Tag Archives: Transoceanic Flight

16 August 1927: The Dole Air Race

The start of the Dole Air Race, 16 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The start of the Dole Air Race at Oakland Field, California, 16 August 1927. In starting position is Oklahoma. Waiting, left to right, are Aloha, Dallas Spirit, Miss Doran, Woolaroc, El Encanto, Golden Eagle, Air King and Pabco Flyer. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
DOLE, James Drummond, by Hartsook, 28 June 1927
James Drummond Dole, 28 June 1927, by Hartsook

16 August 1927:  Not long after Charles A. Lindbergh had flown solo across the Atlantic Ocean, James D. Dole, founder of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (HAPCO, now the Dole Foods Company, Inc., Westlake Village, California) offered a prize of $25,000 to the first pilots to fly from Oakland Field, Oakland, California, to Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii. A $10,000 prize was offered for a second-place finisher.

There were 33 entrants and 14 were selected for starting positions. After accidents and inspections by the race committee, finalists were down to eight.

Accidents began to claim the lives of entrants before the race even began. A Pacific Aircraft Company J-30 (also known as the Tremaine Hummingbird) flown by Lieutenants George D. Covell and Richard S. Waggener, U.S. Navy, named The Spirit of John Rodgers, crashed into the cliffs of Point Loma in heavy fog 15 minutes after takeoff from North Island Naval Air Station, San Diego, California, enroute to Oakland Field. Both naval officers were killed. They had drawn starting position 13. Arthur V. Rogers was killed after takeoff from Montebello, California, in his Bryant Monoplane, Angel of Los Angeles. One airplane, Miss Doran, made an emergency landing in a farm field, and a fourth, Pride of Los Angeles, crashed into San Francisco Bay while on approach to Oakland. The occupants of those two airplanes were unhurt.

Wreckage of the Pacific Aircraft J-30, Spirit of John Rodgers, at Point Loma, 10 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Wreckage of the Pacific Aircraft J-30, The Spirit of John Rodgers, at Point Loma, 10 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives) 
Spirit of Los Angeles, an International F-10 triplane, crashed on approach to Oakland. The crew were not hurt. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Spirit of Los Angeles, an International Aircraft Corporation F-10 triplane, crashed on approach to Oakland Field. The crew were not hurt. I.A.C. advertised its products as “Airplanes That Fly Themselves”. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The first airplane to take off from Oakland for the Dole Air Race was Oklahoma, a Travel Air 5000, NX911. The crowd of spectators was estimated to number 50,000–100,000 people. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives.
The first airplane to take off from Oakland for the Dole Air Race was Oklahoma, a Travel Air 5000, NX911. The crowd of spectators was estimated to number 50,000–100,000 people. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. 

By the morning of 16 August, there were eight entrants. There starting positions had been selected by a random draw. A little before 11:00 a.m., the first airplane, a Travel Air 5000, registered NX911 and named Oklahoma, took off but soon aborted the flight because of engine trouble. El Encanto, a Goddard Special, NX5074, crashed on takeoff. A Breese-Wilde Monoplane, Pabco Flyer, NX646, crashed on takeoff. The crews of these three airplanes were not hurt.

The Goddard Special, NX5074, El Encanto, which had been favored to win the race, crashed on takeoff. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The Goddard Special, NX5074, El Encanto, which had been favored to win the race, crashed on takeoff. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lockheed Vega 1, Golden Eagle, NX913, takes off from Oakland, 16 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lockheed Vega 1, Golden Eagle, NX913, takes off from Oakland, 16 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The next airplane to take off was Golden Eagle, the prototype Lockheed Vega. Registered NX913, it was flown by Jack Frost with Gordon Scott as the navigator. It soon disappeared to the west.

