5 November 1911: At 4:04 p.m., Calbraith Perry Rodgers completed the first transcontinental flight when he landed at Tournament Park, Pasadena, California, in front of a crowd of 20,000 spectators.
Only a few months earlier Cal Rodgers had been taught to fly by Orville Wright at Huffman Prairie, Ohio. On 7 August he had been awarded Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) pilot certificate number 49.
In October 1910, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst offered a prize of $50,000 to anyone who flew an airplane across the North American continent in 30 days or less. The prize offer would expire 11 October 1911. Rodgers bought a Wright Model EX from the Wright brothers, who were skeptical that any airplane could hold together for that long of a flight, but they eventually agreed to sell the airplane to him. Armour Meatpacking Company of Chicago agreed to sponsor the cross country flight as a means of advertising their grape soft drink, Vin Fiz. Rogers named his airplane after the soft drink. (Vin Fiz also sponsored Harriet Quimby.)
The Wright Model EX was built as an exhibition airplane. It was developed from the 1910 Model R, with shorter wings and some other improvements to reduce aerodynamic drag. It was a single-place biplane with a length of 21 feet, 6 inches (6.553 meters) and a wingspan of 31 feet, 6 inches (9.601 meters). It was powered by a water-cooled Wright inline 4-cylinder engine which produced 30 horsepower, driving two propellers in pusher configuration by means of chain drive. Its top speed was approximately 62 miles per hour (99.8 kilometers per hour).
Cal Rodgers was accompanied by a special six car train that provided living quarters, support personnel and a hangar car for maintenance. He paid Charlie Taylor, the Wright’s’ mechanic, $70 per week to accompany the flight and perform the necessary maintenance on the airplane. The top of the rail cars were marked to allow Rodgers to follow the train in and around the larger cities as a form of navigation.
The transcontinental flight required more than 70 landings for fuel, maintenance or repairs. By the time that he arrived at Pasadena, California, Hearst’s prize offer had already expired. The city of Long Beach offered him $1,000 if he would fly to the shoreline of their city to complete the journey. After spending the night at Pasadena, Rodgers took off on the final leg, only 25 miles, but he crashed at Compton, and was seriously injured. It was nearly a month before he had recovered sufficiently to fly the rest of the way to Long Beach, which he did with a crutch tied to the airplane’s wing. He landed on the beach there, 10 December 1911.
24–25 October 1928: Captain Charles B.D. Collyer, Air Service, United States Army, and Harry J. Tucker flew Tucker’s Lockheed Vega, NX4769, from New York to Los Angeles, non-stop, in 24 hours, 55 minutes.
A contemporary newspaper article reported the event:
YANKEE DOODLE SETS NEW MARK
Monoplane Flies Across Continent to Los Angeles in 24 Hours, 55 Minutes
Mines Field, Los Angeles, Oct. 25—(AP)—Setting a new record for a trans-continental non-stop airplane flight from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific, the monoplane Yankee Doodle arrived here at 2:12 p.m. today from New York.
The unofficial time of the flight as announced by Capt. C.D.B. Collyer, pilot and Harry Tucker, owner and passenger, was 24 hours 55 minutes. The best previous time for the westward flight was 26 hours and 50 minutes, made in 1923 by Lieutenants John MacReady[John A. Macready]and Oakley Gelley[Oakley George Kelly].
530 Gallons Carried
The Yankee Doodle hopped off at Roosevelt Field at 4:16:35 p.m. Eastern Standard Time yesterday. The little cigar-shaped white-winged plane was loaded with 530 gallons of gasoline, just about enough for a 24-hour flight, and a check began shortly after landing to determine how much of the fuel was left.
The westward flight covered approximately the course flown over by Col. Arthur Goebel when he piloted his plane to a new West-East non-stop trans-continental record of 18 hours and 55 minutes several weeks ago.
This was the fourth time Tucker has sent his plane into a coast-to-coast grind. The first West to East attempt was unsuccessful but on the second attempt Goebel piloted the machine through to the record.
—The Cornell Daily Sun, Ithaca, New York, Friday, October 26, 1928, Volume XLIX, Number 29 at Page 1, Column 5
Charles Bascum Drury Collyer was born at Nashville, Tennessee, 24 August 1896, the son of Rev. Charles Thomas Collyer. He traveled throughout the world, and lived for a time in Seoul, Korea. Collyer attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute, a military college at Blacksburg, Virginia, as a member of the class of 1919.
