Tag Archives: Transoceanic Flight

22 January 1970

Boeing 747-121 N736PA, Pan American Clipper Young America, watercolor by John T. McCoy. (SFO Museum)

22 January 1970: Captain Robert M. Weeks, Captain John Noland and Flight Engineer August (“Mac”) McKinney flew the Pan American World Airways Boeing 747-121, N736PA, Clipper Young America, from New York to London on a 6 hour, 14 minute inaugural passenger-carrying flight of the new wide-body jet. Aboard were a cabin crew of 17 and 332 passengers.

Crew members of the first Pan Am Boeing 747 to arrive at Heathrow. (Rolls Press/Pepperfoto/Getty Images via The Guardian)

The Associated Press reported:

The 747 Age Is Here

     LONDON (AP)—A Boeing 747 jetliner arrived in London from New York today on the maiden transatlantic commercial jumbo jet flight.

     An overheated engine grounded the original aircraft and a substitute called Young America left New York at 1:52 a.m. EST, nearly seven hours after the scheduled departure time. The jet, carrying 332 passengers and 20 crew, touched down at London’s Heathrow Airport at 8:06 a.m. EST.

     London Airport services were geared to deal as quickly as possible with the passengers and 30,000 pounds of baggage and cargo aboard the Pan American World Airways jumbo.

     SOME PASSENGERS booked on the return flight to New York switched to other aircraft because of today’s delays, but a Pan Am spokesman said most of the passengers were waiting for the Jumbo.

     The [sic] included actress Raquel Welch, who has been making a television spectacular in London.

     The Boeing took 6 hours 15 minutes on the Atlantic flight. The pilot was Capt. Robert M. Weeks, 49, a veteran of 28 years with Pan Am who has logged more than 15,000 hours on Pan Am routes.

     THE AIRCRAFT drew up at stand 1-29 on Heathrow’s Pier Five at 8:10 a.m., and passengers began disembarking four minutes later.

     One of the passengers, Mrs. Joe Tepera of Fort Worth Tex., told newsmen: “The flight was simply great. Flying in a beautiful plane like that was worth the delay.

     “All the passengers were good humored and when the plane finally took off they applauded. They did the same when it landed. I personally would not hesitate flying in a jumbo again.”

     Michael J. Flynn of Chicago said: “The delay didn’t bother me much. We were given a first class meal. It’s a good plane.”

     BUT ONE PASSENGER, who declined to be named, said he was annoyed at the service aboard the jumbo and the delay caused by switching planes in New York.

     “The plane is simply too big for anyone to be given proper service,” he said.

     Michael Brody, 21-year-old American who claims he wants to give away his multimillion-dollar fortune, was among the passengers.

     “I am here for a rest. I am not going to give away any more money in Britain,” he told newsmen.

     A Pan Am spokesman said the jumbo had been rechristened Young America in New York for the historic flight, but the aircraft carried the name Clipper Victor on its fuselage on arrival here.

     THE HUGE PLANE made most of the smooth flight at 33,000 feet.

     Richard Hobson, air correspondent of the British Press Association, who traveled on the jumbo, said: “From my position in one of the economy sections of the 747 where the seating is nine-abreast, divided by two aisles, was like being in a news theater. A film show—and the plane is equipped for them—would have completed the illusion.”

     Pan Am has received five of the 33 jumbos ordered. Trans World Airlines plans to start jumbo service in March and British Overseas Airways Corp. will receive the first of 12 jumbos early in April and hopes to get them in service in June.

     A British Airport Authority spokesman reported the first passenger cleared all baggage and airport formalities 34 minutes after the jet touched down.

     “IT DOESN’T LOOK bad at all,” he said.

     The spokesman gave this breakdown on times for clearing the jumbo’s passengers:

Time arrive 8:06 a.m. EST.
Doors open: 8:19.
First passenger off plane: 8:20
Last passenger off plane: 8:32.
First passenger into baggage hall: 8:34.
Last passenger into baggage hall: 8:57.
First passenger into immigration: 8: …
Last passenger out of immigration: 8:39.
First passenger into customs: 8:25.
Last passenger out of customs: 9:04.
First passenger to clear airport: 8:46.
Last passenger to clear airport: 9:05.

