14–22 August 1932: Over an eight-day period, Iris Louise McPhetridge Thaden and Frances E. Carter Harrell Marsalis flew a Curtiss Thrush J, NR9142, over the Curtiss Airport ¹ at Valley Stream, New York. Their flight set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Duration of 196 hours, 5 minutes. ²
The pair took off at 1:00 p.m., Sunday, 14 August, and did not land until 5:06 p.m., Monday, 22 August. Newspaper reports at the time were that the total duration was 196 hours, 5 minutes “and four-fifths seconds.”
Their flight was supported by air-to-air refueling. A Curtiss Robin C-1, NR82H, flown by Stewart Reiss and John Runger, acted as the tanker. Seventy-eight in-flight refuelings were required to keep the Thrush airborne.
The “two 24-year-old housewives” were sponsored by the I.J. Fox store on 5th Avenue, New York City, which was owned by philanthropist Isidore Joseph Fox, “America’s Largest Furrier.” Mrs. Fox was an aviation enthusiast who often attended races and other events, and provided prizes. The Thrush had “I.J. FOX” boldly painted on each side of its fuselage, with a smaller name and the company’s fox head logo on the forward doors.
NR9142 was the first protototype Curtiss Thrush, s/n G-3. It was initially registered NX9142. In preparation for the endurance flight, the interior had been stripped of the passengers seats and carpet. A 150 gallon (568 liters) auxiliary fuel tank was installed.
The Curtiss Thrush was a single-engine six-place high-wing cabin monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was 32 feet, 7 inches (9.931 meters) long with a wingspan of 48 feet, 0 inches (14.630 meters) and overall height of 9 feet, 3 inches (2.819 meters). The wing had a chord of 7 feet, 0 inches (2.134 meters). The airplane’s empty weight was 2,260 pounds (1,025 kilograms), and its gross weight was 3,800 pounds (1,724 kilograms).
The Curtiss Thrush was initially powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 603.397 cubic-inch-displacement (9.888 liters) Curtiss Challenger R600–6, two-row, 6-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.2:1. The engine was rated at 185 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. with 65-octane gasoline. The direct-drive engine turned a Curtiss-Reed fixed-pitch propeller, and later, a Turnbull variable-pitch propeller. The R600-6 was 42.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 41.75 inches (1.060 meters) in diameter, and weighed 445 pounds (202 kilograms).
During flight testing, the Challenger-powered Thrush was disappointingly underpowered. The Curtiss engine was replaced with a Wright J6E Whirlwind, and the airplane designated Thrush J. The J6E, or Wright R-760E Whirlwind 250, was an air-cooled, supercharged, 755.95 cubic inch (12.39 liters) seven-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.1:1. It was rated at 250 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level for takeoff (1-minute limit) and required 73-octane gasoline. This was also a direct-drive engine. The R-760E weighed 530 pounds (240 kilograms)
The Curtiss Thrush J had a cruise speed of 104 miles per hour (167 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 122 miles per hour (196 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 13,200 feet (4,023 meters) and it had a range of 900 miles (1,448 kilometers).
12 June 1979: The human-powered airplane, Gossamer Albatross, built by AeroVironment, Inc., of Simi Valley, California, flew across the English Channel from The Warrens, near Folkstone, Kent, England, to Cap Griz-Nez, France, 22.26 miles (35.82 kilometers) in 2 hours, 49 minutes. He established two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record: Straight Distance, 35.82 kilometers (22.26 miles)¹ ; Duration, 2 hours, 49 minutes.²
The pilot/powerplant of Gossamer Albatross was long-distance bicyclist Bryan Lewis Allen. Allen pedaled at a constant 75 r.p.m.
The aircraft was designed by Paul Beattie MacCready, Jr., Ph.D., and weighed just 70 pounds (31.8 kilograms), empty.
The two-way radio link failed right after takeoff. Unexpected winds made the flight an hour longer than planned and Allen used all of his water. Batteries powering the instruments ran down. A chase boat was prepared for Allen to abort the flight, but he continued to France.
