hours, 10 minutes, 31.4 seconds, for an average speed of 249.774 miles per hour (401.895 kilometers per hour). After a 40 minute refueling stop, and being congratulated for her Bendix win, she flew on to Bendix, New Jersey, setting a West-to-East Transcontinental Speed Record with a total elapsed time of 10 hours, 7 minutes, 1 second.

The Seversky AP-7 and its military version, the P-35, would be developed over the next few years to become the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

Seversky AP-7 NX1384, c/n 145. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Seversky AP-7 NX1384, c/n 145, with Jackie Cochran’s race number, 13, at Cleveland, Ohio. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

 

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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24–25 August 1932

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega after her record-setting solo nonstop flight across North America, 25 August 1932. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

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).

National Aeronautics Association Certificate of Record, issued on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

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.

A small crowd gather's around Amelia Earhart an dher Lockheed Model 5B Vega at Newark Municpal Airport, 25 August 1932. (AP)
A small crowd gathers around Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Model 5B Vega at Newark Municipal Airport, 25 August 1932. (AP)

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).

Aircraft Registration Certificate, Lockheed Vega 5B, serial number 22, NC7952.

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.

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Model 5B Vega, NR7952, at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

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.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 August 1930

Frank Monroe Hawks, 1932 (Edward Steichen)
Frank Monroe Hawks, 1932 (Edward Steichen)

12 August 1930: Frank Monroe Hawks flew from Los Angeles Municipal Airport in California to Curtiss Airport, Valley Stream, Long Island, New York, in a record-breaking 12 hours, 25 minutes, 3 seconds. His airplane was a Travel Air Type R “Mystery Ship” named Texaco No. 13. It carried civil registration NR1313.

One week earlier, 6 August 1930, Hawks had flown across the continent from east to west, in 14 hours, 50 minutes 3 seconds. More favorable winds allowed the Type R to make a faster west-to-east flight.

Hawks’ Texaco No. 13 was the fourth of five specially designed and constructed racing aircraft produced by Travel Air Manufacturing Company of Wichita, Kansas. The company was founded by Walter Beech, Clyde Cessna, and Lloyd Stearman. The “Type R” refers to one of its designers, Herb Rawdon.

The Type R was a low-wing monoplane with a monocoque fuselage built of plywood. The very thin wing was braced by wires. Attempts to streamline the airplane included a raised profile behind the pilot’s head, “wheel pants,” as well as a NACA-designed engine cowling that provided better engine cooling and caused less aerodynamic drag.

The Mystery Ship was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 971.930-cubic-inch-displacement (15.927 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Whirlwind Nine (also known as the J-6-9 or R-975) nine-cylinder radial engine, normally rated at 300 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. Various sources state that Hawks’ R-975 had been modified by increasing its compression ratio and supercharger speed, and that it produced 400 horsepower, or more. The R-975 was built in both direct drive and geared versions.

One of the fastest airplanes of its time, the Type R set over 200 speed records.

Frank Monroe Hawks with the Texaco 13 Travel-Air Mystery Ship at East Boston Airport, 1930. (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)
Frank Monroe Hawks with the Travel Air Type R Mystery Ship, Texaco No. 13, NR1313, at East Boston Airport, 1930. (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)
Frank Hawks, 1930 (SDA&SM)

Newspapers called the Type R airplanes “mystery ships” because Beech was very secretive about them. When two of them were flown to the 1929 National Air Races at Cleveland, Ohio, they taxied directly to a hangar and shut off their engines. They were immediately pushed inside. The hangar was kept locked and under guard.

Frank Hawks was an Air Service, United States Army, pilot who served during World War I. He rose to the rank of Captain, and at the time of his record-breaking transcontinental flight, he held a commission as a reserve officer in the Army Air Corps. His flying had made him a popular public figure and he starred in a series of Hollywood movies as “The Mystery Pilot.”

Frank Hawks’ Type R is in the collection of the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois.

Travel Air Type R, NR1313, Mystery Ship, Texaco No. 13, at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois. (MSI)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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