The Lockheed was followed by the Buhl CA-5 Air Sedan, NX2915, named Miss Doran. Repairs from its unscheduled landing in the farmer’s field had been accomplished. It was flown by John “Auggy” Pedlar with Lieutenant Vilas R. Knope, U.S. Navy, as navigator. Also aboard was a passenger, Miss Mildred Doran, the airplane’s namesake. She was a 23-year-old fifth-grade school teacher from Flint, Michigan, who knew William Malloska, owner of the Lincoln Petroleum Company (later, CITGO) and convinced him to enter an airplane in the Dole Air Race and allow her to fly along. Two local air circus pilots reportedly flipped a coin for the chance to fly the airplane. Auggy Pedlar won the toss. Just ten minutes after takeoff from Oakland Field, Miss Doran returned with engine problems.

Next off was Dallas Spirit, a Swallow Special, NX941, with William P. Erwin, pilot and Alvin H. Eichwaldt, navigator. It also quickly returned to Oakland.

The Travel Air 5000 NX896, Woolaroc, being prepared for the Trans-Pacifc flight at Oakland, California, 16 August 1927. The airplane has been placed in flight attitude for calibration of its navigation instruments and to be certain the fuel tanks are filled to capacity. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The Travel Air 5000 NX896, Woolaroc, being prepared for the Trans-Pacific flight at Oakland, California, 16 August 1927. The airplane has been placed in flight attitude for calibration of its navigation instruments and to be certain the fuel tanks are filled to capacity. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The last two entrants, a Breese-Wilde 5 Monoplane, NX914, Aloha, with Martin Jensen, pilot, and Paul Schluter, navigator, and Woolaroc, a Travel Air 5000 took off without difficulty.

Miss Doran made a second attempt and took off successfully. Pabco Flyer also tried again, crashing a second time.

Miss Moran, Buhl CA-5 Air Sedan NC2915, takes off from Oakland, California, 16 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Miss Doran, Buhl CA-5 Air Sedan NX2915, takes off from Oakland, California, 16 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Woolaroc, the Travel Air 500, NX869, arrives at Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, 17 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum archives)
Woolaroc, the Travel Air 5000, NX869, arrives at Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, 17 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum archives)

Woolaroc, with Arthur C. Goebel as pilot and William J. Davis, Jr., as navigator, flew across the Pacific and arrived at Honolulu after 26 hours, 17 minutes, to win the race. Aloha arrived after 28 hours, 16 minutes.

Arthur C. Goebel won the Dole Air Race. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Arthur C. Goebel won the Dole Air Race. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Golden Eagle and Miss Doran never arrived. A search by more than forty ships of the United States Navy was unsuccessful. Dallas Spirit was repaired and Erwin and Eichwaldt took off to join the search for their competitors. They, too, were never seen again.

Lieutenant (j.g) George D. Covell, U.S. navy, and Lieutenat R.S. Waggener, U.S. Navy, were killed when their airplane crashed in fog, 10 August 1927, while flying to Oakland to join the Dole Air Race. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lieutenant (j.g) George D. Covell, U.S. Navy, and Lieutenant R.S. Waggener, U.S. Navy, were killed when their airplane crashed in fog, 10 August 1927, while flying to Oakland to join the Dole Air Race. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Arthur V. Rogers was killed 11 August 1927, shortly after taking off on a test flight for his Dole Air Race entry, pride of Los Angeles, a twin-engine Bryant monoplane, NX705. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Arthur V. Rogers was killed 11 August 1927, shortly after taking off on a test flight for his Dole Air Race entry, Pride of Los Angeles, a twin-engine Bryant monoplane, NX705. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The crew of Miss Moran, left to right, Auggy Pedlar, Mildred Doran and Lieutenant Vilas R. Knope, U.S. Navy. (Sand Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The crew of Miss Doran, left to right, John “Auggy” Pedlar, Mildred Doran and Lieutenant Vilas R. Knope, United States Navy. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives) 
Miss Mildred Doran. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Miss Mildred Doran: “Life is nothing but a chance.” (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives) 
John W. "Jack" Frost and Gordon Scott, crew of Golden Eagle. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
John W. “Jack” Frost and Gordon Scott, crew of Golden Eagle. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Alvin H. Eichwaldt, navigator, and William P. Erwin, pilot, took their repaired Dallas Spirit to join the search for Golden Eagle and Miss Moran. They, too, disappeared over the Pacific ocean, 16 August 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Alvin H. Eichwaldt, navigator, and William P. Erwin, pilot, took their repaired Dallas Spirit to join the search for Golden Eagle and Miss Moran. They, too, disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Swallow Monoplane NX914, Dallas Spirit. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Swallow Special NX914, Dallas Spirit. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 July 1938, 04:11 GCT [Greenwich Civil Time]

