Tag Archives: Transoceanic Flight

12–13 May 1930

Latécoère 28-3 F-AJNQ at Saint-Louis du Sénégal, May 1930, with Gimié, Mermoz and Dabry (Keystone)

12–13 May 1930: In an effort to connect the North African and South American air mail routes, Jean Mermoz, the chief pilot of Compagnie générale aéropostale, along with co-pilot and navigator Jean Dabry, and radio navigator Léopold Martial Émile Gimié, departed Saint-Louis, on the western coast of Senegal, French West Africa, enroute to Natal, Brazil.

Mermoz, Dabry and Gimié at Saint-Louis, 12 May 1930. (Musee Air France)

Their airplane, a pontoon-equipped Latécoère 28-3, was carrying 122 kilograms (269 pounds) of mail and fuel for 30 hours of flight. The crew had named the airplane Comte de la Vaulx, after an early French aeronaut and the founder of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

The aviators flew southwest across the South Atlantic Ocean. Natal was approximately 2,000 miles away. [3,178.879 kilometers; 1,975.264 statute miles; 1,716.595 nautical miles]

Gimié transmitted a radio message: “19º Frame-A.J.N.Q. Mermoz, Dabry, Gimié, partis pour Natal à 10 h. 56 locale.”  (“19º Frame-A.J.N.Q. Mermoz, Dabry, Gimié, left for Natal at 10:56 a.m., local.”) Gimié was an expert in radio-navigation. The airplane was equipped with radios that could be used to triangulate their position using nine land stations and several ships along their course.

A contemporary United Press wire service news report stated that they arrived at Natal at 6:15 a.m., local time. The actual duration of the flight is difficult to determine. Sources very from as few as 17 hours to as many as 21 hours, 24 minutes. The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission reported that the flight took 19 hours, 35 minutes.

This was the first non-stop flight to cross the South Atlantic.

(Left to right) Jean Dabry, Jean Mermoz and Léopold Gimié. (le Figaro)

Antoine Saint Exupéry, a fellow Aéropostale pilot, described a portion of Mermoz’s transatlantic flight in Wind, Sand and Stars:

And yet we have all known flights when of a sudden, each for himself, it has seemed to us that we have crossed the border of the world of reality; when, only a couple of hours from port, we have felt ourselves more distant from it than we should feel if we were in India; when there was a premonition of an incursion into a forbidden world whence it was going to be infinitely difficult to return.

Thus, when Mermoz first crossed the South Atlantic in a hydroplane, as day was dying he ran foul of the Black Hole region, ² off Africa. Straight ahead of him were the tails of tornadoes rising minute by minute gradually higher, rising as a wall is built; and then night came down upon these preliminaries and swallowed them up; and when, and hour later, he slipped under the clouds, he came out into a fantastic kingdom.

Multiple waterspouts.

Great black waterspouts had reared themselves seemingly in the immobility of temple pillars. Swollen at their tops, they were supporting the squat and lowering arch of the tempest, but through the rifts in the arch there fell slabs of light and the full moon sent her radiant beams between the pillars down upon the frozen tiles of the sea. Through these uninhabited ruins Mermoz made his way, gliding slantwise from one channel of light to the next, circling round those giant pillars in which there must have rumbled the upsurge of the sea, flying for four hours through these corridors of moonlight toward the exit from the temple. And this spectacle was so overwhelming that only after he had got through the Black Hole did Mermoz awaken to the fact that he had not been afraid.

Atlantic Ocean waterspouts. (NOAA)

Wind, Sand and Stars, by Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger comte de Saint Exupéry, translated by Lewis Galantière, Harcourt Brace & Company, New York, Chapter 1 at Pages 16–17.

Latécoère 28-3 (Late 28.org)

The airplane flown by Mermoz, Dabry and Gimié was a Latécoère 28-3, registration F-AJNQ, built by Société Industrielle d’Aviation Latécoère at Toulouse, France. The airplane’s serial number is reported as both “Nº 909” and “Nº 919.” It was a large, single-engine, high-wing monoplane with an enclosed cabin. Also known as the Laté 28, the airplane could be equipped with fixed landing gear or pontoons for water operations. The airplane’s fuselage was constructed of duralumin, a hardened alloy of aluminum, with a duralumin sheet skin. The wings were also of metal construction, covered with fabric.