Bryan Lewis Allen was born 13 October 1952 at Tulare, California. He attended Tulare Union High School and then College of the Sequoias and California State University, Bakersfield, earning a bachelor of science degree. Allen is employed as a software engineer for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
Paul Beattie MacCready, Jr., was born 29 September 1925. He graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in physics, and then earned a master’s in physics from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California. In 1952, Caltech awarded MacReady a doctorate in aeronautics.
Dr. MacReady received the Collier Trophy for 1979 from the National Aeronautic Association, “For the concept, design and construction of the Gossamer Albatross, which made the first man-powered flight across the English Channel—with special recognition to Bryan Allen, the pilot.”
Dr. Paul B. MacReady died 25 August 2007 at Pasadena, California.
The Gossamer Albatross is a human-powered high-wing canard monoplane constructed primarily of carbon fiber tubing, expanded polystyrene foam, Mylar® and Kevlar®, with wire bracing. A single pilot in a gondola provides power to a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller, pedaling at 75 r.p.m., through a bicycle-type gear-reduction drive mechanism.
The airplane is 50 feet, 6 inches (15.392 meters) long, with a wingspan of 93 feet, 10 inches (28.600 meters) and overall height of 16 feet, 4 inches (4.978 meters). It has an empty weight of 70 pounds (31.8 kilograms), and a gross weight at takeoff of 215 pounds (97.5 kilograms). Its maximum speed is 15 miles per hour (24 kilometers per hour).
Gossamer Albatross is in the collection of the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.
6 May 1941: At Stratford, Connecticut, Igor Sikorsky piloted his Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 helicopter to a new world’s record for endurance. He flew for 1 hour, 32 minutes, 26 seconds. ¹ The previous record—1 hour, 20 minutes, 49 seconds—had been set by Ewald Rohlfs with the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 tandem-rotor helicopter, 25 June 1937. ²
During its development, the VS-300 went through at least 18 changes in its rotor configuration. This photograph, taken after the record-setting flight, shows an intermediate version, with one main rotor for lift and three auxiliary rotors for anti-torque and directional control.
In the final configuration, Sikorsky arrived at what we now recognize as a helicopter, with the main rotor providing lift, thrust and roll control through variable collective and cyclic pitch, and a single tail rotor for anti-torque and yaw control.
The VS-300 had a welded tubular steel airframe and used a 28-foot (5.34 meters) diameter, fully-articulated, three-bladed main rotor, which turned clockwise (as seen from above) at 260 r.p.m. (The advancing blade was on the left. This would later be reversed.) The main rotor had collective pitch control for vertical control, but cyclic pitch (Sikorsky referred to this as “sectional control”) for directional control would not be developed for another several months.
The tail “propellers” (what we now consider to be rotors—one vertical and two horizontal) each had two blades with a diameter of 7 feet, 8 inches (2.337 meters) and turned approximately 1,300 r.p.m. The vertical rotor provided “torque compensation” (anti-torque) and the blade pitch was fully reversible. The horizontal rotors were mounted on 10-foot (3.048 meters) outriggers at the aft end of the fuselage. For lateral control, the pitch on one rotor was increased and the other decreased. For longitudinal control, the pitch of both rotors was increased or decreased together.
The VS-300 was originally equipped with an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 144.489-cubic-inch-displacement (2.368 liter) Lycoming O-145C-3 four-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine which was rated at 75 horsepower at 3,100 r.p.m. According to Mr. Sikorsky, “early in 1941,” the Lycoming engine was replaced by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 198.608 cubic inch (3.255 liter) Franklin 4AC-199-E, a four-cylinder horizontally-opposed overhead valve (OHV) direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 7:1, rated at 90 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. It is not known if this change was made prior to 6 May.
¹ During World War II, only a very few ballooning and gliding world records were certified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Although Sikorsky’s flight duration exceeded that of Rohlfs, it is not listed as an official world record.
24 April 1929: At Roosevelt Field, Mineola, Long Island, New York, 17-year-old Elinor Smith set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Duration by staying aloft over Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, in a Bellanca CH Monoplane for 26 hours, 27 minutes. ¹ Miss Smith had very nearly doubled her own record, set just four months earlier. ²
During the flight the airplane’s elevator trim adjustment malfunctioned, forcing Smith to use both arms to hold the stick back to maintain level flight. She dropped a note in a weighted sack to advise those on the ground of the problem.