Pan American Martin M-130 Flying boat, NX14714, 9 September 1935. (Glenn L. Martin Co.)
Pan American Martin M-130 Flying boat, NX14714, 9 September 1935. (Lockheed Martin)

29 July 1938: At 12:08 p.m., local time, the Pan American Airways flying boat Hawaii Clipper lifted off from the waters of Apra Harbor on the west side of Guam, an island in the western Pacific Ocean. The Clipper was on a planned 12½ hour flight to Manila in the Philippine Islands. On board were a crew of nine, with six passengers.

Hawaii Clipper never arrived at its destination. What happened to it and the fifteen persons on board remains one of the enduring mysteries of aviation history.

The flight was designated Trip #229. It had originated at Alameda, on San Francisco Bay, California, and flew to Honolulu in the Hawaiian Islands, then on to Midway Island, Wake Island, and Guam.

The Pan Am crew consisted of Captain Leo Terletzky, First Officer Mark A. Walker, Second Officer George M. Davis, Third Officer Jose M. Sauceda, Fourth Officer John W. Jewett, Engineer Officer Howard l. Cox, Assistant Engineer Officer T.B. Tatum, and Radio Officer William McGarty. The passengers were attended by Flight Steward Ivan Parker.

Captain Terletzky held a Transport Pilot’s License issued by the Aeronautics Branch of the United States Department of Commerce. He had flown more that 9,200 hours, and 1,614 hours in the Martin M-130.

Captain Terletzky's Transport Pilot License, issued 13 February 1930.
Captain Terletzky’s Transport Pilot’s License, issued 13 February 1930. (The Pan Am Historical Foundation)
Leo Terletzky (Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register)

Captain Terletzky (there are alternate spellings, such as Terletsky, and he was also known as Leo Terlitz) was born 18 January 1894 at Odessa, Imperial Russia (now, Ukraine).

Following the Russian Revolution, he left his native country and traveled to Omsk, Siberia, and then to Yokohama, Japan, where he embarked on S.S. Empress of Japan, on 28 March 1919. The passenger liner arrived at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 6 April. He then traveled on to Seattle, Washington, via the Canadian Pacific Railroad, arriving there on 9 April 1919.

Terletzky became a naturalized citizen of the United States, 15 December 1924. On 1 July 1919, he married Miss Helen Sarepta Bowman at Miami Beach, Florida.

Canadian Pacific passenger liner S.S. Empress of Japan, passing First Narrows, seen from Brockton Point, looking north. This ship made 315 Pacific crossings. (Major James Skitt Matthews)

The airliner’s six passengers were: Lieutenant Commander Edward E. Wyman, United States Naval Reserve, of Bronxville, New York. Commander Wyman was the former assistant to Juan Trippe, the founder of Pan American Airways. He was now employed by Curtiss-Wright. Pan American’s traffic manager, Kenneth A. Kennedy, was also on board.  Colonel Earl E. McKinley, M.D., United States Army Reserve, Dean of Medicine at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., a bacteriologist, and Fred C. Meier, Ph.D., were collecting airborne bacteriological samples to research transocean bacterial transfer. Major Howard C. French, Air Corps, United States Army (Reserve), the commanding officer of the 321st Observer Squadron based at Vancouver, Washington. Finally, there was Choy Wah Sun (also known as “Watson Choy”), of New Jersey. Mr. Choy was believed to be transporting $3,000,000 in U.S. Gold Certificates for the Kuomintang, the Nationalist Party of China, which was headed by Chiang Kai-shek.