The Latécoère 28-3 was 44 feet, 4 inches (13.513 meters) long with a wingspan of 62 feet, 6 inches (19.050) and height of 10 feet, 7½ inches (3.24 meters).

Latécoère 28-3 F-AJNQ, Comte de la Vaulx.

The pontoons were also constructed of Duralumin. Each had ten floatation compartments. They were 26 feet, 4 inches (8.026 meters) long, 4 feet, 5 inches (1.346 meters) wide and 2 feet, 9 inches (0.838 meters) deep.

The Latécoère 28-3 had an empty weight of  5,720 pounds (2595 kilograms), and gross weight of 11,044 pounds (5,010 kilograms). Its fuel capacity was 556 gallons¹ (2,528 liters).

The pilot’s station was an enclosed cockpit at the leading edge of the wing, behind the engine, while the navigator and radio operator were in a cabin below and behind the cockpit. The air mail cargo was placed in a separate compartment.

Latécoère 28-3 floatplane. (late28.org)
(The Art of the Airways, by Geza Szurovy)

The Latécoère 28-3 was powered by a single right-hand-tractor, water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 31.403 liter (1,916.351 cubic inches) Hispano Suiza 12Lbr single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 6.2:1. This engine was rated at 630 cheval vapeur (621.4 horsepower) at 2,000 r.p.m. The two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller was driven through a gear reduction unit. The 12Lbr was 1.85 meters (6.07 feet) long, 0.75 meters (2.46 feet) wide and  1.02 meters (3.35 feet) high. It weighed 440 kilograms (970 pounds).

The airplane had a maximum speed of 140 miles per hour (225 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 13,000 feet (3,962 meters).

F-AJNQ departed Natal on 8 June for the return flight to Africa. After about 14 hours, the engine developed a serious oil leak. Mermoz made a forced landing near the despatch boat Phocée, approximately 900 kilometers (560 miles) from their destination. The three crew members and the mail were transferred from F-AJNQ to the Phocée. The airplane was set adrift.

Compagnie générale aéropostale timetable, May 1930. (Air Ticket History)

¹ The source of the fuel capacity was a contemporary British periodical. Though not specified, TDiA assumes that the capacity was given in Imperial Gallons.

² The “Black Hole region” refers to “the doldrums” or Intertropical Convergence Zone.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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28 April 1937

Pan American Airways' Martin M-130, China Clipper, at Macau, 1937.
Pan American Airways’ Martin M-130, China Clipper, at Macau, 1937.

28 April 1937: The first transpacific flight by a commercial passenger airliner is completed when Pan American Airways’ Martin M-130, China Clipper, arrived at Hong Kong. The flight had departed San Francisco Bay, California, on 21 April with 7 revenue passengers and then proceeded across the Pacific Ocean by way of Hawaii, Midway Island, Wake Island, Guam, Manila, Macau, and finally Hong Kong. The Reuters news agency briefly reported the event:

AIR LINK AROUND WORLD FORGED.

China Clipper Lands At Hong Kong.

Hong Kong, April 28.

The Pan-American Airways flying boat China Clipper landed at 11:55 this morning from Manila and Macao. This links the Pan-American and Imperial Airways, completing the commercial air link round the world. —Reuter.

The Straits Times, 28 April 1937, Page 1, Column 4.

Pan American Airways' China Clipper, a Martin M-130, NC14716, over San Francisco, California.
Pan American Airways’ China Clipper, a Martin M-130, NC14716, over Oakland, California. (Unattributed)

The Oakland Tribune reported:

AIR CLIPPER SPANS SEAS TO HONGKONG

U.S. MAIL TO CHINA LANDED IN SIX DAYS

Plane Crew Feted at End Of Historic Hop From U.S. Via Philippines

     HONGKONG, April 28.—(AP)—A 30-year dream of ’round-the-world air service became reality today with the arrival of the Hongkong Clipper from Manila on the first regular flight between the two cities.

     The clipper, bridging the last 700-mile gap in the America-Asia service, placed the final link in an airplane chain whereby it is possible to encircle the world in less than a month, using scheduled commercial planes.