Collyer served in the United States Army as a private, first class, being discharged 1 May 1919. He held a commission as a second lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Reserve Corps. He was employed as chief pilot, Liberty Flyers, Inc., at Savannah, Georgia.
From 28 June to 22 July 1928, Collyer had flown around the world with John Henry Mears. Collyer was president of the Aviation Services Corporation of New York, which had been formed “to do unusual things in aviation.”
Harry J. Tucker was variously described as an “auto tycoon” and a “wealthy Santa Monica, California, businessman.” He was born in 1891.
Charles B.D. Collyer and Harry Tucker were killed 3 November 1928 when Yankee Doodle crashed in fog near Venezia, in Yavapai County, Arizona. Collyer was buried at Arlington, National Cemetery, Virginia.
Yankee Doodle was the seventh Lockheed Vega produced (c/n 7). The Vega was a a single-engine, high-wing monoplane designed by John Knudsen (“Jack”) Northrop and Gerrard Vultee. The prototype flew for the first time 4 July 1927 at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California.
The Vega was very much a state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of strips of vertical-grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and bonded together with cassein glue. These were then attached to former rings. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them. They were built of spruce spars and ribs, covered with 3/32-inch (2.4 millimeters) spruce plywood.
The Lockheed Vega 1 was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit and could carry up to four passengers in the enclosed cabin. It was 27.5 feet (8.38 meters) long with a wingspan of 41.0 feet (12.50 meters) and height of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.59 meters). The total wing area (including ailerons) was 275 square feet (25.55 square meters). The wing had no dihedral. The leading edges were swept slightly aft, and the trailing edges swept forward. The Vega 1 had an empty weight of 1,650.0 pounds (748.4 kilograms) and a gross weight of 3,200 pounds (1,452 kilograms).
The early Vegas were powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) Wright Whirlwind Five (J-5C) nine-cylinder radial engine. This was a direct-drive engine 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. It was 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) long, 3 feet, 9 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter, and weighed 508 pounds (230.4 kilograms).
The Vega had a cruising speed of 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour) with the engine turning 1,500 r.p.m., and a top speed of 135 miles per hour (217 kilometers per hour)—very fast for its time. The airplane had a rate of climb of 925 feet per minute (4.7 meters per second) at Sea Level, decreasing to 405 feet per minute (2.1 meters per second) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its service ceiling was 15,900 feet (4,846 meters), and the absolute ceiling was 17,800 feet (5,425 meters). The airplane had a fuel capacity of 100 gallons (379 liters), giving it a range of 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) at cruise speed.
Twenty-eight Vega 1 airplanes were built by Lockheed Aircraft Company at the factory on Sycamore Street, Hollywood, California, before production of the improved Lockheed Vega 5 began in 1928 and the company moved to its new location at Burbank, California.
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 and other astronomical objects.
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 Mineola, 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, California, 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.
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, ¹ to Rockwell Field, San Diego, California, a distance of 2,106 miles (3,390 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 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.”
The Airco 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. The DH-4B was a rebuilt DH.4 with fuel capacity increased to 110 gallons (420 liters). The DH-4B was 30 feet, 6 inches (9.296 meters) long with a wingspan of 43 feet, 6 inches (13.259 meters) and height of 10 feet, 4 inches (3.150 meters). Loaded weight of the standard DH-4B was 3,557 pounds (1,613.4 kilograms).
In place of the Rolls-Royce Eagle VII V-12 of the British-built version, Army Air Service DH-4s were powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Liberty L-12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine. It turned turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller. 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 Liberty L12 aircraft engine was designed by Jesse G. Vincent of the Packard Motor Car Company and Elbert J. Hall of the Hall-Scott Motor Company. This engine was produced by Ford Motor Company, as well as the Buick and Cadillac Divisions of General Motors, The Lincoln Motor Company (which was formed by Henry Leland, the former manager of Cadillac, specifically to manufacture these aircraft engines), Marmon Motor Car Company and Packard. Hall-Scott was too small to produce engines in the numbers required.
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.
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.
General James Harold Doolittle is the only person to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and the Medal of Freedom. He died 27 September 1993 at the age of 96 years. He was buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
¹ Pablo Beach, Florida, was renamed Jacksonville Beach on 15 June 1925.
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.
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.”
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
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 ratio 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).
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.