     Six Pan Am buses took the passengers into London.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Vol. 59, No. 22, 22 Jan 1970, Page D-16, Columns 1–8

Pan American World Airways’ Boeng 747-121, N732PA, Clipper Storm King. (Aldo Bidini via Wikimedia)

The 747-100 series was the first version of the Boeing 747 to be built. It was operated by a flight crew of three and was designed to carry 366 to 452 passengers. It is 231 feet, 10.2 inches (70.668 meters) long with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 5 inches (19.329 meters). The interior cabin width is 20 feet (6.096 meters), giving it the name “wide body.” Its empty weight is 370,816 pounds (168,199 kilograms) and the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 735,000 pounds (333,390 kilograms).

The 747-100 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7A high-bypass ratio turbofan engines. The JT9D is a two-spool, axial-flow turbofan engine with a single-stage fan section, 14-stage compressor (11 high- and 3 low-pressure stages) and 6-stage turbine (2 high- and 4 low-pressure stages). The engine is rated at 46,950 pounds of thrust (208.844 kilonewtons), or 48,570 pounds (216.050 kilonewtons) with water injection (2½-minute limit). This engine has a maximum diameter of 7 feet, 11.6 inches (2.428 meters), is 12 feet, 10.2 inches (3.917 meters) long and weighs 8,850 pounds (4,014 kilograms).

The 747’s cruise speed is 0.84 Mach (555 miles per hour, 893 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) and it’s maximum speed is 0.89 Mach (588 miles per hour/946 kilometers per hour). The maximum range at MTOW is 6,100 miles (9,817 kilometers).

The Boeing 747 was MUCH BIGGER than the Boeing 707 that it replaced. (CBS News/Boeing)

N736PA had initially been named Clipper Victor, but the name was changed to Clipper Young America for the inaugural New York to London flight when the 747 scheduled to make that flight—Clipper Young America—suffered mechanical problems. The 747 was hijacked on 2 August 1970 and flown to Cuba. After that incident, N736PA was renamed Clipper Victor — its original name. It was destroyed in a collision with another Boeing 747 at Tenerife, Canary Islands, 27 March, 1977.

Pan American Airways' Boeing 747-121 N736PA, Clipper Young America, at London Heathrow Airport, 22 January 1970. (Getty Images via BBC History)
Pan American Airways’ Boeing 747-121 N736PA, Clipper Young America, at London Heathrow Airport, 22 January 1970. (Getty Images via BBC History)

The 747 has been in production for 53 years. As of January 2022, 1,569 747s of all models had been built. 205 of these were 747-100 series aircraft. On 12 January 2021, Boeing announced that the final 747s, four Boeing 747-8F freighters, had been ordered by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc. The final Boeing 747, N862GT, was rolled out of the factory on 3 October 2022. The production of the “jumbo jet” has come to a close.

The final Boeing 747, a 747-8F freighter, N862GT, is rolled out of the factory at Paine Field, 3 October 2022. (Image by PaineAirport.com via Twitter)

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

13 January 1949

Bill Odom's record-setting Beechcraft 35 Bonanza, N80040. (FAI)
Bill Odom’s record-setting Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza, N80040. (FAI)

13 January 1949: William P. Odom set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance in a Straight Line when he flew a Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza, N80040, named Waikiki Beech, from Honolulu, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, to Oakland, California, an official distance of 3,873.48 kilometers (2,406.87 miles).¹

The Chicago Daily Tribune reported the event:

Odom Flight from Hawaii Sets Light Plane Record

Hops Pacific to Oakland in 22 Hours

Oakland, Cal., Jan. 13 (Special)—Flyer Bill Odom set a new light plane record today in a flight across the Pacific from Hawaii, but dwindling gasoline supplies forced him to cut short his eastward flight and he landed here at 6:38 p.m. (8:38 Chicago time).

Odom, who had planned to continue on to Teterboro, N.J., 5,285 miles from his starting place in Hawaii had been in the air 22 hours and six minutes. He left Honolulu at 6:32 p.m. Wednesday (10:32 p.m. Wednesday Chicago time).

The flight over the Pacific, more than 2,300 miles, broke the light plane record of 2,061 miles set by two Russian flyers, A. Goussarov and V. Glebov Sept. 23, 1937, from Moscow to Krasnoyarsk. The record is recognized by the International Aeronautical federation for light planes, first category, 397–549 cubic inches engine displacement.