A United States $10,000 Gold Certificate, Series 1934. (Bureau of Engraving and Printing)

Hawaii Clipper was a Martin M-130, NC14714. It was the first of three of the type built for Pan American Airways. With the experimental registration NX14714, it had made its first flight at Middle River, Maryland, 30 December 1934.

When Hawaii Clipper departed Alameda, it had flown 4,751:55 hours, TTAF. When it made its last position report, it had flown another 55 hours, 58 minutes.

The first Martin M-130, NC14714, undergoing ground testing at the Glenn L. Martin Co. plant at Middle River, Maryland, 30 November 1934. (Lockheed Martin)

The Martin M-130 was a large, four-engine flying boat of all-metal construction, designed to carry as many as 36 passengers on transoceanic flights. The M-130 was 90 feet, 10.5 inches (27.699 meters) long with a wingspan of 130 feet, 0 inches (39.624 meters). It was 24 feet, 7 inches (7.493 meters) high. The flying boat had a maximum takeoff weight of 52,252 pounds (23,701 kilograms).

The M-130 was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S2A5-G two-row 14-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. The S2A5-G had a Normal Power rating of 830 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. to 3,600 feet (1,097 meters), and 950 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. for takeoff, using 87-octane gasoline. The engines drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The S2A5-G was 4 feet, 8.75 inches (1.442 meters) long, 3 feet, 11.88 inches (1.216 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,235 pounds (560 kilograms).

The airplane had a maximum speed of 180 miles per hour (290 kilometers per hour), and a cruise speed of 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its range was 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers).

A pair of Pan American Airways Martin M-130 flying boats at Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands. (Hawaii Aviation)
A pair of Pan American Airways Martin M-130 flying boats at Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands. (Hawaii Aviation)

Hawaii Clipper departed its mooring at Apra Harbor at 11:39 a.m., local time (3:39 a.m., Manila time) and lifted off 29 minutes later. In addition to its six passengers, the airliner was carrying 1,138 pounds (516 kilograms) of cargo. The duration of the flight was estimated as 12 hours, 30 minutes. The M-130 carried sufficient fuel for 17 hours, 30 minutes of flight. Its gross weight was 49,894 pounds (22,632 kilograms) at takeoff, well under its maximum takeoff weight.

At 04:11 Greenwich Civil Time (12:11 p.m., local time), Radio Officer McGarty sent Hawaii Clipper‘s coded 04:00 Ded Reckoning ² position report. The deciphered message read:

Flying in rough air at 9,100 feet. Temperature 13 ˚C., wind 19 knots from 247˚ Position N. 12˚27, E 130˚40, ground speed made good, 112 knots, desired track 282˚. Rain. During past hour conditions varied. 10/10ths sky above covered by strato cumulus clouds, base 9,200 feet. Clouds below 10/10ths sky covered by cumulus clouds whose tops were 9,200 feet. 5/10ths of the hour on instruments. Last DF bearing from Manila 101˚

This placed the Clipper approximately 582 nautical miles (670 kilometers) east southeast of Manila. The transmission was acknowledged. When the land-based radio operator tried to make contact one minute later to provide updated weather information, he received no reply. There were no further radio transmissions received.

When Hawaii Clipper did not arrive at Manila, a large ocean search was begun. On 30 July, the Unites States Army transport ship USAT Meigs discovered an oil slick approximately 28 nautical miles (52 kilometers) south southeast of the flying boat’s last reported position. The slick was described as being approximately 1,500 feet (457 meters) in circumference.

No physical evidence of the Martin M-130 has ever been found. What happened to cause its disappearance is unknown.

While it is assumed that the airplane went down at sea, that might not have been the case.

A telephone company employee on Lahuy Island (a small island of the coast of Luzon, east southeast of Manila) reported having heard a large airplane above clouds at 3 p.m. Manila Time. In 1938, the number of large airplanes operating in the Philippine Islands must have been fairly limited.

