Tag Archives: Transoceanic Flight

2–6 July 1919

The Royal Air Force rigid airship HMA R34 landing at Mineola, Long Island, New York, 6 July 1919.

2–6 July 1919: Two weeks after Alcock and Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic airplane flight, the Royal Air Force rigid airship R 34 landed at Mineola, Long Island, New York, completing the first east-to-west Atlantic crossing by air. 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 108 hour, 12 minute flight started from East Fortune Airship Station near Edinburgh, Scotland at 2:38 a.m., British Summer Time (1:38 a.m., Greenwich mean time) on Wednesday, 2 July. R 34 arrived at Mineola at 9:54 a.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time (1:54 p.m. G.M.T.) on Sunday, 6 July. According to records of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the distance flown by R 34 was 5,797 kilometers (3,602 miles). On arrival, the airship had only 40 minutes of fuel remaining.

This chart of R34's flight was published in the Times, 7 July 1919.
This chart of R34’s flight was published in The Times, 7 July 1919.

R 34 was based on extensive study of the captured German Zeppelin, L-33. It was built for the Royal Naval Air Service ¹ by William Beardmore and Company, Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, Scotland. 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).

Crewmen working in the forward control car of R34 during the Atlantic crossing, July 1918. (National Museums Scotland)
Crewmen working in the forward control car of R 34 during the Atlantic crossing, July 1918. (National Museums Scotland)

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) propeller 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.

R 34 made the return flight to England, 10–13 July 1919, in 75 hours, 3 minutes.

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

CENTRAL CHANCERY OF THE ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD.

St. James’s Palace, S.W. 1,

23rd August 1919.

     The KING has been graciously pleased to give orders for the following appointment to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, in recognition of distinguished services to Aviation. :—

To be a Commander of the Military Division of the Said Most Excellent Order :—

Major George Herbert Scott, A.F.C., Royal Air Force, Commander of H.M. Airship R/34 on the outward voyage to the United States of America and and also on the homeward journey.

R 34 at Long Island, New York. (Evening Times)

Colonel (A./Brig.-Genl.) Edwards Maitland Maitland, C.M.G., D.S.O., Capt. (A./Major) Gilbert George Herbert Cooke, D.S.C., Lieutenant Guy Harris and 2nd Lieutenant John Durham Shotter were each awarded the Air Force Cross.

The Air Force Medal was awarded to Flight-Sergeant William Rose Gent, Sergt.-Maj. II. Walter Robert Mayes, D.S.M., Flight-Sergeant Walter James Robinson, Flight-Sergeant Reginald William Ripley, Flight-Sergeant Norman Albert Scull, and Sergeant Herbert Murray Watson, D.S.M.

¹ On 1 April 1918, the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps were combined to form the Royal Air Force.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 July 1937

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, takes off from Lae, Territory of New Guinea, 10:00 a.m., 2 July 1937

2 July 1937: At approximately 10:00 a.m., local time, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan departed Lae, Territory of New Guinea, aboard their Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, enroute to Howland Island, 2,243 nautical miles (2,581 statute miles/4,154 kilometers) east-northeast across the South Pacific Ocean. The airplane was loaded with 1,100 gallons (4,164 liters) of gasoline, sufficient for 24 to 27 hours of flight.

They were never seen again.

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, prior to takeoff at Lae, Territory of New Guinea.
Great Circle route from Lae, Territory of New Guinea, to the Howland Runways, (N. 0° 48′ 29″, W. 176° 36′ 57″) on Howland Island (United States Minor Outlying Islands). 2,243 nautical miles (2,581 statute miles/4,154 kilometers). (Great Circle Mapper)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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28–29 June 1927

Atlantic-Fokker C-2, A.S. 26-202, Bird of Paradise, taking off at Oakland Municipal Airport, California,  7:09 a.m, 28 June 1927. (U.S. Air Force)

28 June 1927: At 7:09 a.m., PDT, 1st Lieutenant Lester J. Maitland and 1st Lieutenant Albert F. Hegenberger, Air Service, United States Army, took off from Oakland Municipal Airport, California, aboard an Atlantic-Fokker C-2, serial  number A.S. 26-202, Bird of Paradise. Their destination was Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, 2,407 miles (3,874 kilometers) across the Pacific Ocean.

The Air Service had been planning such a flight for many years. Specialized air navigation equipment had been developed, much of it by Lieutenant Hegenberger, and simulations and practice flights had been carried out.