Uses Most of Fuel

William P. Odom. (FAI)
William P. Odom. (FAI)

Odom was two hours behind schedule and had only about 80 out of his 260 gallons of gasoline when he passed over the Golden Gate at 4:27 p.m. (6:27 p.m. Chicago time.) Head winds had taken a heavy toll of his gasoline load.

He radioed that he intended to add as much mileage as possible to his record before landing. He kept on, reaching Reno, Nev. where ice on his wings and a snowstorm on the airport forced him to turn back.

He then headed for Sacramento airport but no civil aeronautics administration officials were there and he landed at Oakland. There, the plane and its instruments were sealed.

“Boy, am I tired,” Odom said.

He covered more than 2,500 miles from Honolulu to Reno, but as he did not land at Reno the record will remain about 2,300 miles, the distance from Honolulu to Oakland.

Odom had bucked headwinds since he switched his single engined Beechcraft’s course south to fly over San Francisco instead of Seattle. He said he changed his course by mistake this morning. Somehow, he said, he lost his PBY escort from Honolulu and veered to the right.

He first had hunted out and ridden winds that took him northeast toward Seattle, but 1,800 miles out of Hawaii he hit a high pressure area that gave him for a time, tailwinds that enabled him to conserve gasoline.

Late Model Plane

Beechcraft 35 Bonanza N80040. (FAI)
Beechcraft 35 Bonanza N80040. (FAI)

Odom’s plane is a post-war model with a V-type tail, a tricycle landing gear that tucks up into the wings, a tiny little 185 horsepower, six cylinder unsupercharged engine. Its total weight with fuel, pilot, emergency gear, radio, and full equipment at take-off was only 3,750 pounds. It is an all-metal, low-wing monoplane which in its standard form can carry four passengers including pilot.

For his flight Odom had extra radio and a 100 gallon fuel tank installed in the cabin. Each wing tip also has a specially made fuel tank carrying 60 gallons, making 120 gallons total in those two containers. The normal tankage for the Bonanza is 40 gallons.

Odom holds the around the world flight record of 73 hours, 5 minutes and 11 seconds, set Aug. 11, 1947, from Chicago to Chicago in a converted A-20 bomber.

Chicago Daily Tribune, Vol. CVIII, No. 12, Friday, January 14, 1949, Page 1, Column 7.

Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza NX80040. This is the fourth prototype. It is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (Beech Aircraft Corporation)
Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza NX80040. This is the fourth prototype. (Beech Aircraft Corporation)

N80040 was the fourth prototype Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza. (The first two were static test articles.)

The Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza is a single-engine, four-place all-metal light civil airplane with retractable landing gear. The Bonanza has the distinctive V-tail with a 30° dihedral which combined the functions of a conventional vertical fin and rudder, and horizontal tail plane and elevators.

The Model 35 was 25 feet, 2 inches (7.671 meters) long with a wingspan of 32 feet, 10 inches (10.008 meters) and height of 6 feet, 6½ inches (1.994 meters). It had an empty weight of 1,458 pounds (661 kilograms) and gross weight of 2,550 pounds (1,157 kilograms.)

Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza NX80040. (Hans Groenhoff Photographic Collection, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum NASM-HGC-201)

NX80040, s/n 4, and the following production models were powered by an air-cooled, 471.24-cubic-inch-displacement (7.72 liter) Continental Motors, Inc., E185 horizontally-opposed 6-cylinder engine. This engine was rated at 165 horsepower at 2,050 r.p.m. (NX80150, s/n 3, had been equipped with a 125-horsepower Lycoming O-290-A.) The Bonanza had a two-bladed electrically-controlled variable pitch R-100 propeller with a diameter of 7 feet, 4 inches (2.235 meters) made of laminated wood.

The “V-tail Bonanza” had a maximum speed of 184 miles per hour (296 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a cruise speed of 175 miles per hour ( 282 kilometers per hour)at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its service ceiling was 18,000 feet (5,486 meters). With full fuel, 40 gallons (151.4 liters), the airplane had a range of 750 miles (1,207 kilometers).

The Beechcraft 35 was in production from 1947 to 1982. More than 17,000 Model 35s and the similar Model 36 were built.

Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza N80040, s/n 4, "Waikiki Beech, at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)
Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza N80040, s/n 4, “Waikiki Beech,” at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

William Paul Odom was born at Raymore, Missouri, 21 October 1919. He was the first of three children of Dennis Paul Odom, a farmer, and Ethel E. Powers Odom.