As with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan the previous year, there was no shortage of “conspiracy theories.” An example is that agents of the Empire of Japan had stowed away aboard Hawaii Clipper, hijacked the airplane and it was flown to Ulithi, and then Truk. The story goes on the the passengers and crew were murdered and their bodies were buried under the foundation of a hospital under construction.

Kawanishi H6K Type 97 Large Flying Boat.

Another story is that the Clipper was intercepted by a Japanese flying boat, such as the Kawanishi H6K Type 97 Large Flying Boat, which forced it to an unknown destination, similar to the story above.

Only six months earlier, another Pan American flying boat, Samoan Clipper, a Sikorsky S-42B, NC16734, disappeared about two hours out of Pago Pago. The airliner is believed to have exploded in midair. In that case, an oil slick and wreckage were found.

¹ Following the United States’ entry into World War II, Captain Terletzky’s widow, Mrs. Sarepta B. Terletzky, (née Helen Sarepta Bowman), a graduate of Smith College, joined the United States Navy. She was commissioned as a Lieutenant, W-VS, United States Naval Reserve, 4 August 1942. On 1 December 1945, she was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander, and to commander, 1 January 1950. Mrs. Terletzky had been born at New York City, New York, 28 September 1895. She died at Miami, Florida, 4 August 1970.

² Ded Reckoning (Deductive Reckoning, often erroneously referred to as “dead reckoning,” is a method of navigation which uses a previously known position, time of flight, estimated speed of the aircraft based on forecast weather conditions, etc., to estimate the current geographical position. It is the standard method of navigation in the absence of radio aids or satellite position.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 July 1897–

Amelia Mary Earhart, 1926 (Associated Press)

24 July 1897: Amelia Mary Earhart was born at Atchison, Kansas. She was the older of two daughters of Edwin Stanton Earhart, an attorney, and Amelia Otis Earhart.

Amelia attended Hyde Park School in Chicago, Illinois, graduating in 1916. In 1917, she trained as a nurse’s aide with the Red Cross. While helping victims of the Spanish Flu epidemic, she herself contracted the disease and was hospitalized for approximately two months. In 1919 Earhart entered Columbia University studying medicine, but left after about one year.

Red Cross Nurse’s Aide Amelia Mary Earhart, circa 1917–1918. (Amelia Earhart Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University)

Amelia first rode in an airplane at Long Beach, California with pilot Frank Monroe Hawks, 28 December 1920. The ten-minute flight began her life long pursuit of aviation. She trained under Mary Anita Snook at Kinner Field near Long Beach, California.

Earhart was the sixteenth woman to become a licensed pilot when she received her certificate from the National Aeronautic Association on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) on 16 May 1923.

Amelia Earhart’s first pilot’s license. (National Portrait Gallery)

Amelia Earhart became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air when she accompanied pilot Wilmer Lower Stultz and mechanic Louis Edward Gordon as a passenger aboard the Fokker F.VIIb/3m, NX4204, Friendship, 17–18 June 1928. The orange and gold, float-equipped, three-engine monoplane had departed from Trepassey Harbor, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and arrived at Burry Port on the southwest coast of Wales, 20 hours, 40 minutes later. (Although Earhart was a pilot with approximately 500 hours of flight experience at this time, she did not serve as one of the pilots on this flight.)

Fokker F.VIIb/3m Friendship at Southampton. (Historic Wings)

On 1 May 1930, the Aeronautics Branch, Department of Commerce, issued Transport Pilot’s License No. 5716 to Amelia Mary Earhart. On 25 June 1930, the newly-licensed commercial pilot set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Record for Speed Over a a Closed Circuit of 100 Kilometers With a 500 Kilogram Payload, averaging 275.90 kilometers per hour (171.44 miles per hour) with her Lockheed Vega.¹ That same day, she set another World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers of 281.47 kilometers per hour (174.90 miles per hour).² About two weeks later, Earhart increased her Vega’s speed across a shorter, 3 kilometer course, with an average 291.55 kilometers per hour (181.16 miles per hour).³

Amelia Earhart was a charter member of The Ninety-Nines, Inc., an international organization of licensed women pilots. She served as their first president, 1931–1933.