Atlantic-Fokker C-2 26-202, front view. (U.S. Air Force)
Atlantic-Fokker C-2 A.S. 26-202, Bird of Paradise, front view. (U.S. Air Force)
Bird of Paradise (U.S. Air Force)
Atlantic-Fokker C-2, A.S, 26-202, Bird of Paradise, right profile. (U.S. Air Force)

Bird of Paradise was built by the Atlantic Aircraft Co., Teterboro, New Jersey, the American subsidiary of Fokker. Derived from the civil Fokker F.VIIa/3m, a three-engine high-wing passenger transport with fixed landing gear. It had been adopted by the Air Service as a military transport. A.S. 26-202 was modified with a larger wing, increased fuel capacity, and the installation of Hegenberger’s navigation equipment.

It was powered by three 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) air-cooled Wright Aeronautical Corporation Model J-5C Whirlwind nine-cylinder radial engines 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. They turned two-bladed Standard adjustable-pitch propellers through direct drive. The Wright J-5C was 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) long and 3 feet, 9 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter. It weighed 508 pounds (230.4 kilograms).

The C-2 was fueled with 1,134 gallons (4,293 liters) of gasoline and 40 gallons (151 liters) of oil.

Lieutenants Lester Maitland and Albert F. Hegenberger ar congratulated on their transoceanic flight at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, 28 June 1927. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenants Lester J. Maitland and Albert F. Hegenberger are congratulated on their transoceanic flight at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, 29 June 1927. (U.S. Air Force)

Maitland and Hegenberger planned to fly a Great Circle route to Hawaii and to use radio beacons in California and Hawaii to guide them, in addition to celestial navigation. For most of the flight, however, they were not able to receive the radio signals and relied on ded reckoning.

Great Circle route from Oakland International Airport, California, to Wheeler Field, Hawaii, 2,093 nautical miles (2,408 statute miles/3,876 kilometers). (Great Circle Mapper)
Captain Alfred Hegenberger in the navigational sighting station of Bird of Paradise. (NASM)
Atlantic-Fokker C-2 “Bird of Paradise” interior view, looking forward from navigator compartment. (U.S. Air Force)

After 25 hours, 50 minutes of flight, Bird of Paradise landed at Wheeler Field, 6:29 a.m., local time, 29 June 1927. It had completed the first Transpacific Flight.

For their achievement, both officers were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Bird of Paradise, Atlantic-Fokker C-2 serial number 26-202, arrives at Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, after a non-stop flight from Oakland, California, 6:29 a.m., 29 June 1927. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 June 1931

Ruth Rowland Nichols with “Akita,” the Crosley Radio Corporation’s Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special, NR496M. Note the Detroit Aircraft Corporation/Lockheed Aircraft Company logo on the tail fin. Thanks to Tim Bradley Imaging for the digital restoration of this photograph. (NASM-NAM-A-45905-A)

22 June 1931: In the late 1920s through mid-1930s, Miss Ruth Rowland Nichols was one of the best-known American women in aviation. She was the only person to have simultaneously held world records for speed, distance and altitude.

Miss Nichols planned to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. On the afternoon of 22 June 1931, she took off from Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, to stage for the transatlantic flight at Harbor Grace, Dominion of Newfoundland, making an intermediate stop at Saint John, New Brunswick, Dominion of Canada.

Nichols was flying a Lockheed Model 5 Vega, owned by Powell Crosley, Jr., founder of the Crosley Radio Corporation, a manufacturer of radio equipment and owner of a broadcast network based in Cincinnati, Ohio. He had named the airplane The New Cincinnati. Miss Nichols called it Akita.

While landing at the Saint John airport in Millidgeville, her plans went awry. . .

Nichols’ crash near St. John, New Brunswick, 22 June 1931. Everyone in the photo is looking at the camera. 🙂

Miss Nichols wrote about it in Wings For Life:

     As I peered down at a tiny airport set like a bowl in the midst of surrounding wooded hills and cliffs, I thought at first I must be off course—this couldn’t be the St. Johns field. . .

     Twice I circled, studying the small, rock-enclosed field from every angle. How on earth could the heavy, fast Lockheed land there? Those crossed runways would be safe only for small or lightly-loaded planes. . .

     Because of the wind direction, I would have to use the shorter of the two runways—and even the longer one was inadequate. I flew back over the town, then headed back toward the airport while cutting the throttle to minimum flying speed.

     I slid in over the trees and edged through a narrow ravine. So far, so good. Maybe my luck was holding. Dead ahead was the runway. I made an S turn for the proper approach and headed straight into the blinding rays of the sun. I couldn’t look ahead to gauge the length of the runway, because ahead was a fiery glare. Only by staring down through the cockpit window could I see even the edge of the runway. . .