Odom, then working as an airport radio operator, married Miss Dorothy Mae Wroe at Brentwood, Pennsylvania, 3 December 1939.

During World Ward II, from 1944 to 1945, Odom flew for the Chinese National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), flying “The Hump,” the air route over the Himalayas from India to China.

Douglas A-26B Invader 44-34759, registered NX67834, “Reynolds Bombshell.”

Bill Odom had flown a Douglas A-26 Invader named Reynolds Bombshell around the world in 3 days, 6 hours, 55 minutes, 56 seconds, 12–16 April 1947. He made a second around the world flight, 7–11 August 1947, again flying the A-26. The duration of this second trip was 3 days, 1 hour, 5 minutes, 11 seconds. Neither flight was recognized as a record by the FAI.

In April 1948, Odom flew a former U.S. Navy Consolidated RY-1, Bu. No. 67798 ² for the Reynolds Boston Museum China Expedition. The expedition ended abruptly and Odom flew the airplane out of China to Japan without authorization from either nation. He and the airplane’s owner, Milton Reynolds, were taken into custody and the airplane impounded.

The Boston Museum China Expedition Consolidated RY-1, Bu. No. 67798 (formerly C-87A-CF Liberator Express 43-30570), with U.S. civil registration NL5151N.  (Bill Larkins/Wikipedia)

On 8 March 1949, Odom made another FAI World Record flight with Waikiki Beech, from Honolulu to Teterboro, New Jersey, 7,977.92 kilometers (4,957.25 miles).³

With these records and record attempts, Bill Odom persuaded Jackie Cochran to buy a radically-modified P-51C Mustang named Beguine (NX4845N) for him to fly at the 1949 National Air Races at Cleveland Municipal Airport, Ohio.

A rare color photograph of Jackie Cochran’s highly-modified North American P-51C racer, NX4845N (42-103757) appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, attributed to Aaron King. The racer is dark blue with gold trim.
The Laird home at 429 West Street, Berea, Ohio burns after the unlimited-class racer Beguine crashed into it, 5 September 1949. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Though he had never flown in a pylon race, Odom had qualified the P-51 Beguine for the 105 mile Sohio Trophy Race, held 3 September 1949. He won that race, averaging 388.393 miles per hour (625.058 kilometers per hour. He had also entered the Thompson Trophy Race, qualifying with a speed of 405.565 miles per hour (652.694 kilometers per hour.)

The Thompson Trophy Race was held on 5 September. On the second lap, Odom’s P-51 went out of control and crashed into a house near the airport. Bill Odom, along with a woman and child on the ground, were killed.

William Paul Odom’s remains were buried at the Friendship Cemetery, Columbus, Mississippi.

¹ FAI Record File Number 14512

² The airplane was originally ordered as a C-87A-CF Liberator Express transport for the U.S. Army Air Forces, serial number 43-30570, but was one of three which were transferred to the U.S. Navy.

³ FAI Record File Number 9112

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

11 January 1938

A Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42.
A Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42.

11 January 1938: Pan American Airways’ Sikorsky S-42B NC16734, Samoan Clipper, took off from Pago Pago, American Samoa, enroute Auckland, New Zealand. The airplane had a crew of seven, commanded by Captain Edwin C. Musick, the airline’s senior pilot, and a cargo of mail.

About two hours out, the number four engine began leaking oil. Captain Musick ordered the engine shut down. The flight radioed that they were returning to Pago Pago. They never arrived. Wreckage, a large oil slick, various documents and articles of the crew’s clothing were found by the U.S. Navy seaplane tender USS Avocet (AVP-4), 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) west of the island. It was apparent that the S-42 had exploded in mid-air.

The cause of the explosion is not known with certainty but based on Captain Musick’s handling of a similar problem with one of  Samoan Clipper‘s  engines on an earlier flight, a possible cause can be suggested.

Pan American Airways’ Samoan Clipper. (Hawaii Aviation)

On the earlier flight, the number four engine had begun seriously overheating and Musick ordered the flight engineer to shut it down. Because of the decreased power with only three engines, Captain Musick ordered the crew to begin dumping fuel to decrease the weight of the airplane before landing.

Pan American had tested the fuel dumping characteristics of the Sikorsky S-42 using dye, and had learned that because of the air flow patterns around the wings, the fluid tended to accumulate around the trailing edge of the wings and that it could actually be sucked into the wings themselves.