On 7 February 1931, Miss Earhart married George Palmer Putnam in a civil ceremony at Noank, Connecticut. Judge Arthur P. Anderson presided. In a written prenuptial agreement, Miss Earhart expressed serious misgivings about marrying Mr. Putnam, and stated: “. . . I shall not hold you to any midevil code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly.

Amelia Earhart models a women’s flying suit of her own design. (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Earhart had her own line of women’s fashions, made from wrinkle-free fabrics. She modeled for her own advertisements. In November 1931, Earhart was the subject of a series of photographs by Edward Steichen for Vogue, an American fashion magazine.

Amelia Earhart photographed for Vogue Magazine by Edward Steichen, November 1931.

At Warrington, Pennsylvania, 8 April 1931, Amelia Earhart (now, Mrs. George P. Putnam) flew a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro to an altitude of 5,613 meters (18,415 feet). Although a sealed barograph was sent to the National Aeronautic Association for certification of a record, NAA does not presently have any documentation that the record was actually homologated.

On the night of 20–21 May 1932, Amelia Earhart flew her Vega 5B from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, solo and non-stop, across the Atlantic Ocean to Culmore, Northern Ireland. The distance flown was 2,026 miles (3,260.5 kilometers). Her elapsed time was 14 hours, 56 minutes. On 18 July 1932, Earhart was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by President Herbert Hoover, for “extraordinary achievement in aviation.”

Amelia Earhart with her red and gold Lockheed Vega 5B, NR7952, at Culmore, North Ireland, after her solo transatlantic flight, 21 May 1932. (National Library of Ireland)

Earhart next flew her Vega non-stop from Los Angeles, California, to New York City, New York, 24–25 August 1932, setting an FAI record for distance without landing of 3,939.25 kilometers (2,447.74 miles).⁴ Her Lockheed Vega 5B, which she called her “little red bus,” is displayed in the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

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

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

Amelia Earhart is best known for her attempt to fly around the world with navigator Frederick J. Noonan in her Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, in 1937. She disappeared while enroute from Lae, Territory of New Guinea, to Howland Island in the Central Pacific, 2 July 1937. The massive search effort for her and her navigator failed, and what happened to her and Noonan remains a mystery.

Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Electra Model 10E Special, NR16020.

Although the exact date of her death is not known, Amelia Mary Earhart (Mrs. George Palmer Putnam) was declared dead in absentia by the Superior Court, County of Los Angeles, 5 January 1939. (Probate file 181709)

George Palmer Putnam leaves the Los Angeles Superior Court after missing aviatrix Amelia Earhart was declared dead in absentia, 5 January 1939. (Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive , UCLA Library.)

¹ FAI Record File Number 14993

² FAI Record File Number 14956

³ FAI Record File Number 12326

⁴ FAI Record File Number 12342

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 July 1938

Douglas Corrigan with his modified Curtiss Model 50 Robin B, NX9243, at Floyd Bennett Field, July 1938.

17 July 1938: For more than ten years it had been Clyde Groce Corrigan’s ambition to emulate his hero, Charles A. Lindbergh, and to fly solo, non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. An aircraft mechanic, he had worked on the construction of the Spirit of St. Louis as an employee of Ryan Aircraft Co. in San Diego, California.

Corrigan had assumed the first name “Douglas,” possibly out of admiration for “The King of Hollywood,” actor Douglas Fairbanks.

In 1933, Corrigan and his younger brother Harry Groce Corrigan, an aeronautical engineer, bought a 1929 Curtiss Model 50 Robin B, a single-engine, high-wing monoplane. The Robin was 25 feet, 8½ inches (7.836 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and height of 7 feet, 9½ inches (2.375 meters). In standard configuration, the Robin weighed 1,472 pounds (667.7 kilograms) empty, and 2,440 pounds (1,106.8 kilograms) loaded. Its cruise speed was 84 miles per hour (135 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 100 miles per hour (161 kilometers per hour). The range was 480 miles (773 kilometers).