The Associated Press reported the event:
FLAPPER ‘ACE’ TOPS WOMEN’S AIR RECORDS
Elinor Smith Is Up Above 26 Hours; Victor Over Four.
By Associated Press,
ROOSEVELT FIELD, N.Y., April 24.—Elinor Smith, 17-year-old flying flapper of Long Island, won a victory Wednesday in the four-sided battle being waged among two women from the eastern seaboard and two from the west for the women’s solo endurance record.
She brought her plane down at 2:2:16 p.m. after 26 hours 21 minutes and 32 seconds in the air, beating the record of 22 hours 3 minutes and 12 seconds established by Louise McPhetridge of California by hours 18 minutes and 20 seconds.
Before Mrs. McPhetridge, Miss Bobbie Trout of California was the record holder. Miss Trout beat an earlier record of Miss Smith, who in turn on that earlier flight beat a record held by Viola Gentry, Long Island’s flying cashier.
Miss Smith’s record Wednesday was within 9 hours, 11 minutes and 49 seconds of the man’s solo endurance flight record of 35 hours, 33 minutes and 21 seconds, established at Roosevelt Field last month by Martin Jensen.
Beats Early Mark
Less than three minutes before, Miss Smith exceeded the first world endurance record ever established at this field. In 1921, Eddie Stinson of Detroit and Lloyd Bertaud, who was lost with the transatlantic plane Old Glory, established a record there of 26 hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds, which was 2 minutes and 57 seconds less than the record set single-handed Wednesday by Miss Smith.
About 8:30 a.m. a note was dropped from the plane in which the young flier was having trouble with the stabilizer and had both arms “wrapped around the stick.”
Sure of Victory
It was apparent, however, that she did not regard the trouble as serious for the note added: “Tough night but it won’t be long now.”
Miss Smith brought her plane, a cabin monoplane borrowed from G.M. Bellanca, airplane designer, down to a perfect landing.
“I think it’s wonderful that I broke the record. Now I want to get some sleep,” she said as she dodged the crowds and vanished homeward.
Miss Smith’s mother Wednesday night said plans had been made for Elinor to make a transatlantic flight this summer, probably to Rome. She said backers already had been obtained.
—The Milwaukee Sentinel, April 25, 1929, Page 1, Column 4.
The Bellanca CH Monoplane (also referred to as the CH-200) was a single-engine high-wing monoplane, designed by Giuseppe Mario Bellanca and built by the Bellanca Aircraft Corporation of America, Newcastle, Delaware. It was operated by one pilot and could carry up to 5 passengers in an enclosed cabin.
The airplane was 27 feet, 9 inches (8.458 meters) long with a wingspan of 46 feet, 4 inches (14.122 meters) and height of 8 feet, 4 inches (2.540 meters). It had an empty weight of 2,275 pounds (1,032 kilograms) and gross weight of 4,072 pounds (1,847 kilograms).
The Bellanca CH Monoplane was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) Wright Whirlwind J-5 nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.1:1. It was rated at 200 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 225 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. This was a direct-drive engine which turned a two-bladed propeller. 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 airplane’s maximum speed was 126 miles per hour (203 kilometers per hour) and its range was 800 miles (1,287 kilometers).
Elinor Regina Patricia Ward was born in New York City, 17 August 1911. She was the second of three children of Thomas Francis Ward, a vaudeville dancer and comedian, and Agnes A. Ward, a singer. In order to avoid being mistaken for another performer, Mr. Ward changed his name to Smith. Miss Ward also adopted the name and is better known as “Elinor Smith.”
Miss Smith took her first flight in an airplane at the age of six years. When she was ten she began flight training in her father’s Weaver Aircraft Co. Waco 9 biplane. Just before her seventeenth birthday she qualified for a pilot’s certificate. It was issued 14 August 1928 by the National Aeronautic Association of the U.S.A., on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Certificate No. 6906 was signed by Orville Wright, Chairman of the N.A.A.
Elinor Smith first came to the attention of the general public when, on 21 October 1928, she flew under four bridges on New York City’s East River.