As fuel was being dumped on the previous flight, fuel vapors were present in the cabin, requiring all electrical systems to be shut off—even though it was night. Liquid gasoline was also dripping into the cockpit from the wing above.

Pan American Airways’ Sikorsky S-42B NC16734 at Pago Pago, 24 December 1937. (Unattributed)

Samoan Clipper had been very heavy with fuel when it departed for the long transoceanic flight to Auckland. Presuming that Captain Musick once again ordered fuel to be dumped prior to landing back at Pago Pago, and that the vapors collected around the wings, the fuel could have been detonated by the electrical motors which were used to lower the flaps for flight at slower speed, or by coming into contact with the hot exhaust of the engines.

Two independent investigations were carried out by Pan American and by the United States Navy, and both came to this conclusion.

Captain Edwin Charles Musick, Chief Pilot, Pan American Airways. (1894–1938)

There were no survivors of the explosion. Killed along with Captain Musick were Captain Cecil G. Sellers, Second Officer P.S. Brunk, Navigator F.J. MacLean, Flight Engineer J.W. Stickrod, Flight Mechanic J.A. Brooks and Radio Operator T.D. Findley.

The Sikorsky S-42B was a four-engine long-range flying boat built for Pan American Airways by the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Division of United Technologies at Stratford, Connecticut. It was 68 feet (20.726 meters) long with a wingspan of 118 feet, 2 inches (36.017 meters). The S-42 had an empty weight of 19,764 pounds ( kilograms) and gross weight of 38,000 pounds ( kilograms). It could carry up to 37 passengers.

The S-42B was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,690.537-cubic-inch-displacement (27.703 liters) Pratt & Whitney Hornet S1E-G nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. The S1E-G had a Normal Power rating of 750 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m., to 7,000 feet (2,134 meters), and 875 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m., for Takeoff. The engines drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The S1E-G was 4 feet, 1.38 inches (1.254 meters) long, 4 feet, 6.44 inches (1.383 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,064 pounds (483 kilograms).

The S-42B has a cruise speed 165 miles per hour (266 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 188 miles per hour (303 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). The service ceiling was 16,000 feet (4,877 meters), and it could maintain 7,500 feet (2,286 meters) with three engines. Its range was 1,930 miles (3,106 kilometers).

Boris Vasilievich Sergievsky. (Test & Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

During flight testing of the S-42, Sikorsky test pilot Boris Vasilievich Sergievsky, with co-pilot Raymond B. Quick, set three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world records for payload and altitude.¹  Later, Captain Musick, with Sergievsky and world-famous aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, flew the S-42 to set eight Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world records for speed.²

Ten Sikorsky S-42, S-42A and S-42B flying boats were built for Pan Am. None remain in existence.

Pan American Airways' Sikorsky S-42B NC16734, Samoan Clipper, moored at mechanic's Bay, Auckland, New Zealand, December 1937. The flying boat in the background is a Short S.23 Empire, G-ADUT, named Centaurus. (Turnbull Library)
Pan American Airways’ Sikorsky S-42B NC16734, Samoan Clipper, moored at Mechanic’s Bay, Auckland, New Zealand, December 1937. The flying boat in the background is a Short S.23 Empire, G-ADUT, named Centaurus. (Turnbull Library)

¹ 26 April 1934 FAI Record File Numbers: 11583: Greatest load to 2,000 meters (6,562 feet): 7,533 kilograms (16,652 pounds).  17 May 1934: 11582 and 11978: Altitude with a 5,000 Kilogram (11,023 pounds) Load, 6,220 meters (20,407 feet).

² 1 April 1934 FAI Record File Numbers: 11517: Speed over a closed circuit of 1,000 Kilometers (621.3 statute miles), 253,60 km/h (157.58 m.p.h.); 11518:  . . .  with a 500 Kilogram (1,102 pounds) Payload, 253,60 km/h (157.58 m.p.h.); 11519:  . . . with a 1,000 Kilogram (2,205 pounds) Payload, 253,60 km/h (157.58 m.p.h.);  11520: . . . with a 2,000 kilogram (4,409 pounds) Payload, 253,60 km/h (157.58 m.p.h.); 11521: Speed over a closed circuit of 2,000 Kilometers (1,242.7 statute miles), 253,18 km/h (157.32 m.p.h); 11522:  . . . with a 500 Kilogram Payload, 253,18 km/h (157.32 m.p.h.); 11523:  . . . with a 1,000 Kilogram Payload, 253,18 km/h (157.32 m.p.h.); 11524: . . . with a 2,000 Kilogram Payload, 253,18 km/h (157.32 m.p.h.).