Corrigan continuously worked on the airplane, repairing, overhauling, re-skinning, modifying. He replaced the Robin’s original water-cooled 502.65-cubic-inch-displacement (8.237 liter) Curtiss OX-5 V-8 engine (rated at 90 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m.) with a more modern, more powerful, Wright “J-6-5.” This engine was an air-cooled, supercharged, 539.96-cubic-inch-displacement (8.848 liter) Wright R-540 Whirlwind 150 single-row 5-cylinder radial which produced 150 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The direct-drive engine turned a two-bladed propeller. In this configuration, the airplane was a Robin J-1 (Curtiss Model 50H)He also installed extra fuel tanks. The Whirlwind 150 was 3 feet, 51.1 inches (1.044 meters) long, 3 feet, 9.0 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter, and weighed 370 pounds (168 kilograms).

The Bureau of Commerce had repeatedly refused to authorize Corrigan’s requests to make a trans-Atlantic flight as his airplane was considered unsuitable for such a flight. He decided to go anyway.

Clyde Groce (“Douglas”) Corrigan with a Stinson Junior SM-2AA, NC8431. (Dublin Journal)

In early July 1938, Douglas Corrigan made a non-stop flight from Long Beach, California to Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York. He announced that he would make the return flight and had his Robin fueled with a total of 320 gallons (1,211.3 liters) of gasoline.

At 5:15 a.m., 17 July 1938, Corrigan and his Robin took off from Floyd Bennett Field and disappeared into a cloudy sky. 28 hours, 13 minutes later, he landed at Baldonnell Aerodrome (now known as Casement Aerodrome), County Dublin, Ireland.

He said that he had become disoriented in the clouds, misread his compass and flew East rather than West. He was forever after known as “Wrong Way” Corrigan.

Douglas Corrigan's modified Curtiss Robin at Baldonnell, Ireland, 18 July 1938. (Independent Newspapers/National Library of Ireland, call number IND H 3242)
Douglas Corrigan’s modified Curtiss Robin at Baldonnell, Ireland, 18 July 1938. (Independent Newspapers/National Library of Ireland, call number IND H 3242)

Corrigan’s Curtiss Robin was disassembled and returned to the United States aboard ship. The airplane as placed in storage at his home in southern California. In 1988, the airframe and components were transported to Hawthorne Airport (HHR), at Hawthorne, California, where the airplane was reassembled and placed on display. The current status of NX9243 is not known. Original records of NX9243 from the Aeronautics Branch, Department of Commerce, are in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Clyde Groce Corrigan¹ was born 22 January 1907 at Galveston, Texas. He was the first of three children of Clyde Sinclair Corrigan, a civil engineer, and Evelyn Groce Nelson Corrigan, a school teacher.

Corrigan began flight instruction in 1924, flying a Curtiss “Jenny” at Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale, California. Lessons were expensive and his training took time. He first soloed 25 March 1926.

In 1927, Corrigan was employed by B.F. Mahoney Aircraft at San Diego, California. This soon became the Ryan Airlines Company. Corrigan is reported to have worked on the construction of Charles A. Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis.

Douglas Corrigan wrote his autobiography, That’s My Story, which was published 1 January 1938 by E.P. Dutton & Co.

Corrigan starred as himself in the 1939 RKO Radio Pictures movie, “The Flying Irishman,” produced by Pandro S. Berman, directed by Leigh Jason, and written by Ernest Pagano and Dalton Trumbo. The movie was released in the United States on 7 April 1939.

Douglas Corrigan portrayed himself in the 1939 movie, “The Flying Irishman.” (RKO Radio Pictures)

On 17 July 1939, Corrigan married Miss Sarah Elizabeth Marvin at San Antonio, Texas. They would have three sons, Douglas, Harry and Roy.