     The craft brought 2500 pounds of American cargo, including 100,000 letters and newspapers from the United States only six days old. The papers left Alameda, Calif., last Thursday aboard China Clipper, being transferred to the Hongkong Clipper at Manila. ¹

     A large crowd welcomed the clipper at Kaitak Airport. Included were Acting Governor N. L. Smith and representatives of all of the colony’s government and commercial activities.

     The clippers’ pilot, A. E. Laporte, and crew were escorted to a dais at the hangar, where the acting governor gave a speech of welcome.

     The plane, on its return flight on Thursday, is expected to carry 2500 pounds of cargo, including 40,000 letters.

     At a reception for the fliers, the acting governor said:

      “We are celebrating the welding of the last link in world air communication. The lessening of the physical gaps is the surest way of ending misunderstandings which have occurred between nations in the past.

Hongkong offers congratulations, welcomes this American transpacific air service and hopes it will be another bond in the chain of goodwill.”

     Laporte said the Manila-Hongkong flight was “uneventful,” despite poor weather conditions necessitating intermittent blind flying.

Oakland Tribune, Vol. CXXVI, No. 118, Wednesday, 28 April 1937, Page 1, Column 3

The China Clipper, NC14716, was the first of three Martin M-130 four-engine flying boats built for Pan American Airways and was used to inaugurate the first commercial transpacific air service from San Francisco to Manila in November, 1935. Built at a cost of $417,000 by the Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore, Maryland, it first flew on 20 December 1934, and was delivered to Pan Am on October 9, 1935.

The airplane was operated by a flight crew of 6 to 9, depending on the length of the flight, plus cabin staff, and could carry 18 passengers on overnight flights or a maximum 36 passengers.

Martin M-130 China Clipper, NC14716, at Honolulu, Ohau, Hawaiian Islands. (Unattributed)
Martin M-130 China Clipper, NC14716, at Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands. (Unattributed)

The Martin 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. Its maximum takeoff weight was 52,252 pounds (23,701 kilograms).

The flying boat was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.389-cubic-inch displacement (29.978 liters) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S2A5-G engines. These were two-row, 14-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. The S2A5-G was rated at 830 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 950 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. for takeoff, burning 87-octane gasoline. They drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The engine was 3 feet, 11.88 inches (1.216 meters) in diameter and 4 feet, 8.75 inches (1.441 meters) long. It 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) and its range was 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers).

Martin M-130, NC14716, China Clipper, moored at some distant exotic locale.
Martin M-130, NC14716, China Clipper, moored at some distant exotic locale. (Unattributed)

¹ There may be confusion as to which airplane was flown from Manila to Hong Kong. Most newspapers identified it as China Clipper, while the Oakland Tribune called it Hongkong Clipper.

Pan American’s Hong Kong Clipper was a Sikorsky S-42, NC823M, which had entered service in December 1934. Many newspapers dated 28 April 1937 showed a photograph of NC832M arriving at Auckland, New Zealand, after a four-day, 7,000-mile survey flight from the United States.

Entering service in 1934, the airline had originally named the NC823M West Indies Clipper. This was changed to Pan American Clipper, and later, Hong Kong Clipper. The airplane crashed on takeoff and sank near Antilla, Cuba, 7 August 1944.

Pan American Airways System’s Sikorsky S-42, NC832M, over San Francisco Bay, 1935. (NASM SI-90-3001)

© 2020, Bryan R. Swopes

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28 April 1927

Charles Lindbergh watches as the Spirit of St. Louis is towed from the Ryan factory to Dutch Flats for testing. (Donald A. Hall Collection)
Charles Lindbergh watches as the Spirit of St. Louis is towed from the Ryan factory to Dutch Flats for testing. (Donald A. Hall Collection)

“This morning I’m going to test the Spirit of St. Louis. It’s the 28th of April — just over two months since I placed our order with the Ryan Company. . . Today, reality will check the claims of formula and theory on a scale which hope can’t stretch a single hair. Today, the reputation of the designing engineer, of the mechanics, in fact of every man who’s had a hand in building the Spirit of St. Louis, is at stake. And I’m on trial too, for quick action on my part may counteract an error by someone else, or a faulty move may bring a washout crash.”