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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

7 January 1931

Photograph of Guy Menzies and two other men standing beside his Avro Avian biplane "Southern Cross Junior" at an unidentified aerodrome (probably Wellington), taken in 1931 by Sydney Charles Smith.
Photograph of Guy Menzies and two other men standing beside his Avro Avian biplane “Southern Cross Junior” at an unidentified aerodrome (probably Wellington), taken in 1931 by Sydney Charles Smith. National Library of New Zealand, Reference Number: PAColl-0224-23

7 January 1931: Guy Lambton Menzies flew an Avro 616 Sports Avian IV-A named Southern Cross Junior, solo across the Tasman Sea from Mascot Aerodrome, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, to New Zealand.

Concerned that aviation authorities would prevent his flight, Menzies had said that his destination was Perth, Western Australia.

Geographic relationship between Sydney and Hari Hari, (Google Maps)

While en route, severe weather blew the Avian off course. Seeing an area that appeared to be level ground, he landed at the La Fontaine Swamp, Hari Hari, Westland, on New Zealand’s South Island. The airplane flipped over.

Guy Menzies was unhurt. His flight had taken 11 hours, 45 minutes.

Hokitika postmaster Ralph Cox with pioneer aviator Guy Menzies, notifying Menzies' parents of his arrival in New Zealand. (Photograph from The Auckland Weekly News, 14 January 1931, via West Coast New Zealand History)
“Hokitika postmaster Ralph Cox with pioneer aviator Guy Menzies, notifying Menzies’ parents of his arrival in New Zealand.” (Photograph from The Auckland Weekly News, 14 January 1931, via West Coast New Zealand History)

According to Terry Mace’s website, A Fleeting Peace: Golden-Age Aviation in the British Empire (#0000ff; text-decoration: underline;">afleetingpeace.org), G-ABCF was repaired, but crashed again 21 April 1931 at Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. (Another source states 12 April.) The Australian registration VH-UPT had been reserved for the airplane, but because of the crash, the registration was cancelled in June 1931.

Guy Menzies "Southern Cross Junior," an Avro Avian aircraft, upside down in a swamp at Harihari on the West Coast of New Zealand. Photographed by L A Inkster on the 7th of January 1931.
Inkster, Lawrence Andrew, 1897-1955. Guy Menzies Avro Avian aeroplane in a swamp at Hari Hari – Photograph taken by L A Inkster.. Dominion post (Newspaper) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP-Transport-Aviation-Aircraft-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22751222

The Avro 616 Sports Avian was a two-place, single-engine, single-bay biplane, produced by A.V. Roe from 1926 to 1928. 405 were built. Guy Menzies’ airplane was a specially constructed variant, the Avro 616 Sports Avian IV-A, serial number 467, which had been ordered by Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, M.C., A.F.C., and named Southern Cross Junior. Sir Charles had flown the airplane from England to Australia in 1930. (He had previously flown across the Pacific in 1928 with a Fokker F.VIIb/3m three-engine monoplane named Southern Cross). The Avian was registered to Sir Charles, 20 June 1930, identified as G-ABCF.

Avro 616 Sports Avian IV-A, G-ABCF, “Southern Cross Junior” (National Library of Australia PIC/3394/925 LOC LBUM 1090/11)

The Avian was constructed of wood-braced plywood panels, forming a tapered box. The sides and bottom were flat and the upper deck arched. The wings were built of two wooden spars with wood ribs, covered in doped fabric. The standard airplane was designed so that the wings could be folded alongside the fuselage.

G-ABCF was 24 feet, 5 inches (7.442 meters) long. Its wing span had been extended from the standard Avian’s 28 feet to 30 feet, 0 inches (9.144 meters). The overall height was 9 feet, 3 inches (2.819 meters). The wings had a total area of 262.0 square feet (24.34 square meters), an increase of 18.0 square feet (1.67 square meters) over that of the standard Avian. The wings are slightly staggered. Both upper and lower wings had a chord of 4 feet, 9 inches (1.448 meters), with a vertical gap of 5 feet, 0 inches (1.524 meters).

(FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 1140, Vol. XXII, No. 44, 31 October 1930, at Page 1185)

It weighed 1,100 pounds (499 kilograms) empty and had a gross weight of 2,225 pounds (1,009 kilograms).