During World War II, Corrigan flew as a test pilot for Douglas Aircraft Company and for the U.S. Army Air Corps Ferrying Command. Later, he became an orange grower. He and his wife lived at a home in the orchards near Santa Ana, California. Mrs. Corrigan died in 1966, and their youngest son, Roy William Corrigan, was killed in an airplane crash on Santa Catalina Island, off the coast of southern California, in 1972.

Clyde Groce (“Douglas”) Corrigan died at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Orange, California, 9 December 1995. He was 88 years old. He was buried at Fairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana, California, alongside his wife and son.

“Wrong Way” Corrigan with his Curtiss Robin at Hawthorne Airport (HHR), California, 1988. (Collector’s Weekly)

¹ On 12 February 1942, The State of Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, issued a corrected birth certificate, showing Corrigan’s name as “Douglas Corrigan.” The affidavit was sworn to by W.M. Marvin, father of Corrigan’s wife.  (NOTE: The original, hand-written certificate of birth gives his name as “Clyde Groce Corrigan.”) His father’s first (given) name was Clyde, and his mother’s middle name was Groce. Corrigan’s younger brother, born the following year, was Harry Groce Corrigan. It seems unlikely that the officially recorded name was in error, as sworn to by Mr. Marvin.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 July 1919

Airship R 34 over Pulham Airship Station, Norfolk, United Kingdom, 1919.

13 July 1919: The Royal Air Force rigid airship R 34 completed its two-way crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and at 6:57 a.m. landed at Pulham Airship Station, Norfolk, United Kingdom. The airship was under the command of Major George Herbert Scott, A.F.C., R.A.F. The total complement, including passengers, was 30 persons.

The return flight from Mineola, Long Island, New York took 73 hours, 3 minutes. According to records of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the distance flown by R 34 on the return flight was 6,138 kilometers (3,814 miles).

This was the first “double crossing” by an aircraft. The round trip flight began at East Fortune Airship Station near Edinburgh, Scotland, on 2 July. The East-to-West crossing took 108 hours, 12 minutes.

Major Scott was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

This map shows the outbound and return tracks of His Majesty's Airship R 34, 2–13 July 1919.
This map shows the outbound and return tracks of His Majesty’s Airship R 34, 2–13 July 1919.

During the return flight on of the airship’s five engines suffered a broken connecting rod which damaged the cylinder block. It could not be repaired.

R 34 was based on extensive study of the captured German Zeppelin, L-33. It was built for the Royal Naval Air Service by William Beardmore and Company, Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, Scotland, but with the end of World War I, the RNAS and Royal Flying Corps were merged to become the Royal Air Force. 643 feet long (196 meters), with a maximum diameter of 78 feet, 9 inches (24 meters), the dirigible had a total volume of 1,950,000 cubic feet (55,218 cubic meters). The airship had a light weight metal structure covered with doped fabric. Buoyancy was provided by 55,185 cubic meters (1,948,840 cubic feet) of gaseous hydrogen contained in 19 gas bags inside the airship’s envelope. R 34 had a gross lift capacity of 59 tons. Useful lift was 58,240 pounds (26,417 kilograms).

The airship was powered by five water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 15.395-liter (989.483-cubic-inch-displacement) Sunbeam Maori Mk.IV dual overhead cam (DOHC) 60° V-12 engines with four valves per cylinder. The Mk.IV’s cylinder bore had been increased from 100 millimeters to 110 millimeters (3.94 to 4.33 inches), resulting in a larger displacement than previous Maori variants. The Maori Mk.IV was a direct-drive engine which produced 275 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. Each engine turned a two-bladed, 17 foot diameter (5.182 meter) propellers through a remote gearbox with a 0.257:1 reduction. The two wing engines were equipped with reversible gearboxes. With the engines turning 1,800 r.p.m., the R 34 had a cruising speed of 47 knots (54 miles per hour/87 kilometers per hour) and consumed 65 gallons (246 liters) of fuel per hour.

Airship R 34 landing at Pulham, Norfolk, 13 Juky 1919. (Getty Images/Jimmy Sime)
Airship R 34 landing at Pulham, Norfolk, 13 July 1919. (Getty Images/Jimmy Sime)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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