The Spirit of St. Louis, by Charles A. Lindbergh, Charles Scribner’s and Sons, 1953, Chapter 35 at Page 120.

Ryan NYP N-X-211, Spirit of St. Louis, front view, at Dutch Flats, San Diego, California, 28 April 1927. (Donald A. Hall Collection)
Ryan NYP N-X-211, Spirit of St. Louis, front view, at Dutch Flats, San Diego, California, 28 April 1927. (Donald A. Hall Collection)
The Ryan NYP N-X-211, Spirit of St. Louis, right front quarter view, at Dutch Flats, San Diego, California. (Donald A. Hall Collection)
The Ryan NYP N-X-211, Spirit of St. Louis, right front quarter view, at Dutch Flats, San Diego, California. (Donald A. Hall Collection)
Ryan NYP N-X-211, Spirit of St. Louis, right side view, at Dutch Flats, San Diego, California, 28 April 1927. (Donald A. Hall Collection)
Ryan NYP N-X-211, Spirit of St. Louis, right profile, at Dutch Flats, San Diego, California, 28 April 1927. (Donald A. Hall Collection)

The Ryan NYP, registration N-X-211, has been towed from the Ryan Airlines Company factory in San Diego, California, to nearby Dutch Flats for its first test flight. Air Mail pilot Charles A. Lindbergh, representing a syndicate of St. Louis businessmen, has contracted with Ryan to build a single-engine monoplane designed for one man to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to Paris.

“I signal chocks away. . . and open the throttle. . . I’ve never felt an airplane accelerate so fast before. The tires are off the ground before they roll a hundred yards. . . .”

And the rest is History.

Spirit of St. Louis takes to the air for the first time at Dutch Flats, San Diego, California, 28 April 1927. (Donald A. Hall Collection)
Spirit of St. Louis takes to the air for the first time at Dutch Flats, San Diego, California, 28 April 1927. (Donald A. Hall Collection)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 April 1961

Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of The Scarlett O'Hara, a record-setting Lockheed L-1329 JetStar, N172L. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of The Scarlett O’Hara, a record-setting Lockheed L-1329 JetStar, N172L. (FAI)

22 April 1961: Jackie Cochran set 18 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) records in one day flying a Lockheed L-1329 JetStar, construction number 5003, FAA registration N172L, and named The Scarlett O’Hara. The route of her flight was New Orleans–Boston–Gander–Shannon–London–Paris–Bonn, with refueling stops at Gander and Shannon.

According to the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, Jackie Cochran “…set more speed and altitude records than any other pilot.”

The following are the FAI records that she set on 22 April 1961:

4609, 4615: Speed over a recognized course, Gander, NF (Canada)–Shannon (Ireland): 829.69 kilometers per hour (515.546 miles per hour)

4611, 4616: Speed over a recognized course, Gander, NF (Canada)–London (UK): 749.11 kilometers per hour (465.475 miles per hour)

4612, 4617: Speed over a recognized course, Gander, NF (Canada)–Paris (France): 746.22 kilometers per hour (463.680 miles per hour)

4613, 4618: Speed over a recognized course, Gander, NF (Canada)–Bonn (FRG): 728.26 kilometers per hour (452.520 miles per hour)

4638: Speed over a recognized course, Boston, MA (USA)–Gander, NF (Canada): 816.32 kilometers per hour (507.238 miles per hour)

4639, 4640: Speed over a recognized course, Boston, MA (USA)–Shannon (Ireland): 565.45 kilometers per hour (351.354 miles per hour)

4641, 4642: Speed over a recognized course, Boston, MA (USA)–London (UK): 558.50 kilometers per hour (347.036 miles per hour)

4643, 4644: Speed over a recognized course, Boston, MA (USA)–Paris (France): 564.88 kilometers per hour (351.000 miles per hour)

4645, 4646: Speed over a recognized course, Boston, MA (USA)–Bonn (FRG): 562.56 kilometers per hour (349.559 miles per hour)

12322: Distance, New Orleans, LA (USA)–Gander, NF (Canada): 3,661.33 kilometers (2,275.045 miles)

The first production Lockheed JetStar, c/n 5001, in service with the Federal Aviation Administration, registered N1. (bizjets101)

The Lockheed L-1329 JetStar was the first in a category of small-to-medium-sized jet transports that would become known as the “business jet.” Like many Lockheed airplanes, it was designed by a team led by Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson, and he retained the first prototype as his personal transport.