In November 1928 Miss Smith was employed by the Irvin Air Chute Company as a pilot. She toured the United States, flying a Bellanca Pacemaker.
On 10 March 1930, Smith set an FAI world altitude for women of 8,357 meters (27,418 feet). ³ She flew a Bellanca Skyrocket, NC752W.
In May 1930, the Aeronautics Branch, U.S. Department of Commerce issued a Transport License to Miss Smith. She was the youngest pilot to receive that license up to that time.
A 1930 poll of licensed pilots in the United States selected Smith as the Best Woman Pilot in America. Her male counterpart was the legendary Jimmy Doolittle.
Elinor Smith set several U.S. national records for speed, altitude and duration. From 1930 to 1935, she was an expert commentator on aviation for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) radio network.
On 22 July 1933, Patrick H. Sullivan II, an attorney and member of the New York State Assembly for the 11th District of New York County, married Elinor Smith in New York City. They would have four children. Following the birth of their first child, Patrick H. Sullivan III, Mrs. Sullivan gave up flying.
In 1934, Mrs. Sullivan became the first woman to be featured on the box of General Mills’ Wheaties breakfast cereal, “The Breakfast of Champions.” This has always been a high honor for sporting men and women.
After her husband died in 1956, Elinor Smith Sullivan resumed flying, and continued until she was 89 years old.
Mrs. Elinor Smith Sullivan died 19 March 2010 at Lytton Gardens Health Care Center, Palo Alto, California. She was aged 98 years, 7 months and 3 days.
¹ FAI Record File Number 12217. Duration: 26 hours, 27 minutes. 24 April 1929.
² FAI Record File Number 12216. Duration: 13 hours, 17 minutes, 45 seconds. 31 January 1929.
³ FAI Record File Number 12226. Altitude, Female: 8,357 meters (27,418 feet), 10 March 1930.
16–17 April 1923: At Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, U.S. Army Air Service pilots Lieutenant Oakland George Kelly and Lieutenant John Arthur Macready set six Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for speed, distance and duration, flying the Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek Fokker T-2, serial number A.S. 64233, which they planned to fly non-stop across the United States of America.
They flew 2,500 kilometers (1,553.428 miles) at an average speed of 115.60 kilometers per hour (51.83 miles per hour);¹ 3,000 kilometers (1,864.114 miles) at 115.27 kilometers per hour (71.63 miles per hour);² 3,500 kilometers (2,174.799 miles) at 114.82 kilometers per hour (71.35 miles per hour);³ 4,000 kilometers (2,485.485 miles) at 113.93 kilometers per hour (70.79 miles per hour);⁴ flew a total distance of 4,050 kilometers (2,517 miles);⁵ and stayed aloft for 36 hours, 4 minutes, 34 seconds.⁶ Their overall average speed was 112.26 kilometers per hour (69.76 miles per hour).
The Fokker F.IV was built by Anthony Fokker’s Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek at Veere, Netherlands in 1921. The Air Service purchased two and designated the type T-2, with serial numbers A.S. 64233 and A.S. 64234.
Several modifications were made to prepare for the transcontinental flight. Normally flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit, a second set of controls was installed so that the airplane could be controlled from inside while the two pilots changed positions. On this flight, it carried 735 gallons (2,782 liters) of gasoline in three fuel tanks.
For its time, the Fokker was a large airplane: 49 feet (14.9 meters) long, with a wing span of 82 feet (25 meters). The high-wing monoplane was powered by a 1,649.3-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) liquid-cooled Liberty L12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine producing 420 horsepower. The airplane was designed to carry 8–10 passengers in an enclosed cabin.
From 2–3 May 1923, MacReady and Kelly succeeded in their non-stop transcontinental flight, flying from Roosevelt-Hazelhurst Field, Long Island, New York, to Rockwell Field (now, NAS North Island), San Diego, California, 2,470 miles (3,975 kilometers) in 26 hours, 50 minutes, 38.8 seconds, for an average speed of 92 miles per hour (148 kilometers per hour).
The U.S. Army Air Service transferred A.S. 64223 to the Smithsonian Institution in January 1924. It is on display at the National Air and Space Museum.