     Suddenly the dazzling blaze of the sun was doused by the shadow of a cliff and I saw to my horror that I had passed the intersection and still had flying speed. . .

     . . . then came a splintering crack as the tail broke through the treetops. More rocks ahead—a deafening shuddering C-R-A-S-H—then paralyzing silence. From seventy miles an hour minimum climbing speed with a load the motor impacted to a dead stop. The whole back end of the ship must be coming over on top of me, relentlessly bearing down, pushing my head and shoulders down between my knees.

     Splintering pain, and the silence of catastrophe.

Wings for Life, by Ruth Nichols, J.B. Lippincott, Philadephia, 1957

Nichols’ Lockheed Vega crashed at St. John, New Brunswick, 22 June 1931.

Ruth Nichols suffered five fractured vertebrae and would spend months recovering. The airplane would be repaired. This was not the first time the Vega had been damaged, nor would it be the last.

A contemporary newspaper reported the accident:

. . . She had left New York at 3:22 P.M. and it was just 3 hours and 48 minutes later that she cracked up, at 7:10 P.M., New York time.

     A great crowd had gathered at the St. John airport to see her land. She had announced her intention of spending the night there and proceeding to Harbor Grace, N. F., tomorrow.

Blinded by Sun.

     Her plane hove into sight and took a long graceful slant downward to alight. Then, as she straightened out to land, the sun shone full into her eyes. For just one second she was blinded and in that second overshot the runway and nosed over.

     Mechanics at the field awaited the arrival of Col. Clarence Chamberlin, Miss Nichols’ technical adviser, to decide what could be done for the plane.

Daily News, Vol. 12, No. 310, Tuesday, 23 June 1931, at Page 13, Column 1

Miss Nichols did not make the solo transatlantic flight. That would take place the following Spring. The pilot would be Miss Amelia Mary Earhart.

Ruth Rowland Nichols

Nichols’ airplane was a 1928 Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special, serial number 619, registered NR496M, and owned by Powell Crosley, Jr.

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, California, the Vega was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit and could be configured to carry four to six passengers.

The Lockheed Vega was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. The prototype flew for the first time 4 July 1927 at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of molded plywood. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.

The Model 5 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).

Nichols’ airplane was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. It was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58-octane gasoline. The engine drove a two-bladed controllable-pitch Hamilton Standard propeller through direct drive. The Wasp C was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.3-7 meters) in diameter and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

The standard Vega 5 had a cruising 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 (4,572 meters). Range with standard fuel tanks was 725 miles (1,167 kilometers).

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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17–18 June 1928

Fokker F.VIIb/3m Friendship on Southampton Water, after the transatlantic flight.

17–18 June 1928: Amelia Mary 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. 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.

Amelia Earhart wrote 20 hrs. 40 min.—Our Flight in the Friendship (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1928), describing her adventure.

Friendship had been originally ordered by Richard E. Byrd for his Antarctic expedition, but because Ford Motor Company was a major sponsor, he made the decision to switch to a Ford Tri-Motor airplane. Byrd sold the new Fokker to Donald Woodward, heir to the Jell-O Corporation, for $62,000, and it was registered to his Mechanical Science Corp., of Le Roy, New York. Woodward then leased the airplane to Mrs. Frederick Edward Guest (née Anne T. Phipps, also known as Amy Phipps) for her to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air. She chose the name Friendship for the airplane.

Amy Phipps Guest
Amy Phipps Guest

Mrs. Guest was a daughter of Henry Phipps, Jr., an American industrialist. She was married to Captain the Right Honourable Frederick Edward Guest P.C., C.B.E., D.S.O., M.P., a prominent British politician, former Secretary of State for Air, and a member of His Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council. Amy Phipps Guest, however, was a multi-billionaire in her own right.

Mrs. Guest was not a pilot, so Stultz and Gordon had been hired to fly the airplane. When her family ruled out her transoceanic journey, “an American girl of the right type” was selected to make the flight in her place. Miss Amelia Mary Earhart, a social worker living in Boston, was interviewed and was the candidate selected.

Although Earhart was a pilot with approximately 500 hours of flight experience, she did not act as a pilot on this flight. She was, however, the aircraft commander. Instructions from Mrs. Guest’s attorney, David T. Layman, to Stultz and Gordon, dated 18 May 1928, were very specific on this matter:

“This is to say that on arrival at Trepassey of the tri-motor Fokker plane “FRIENDSHIP” if any questions of policy, procedure, personnel or any other question arises the decision of Miss Amelia M. Earhart is to be final. That she is to have control of the plane and of the disposal of the services of all employees as fully as if she were the owner. And further, that on arrival of the plane in London full control of the disposition of the plane and of the time and services of employees shall be hers to the same extent until and unless the owner directs otherwise.”

— The Sound of Wings by Mary S. Lovell, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1989, Chapter 11 at Page 104.

Amelia Earhart can be seen in the open door to the passenger compartment of NX4204 (Gett Images/Archive Photos/PhotoQuest)
Amelia Earhart can be seen in the open cargo door of NX4204, Burry Port, Wales, 18 June 1928. (Getty Images/Archive Photos/PhotoQuest)

It was during the planning for this flight that Earhart first met her future husband, George Palmer Putnam.

Though Friendship was equipped with aluminum pontoons for water takeoffs and landings, it was otherwise the same type as Southern Cross, the airplane that Sir Charles E. Kingsford Smith flew from the United States to Australia earlier in the month. It was built by Anton H.G. Fokker’s N. V. Nederlandsche Vliegtuigenfabriek at Veere, Netherlands, in early 1928. Friendship , serial number 5028, was the fourth aircraft in the series. Flown by Bernt Balchen, it made its first flight 16 February 1928.

The Fokker F.VIIb/3m is a three-engine high-wing passenger transport with fixed landing gear. It could carry up to 8 passengers. The airplane was was 14.6 meters (47.9 feet) long, with a wingspan of 21.7 meters (71.2 feet) and 3.9 meters (12.8 feet) high. The wing had an area of 67 square meters (721 square feet). Its empty weight was 3,050 kilograms (6,724 pounds) and the gross weight, 5,200 kilograms (11,464 pounds).

Amelia Earhart with pilot Wilmer L. Stultz and flight mechanic Louis E. Gordon at Southampton, 20 June 1928. Amy Phipps Guest is at the left of the photograph. The Hon. Mrs. Foster Welch, Mayor of Southampton, is on the right. (Purdue University Libraries, Karnes Archives and Special Collections via the BBC)
Amelia Earhart at Southampton. Left to right are, The Honourable Amy Phipps Guest, flight mechanic Louis E. Gordon, Miss Earhart, pilot Wilmer L. Stultz, and Mrs. Lucia Marian Foster Welch, Mayor of the City of Southampton. (Purdue University Libraries, Karnes Archives and Special Collections via the BBC)

The F.VIIb/3m was powered by three 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.90 liter) air-cooled Wright Aeronautical Corporation Model J-5C Whirlwind nine-cylinder radial engines. The left engine was serial number 8229, the center, 8280, and the right engine, 8321. These were 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. They drove two-bladed Standard adjustable-pitch propellers. The Wright J-5C was 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) long and 3 feet, 9 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter. It weighed 508 pounds (230.4 kilograms).

The standard F.VIIb/3m had a cruise speed of cruise 170 kilometers per hour (106 miles per hour), and maximum speed of 190 kilometers per hour (118 miles per hour). Its service ceiling was 4,750 meters (15,584 feet). It had a normal range of 1,240 kilometers (771 miles). NX4204 was modified at Fokker’s American subsidiary, Atlantic Aircraft Corporation in Teterboro, New Jersey, increasing the total fuel capacity to 870 gallons (3,293 liters).

Fokker F.VIIb/3m NX4204, Friendship, at Southampton after crossing the Atlantic Ocean. (NASM)

Friendship was sold to José Roger Balet of Argentina in May 1929, and renamed 12 de Octubre, the date of an important national holiday. On 21 June 1931, the airplane was on a commercial flight from Santiago de Chile to Mendoza when it made an emergency landing in Alto Sierra. It was acquired by General Enrique Bravo for the Fuerza Aérea Nacional, November 1931.

Disassembled and crated, Fokker F.VIIb/3m s/n 5028 arrived at Buenos Aires, Argentina, 19 September 192x (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Disassembled and crated, Fokker F.VIIb/3m s/n 5028 arrived at Buenos Aires, Argentina, 19 April 1929, aboard the Munson Steamship Line’s S.S. American Legion. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

The ultimate fate of the airplane is uncertain. Sources indicate that it was removed from service and salvaged for parts after June 1932. Other sources indicate that it was destroyed by accident or fire in September 1934.

Fokker F.VIIb/3m s/n 5028, 12 de Octubre, in El Palomar. (Foto Archivo General de la Nacion)
Fokker F.VIIb/3m s/n 5028, 12 de Octubre, at El Palomar, north of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The airplane was repainted red and was called “El Colorado.” (Foto Archivo General de la Nación)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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