The JetStar is operated by two pilots and can be configured for 8 to 10 passengers. The airplane is 60 feet, 5 inches (18.41 meters) long with a wingspan of 54 feet, 5 inches (16.59 meters) and overall height of 20 feet, 5 inches (6.22 meters). The leading edge of the wings are swept to 30°. The JetStar has an empty weight of 24,750 pounds (11,226 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 44,500 pounds.

The two prototype JetStars were powered by two Bristol Siddeley Orpheus engines, but the production models were powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT12A-8 turbojets engines which produced 3,300 pounds of thrust, each. The JetStar 731 was a modification program to replace the turbojet engines with quieter, more efficient and more powerful Garrett AiResearch TFE731 turbofan engines which increased thrust to 3,700 pounds per engine. New production JetStar II airplanes were equipped with these turbofans.

Lockheed L-1329 JetStar (FAI)

The JetStar’s cruise speed is 504 miles per hour (811 kilometers per hour) and its maximum speed is 547 miles per hour (883 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,145 meters). The service ceiling is 43,000 feet (13,105 meters) and range is 2,995 miles (4,820 kilometers).

The Lockheed JetStar was in production from 1957 to 1978. 204 were built as civil JetStars and military C-140A Flight Check and C-140B and VC-140B JetStar transports.

The JetStar flown by Jackie Cochran on her record setting flight from New Orleans to Bonn, construction number 5003, eventually was acquired by NASA and assigned to the Dryden Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California. It was reregistered as N814NA, and used the call sign NASA 4. No longer in service, NASA 4 is on display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California.

Lockheed L-1329 JetStar, N814NA, NASA 4, on static display at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (NASA)
Lockheed L-1329 JetStar, N814NA, NASA 4, on static display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark, Palmdale, California. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 March 1937

Amelia Earhart arrives at Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, 18 March 1937. The airplane is Lockheed Electra 10E Special NR16020. (Hawaii's Aviation History http://hawaii.gov/hawaiiaviation)
Amelia Earhart arrives at Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, 18 March 1937. The airplane is Lockheed Electra 10E Special NR16020. (Hawaii’s Aviation History)

18 March 1937, 5:40 a.m.: Amelia Earhart and her crew sighted Diamond Head on the island of Oahu, Hawaiian Islands. The Electra landed at Wheeler Army Airfield, Honolulu, after an overnight flight from Oakland, California, completing the first leg of a planned around-the-world flight in 15 hours, 47 minutes.

The airplane was Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E Special, registration NR16020. Also aboard were Paul Mantz, Amelia’s friend and adviser, as co-pilot, navigator Captain Frederick Joseph Noonan, formerly of Pan American Airways, and Captain Harry Manning of United States Lines, also a close friend of Amelia’s, acting as radio operator and navigator.

About an hour after takeoff from Oakland, California, the Electra overtook the Pan American Airways Hawaii Clipper, which had departed San Francisco Bay an hour-and-a-half before Earhart. She took photographs of the Martin M-130 flying boat.

In her log, Amelia Earhart described the sunset over the Pacific Ocean:

“. . . golden edged clouds ahead, then the golden nothingness of sunset beyond. . .  The aft cabin is lighted with a weird green blue light, Our instruments show pink. The sky rose yellow. . . Night has come. The sea is lovely. Venus is setting ahead to the right. The moon is a life-saver. It gives us a horizon to fly by. . . .”

Amelia: The Centennial Biography of an Aviation Pioneer, by Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, Brassey’s, Washington and London, 1997, Chapter 18 at Page 171.

On arrival at Hawaii, Earhart, saying that she was very tired, asked Paul Mantz to make the landing at Wheeler Field.

Amelia Earhart, with flower leis, on her arrival at Wheeler Field, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, 18 March 1937. (Hawaii’s Aviation History http://hawaii.gov/hawaiiaviation)
Amelia Earhart, with flower leis, on her arrival at Wheeler Field, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, 18 March 1937. (Hawaii’s Aviation History)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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