The Avian’s standard 105 horsepower A.D.C. Cirrus Hermes engine was replaced with an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 349.89-cubic-inch-displacement (5.734 liter) de Havilland Gipsy II inline 4-cylinder direct-drive engine, rated at 112.5 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m., and122.5 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. The engine turned a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller with a diameter of 6 feet, 2 inches (1.880 meters). The Gipsy II weighed 295 pounds (134 kilograms).

In addition to the standard 24 Imperial gallon (109 liter) fuel tank, a welded-aluminum tank with a capacity of 91 gallons (414 liters) was installed in the forward cockpit. The airplane carried 3.5 gallons (15.9 liters) of lubricating oil, with 2 gallons in the engine, and 1½ gallons in a reserve tank. The airplane was also equipped with a 2 gallon (9.1 liters) tank for drinking water.

The Sports Avian IV-A had a cruising speed of 92 miles per hour (148 kilometers per hour) with the engine turning 1,900 r.p.m., and maximum speed of 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour) at 2,100 r.p.m., at ground level, and 98 miles per hour (158 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), its service ceiling. It could climb to 10,000 feet in 41.5 minutes. The airplane’s absolute ceiling was 12,500 feet (3,810 meters). The range was calculated at 1,842 miles (2,964 kilometers) at 1,900 r.p.m.

Guy Menzies with his wrecked Avro Avian, G-ABCF, at the La Fontaine Swamp. (Archives New Zealand)
Guy Menzies with his wrecked Avro 616 Avian IV-A, G-ABCF, at the La Fontaine Swamp. (National Library of New Zealand MNZ-0780-1/4-F)

Guy Lambton Menzies was born 20 August 1909 at Drummoyne (a suburb of Sydney), New South Wales, Australia. He was the the second of four children of Dr. Guy Dixon Menzies, a physician and founder of Seacombe Hospital, and Ida Mabel Lambton Menzies.

Shortly after his flight across the Tasman Sea, Menzies traveled to England where he joined the Royal Air Force. He was granted a short service commission as a Pilot Officer on probation, with effect 11 July 1931. He was confirmed in that rank one year later, 11 July 1932. Pilot Officer Menzies was promoted to Flying Officer 11 January 1933.

Menzies’ short term commission was soon to come to an end, which would have resulted in his being transferred to the Reserve. However, he was selected for appointment to a permanent commission as a Flying Officer in April 1936, and promoted to Flight Lieutenant, effective 1 April 1936. Flight Lieutenant Menzies was granted a permanent commission in that rank with effect from 11 July 1936. He was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader, 1 December 1938.

On 1 November 1940, Squadron Leader Menzies, No. 228 Squadron, Coastal Command, was flying a Short Sunderland Mk.I four-engine flying boat, N9020, from RAF Kalafrana, Malta, patrolling near Sicily. The airplane was attacked by Italian Air Force Macchi C.200 Saettta fighters ¹ and “was observed falling onto the sea. There were no reported survivors.” ²

A Short Sunderland Mk.I, W3989, of No. 228 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
A Short Sunderland Mk.I, W3989, of No. 228 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

Squadron Leader Menzies’ younger brother, Flying Officer Ian Lambton Menzies, No. 24 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, was also killed in an airplane crash, 18 April 1941, near Ravenswood, North Queensland, Australia. The airplane, a Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Wirraway, A20-117, a development of North American Aviation’s NA-16 trainer, stalled during a steep turn.

Their mother, Mrs. Menzies, said,

#0000ff; font-family: times new roman, times;">“I have given my two sons to the Empire.”

The Daily Telegraph, 19 April 1941.

¹ Internet sources identify the Regia Aeronautica fighter pilots who shot down N9020 as Tenente Luigi Armanino and Sergent Maggiore Natalino Stabile of 88° Squadriglia, VI Gruppo.

² The members of Menzies’ crew: Flying Officer Stuart Maxwell Farries, 40098; Sergeant Elias Dawes, 568257; Sergeant Frederick Harris, 563782; Sergeant Edward Louis Setterfield, 543241; Sergeant George Arthur Stamp, 580074; Leading Aircraftman Leslie Charles Major Hale, 522295; Leading Aircraftman Ronald Fletcher, 535135; and Leading Aircraftman Benjamin Edwin Nicholas, 526309.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes