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28 September 2010

On this day in history: First flight around the World, 1924

In 1923 the United States' Army Air Service decided to join the race to be the first to fly an aircraft around the world. Finding that none of their existing fleet were suitable for the task, the group of officers charged with organising the attempt received instructions from the War Office to evaluate the Fokker F-5 and the Davis-Douglas Cloudster. Rather than send details about the Cloudster, Donald Douglas chose to submit information about a modified version of the DT-2 torpedo bomber, called the Douglas World Cruiser, which the Air Service selected.

Douglas delivered a modified a World Cruiser with over five and a half times the original fuel capacity to the Air Service for testing. The aircraft met all the requirements and Douglas received an order for four more planes, the last of which arrived with the Air Service in March 1924. Douglas also delivered spare parts that were transported to various points along the proposed route for the flight.

On 6th April 1924, four World Cruisers — called the Boston, the Chicago, and the New Orleans — took to the air from Seattle, Washington for Alaska on the first leg of the attempt. A fourth plane — ironically called the Seattle — needed repairs and later set off to try to catch up with the other aircraft; however, it crashed into an Alaskan mountainside due to dense fog. Fortunately, the crew survived.

The remaining three planes continued on their journey, avoiding Russian air space because the Soviets had not given them permission to fly over their country. After flying across East Asia and the Middle East, the aircraft arrived in Paris on Bastille day (14th July). They then set off across the Atlantic via London and the north of England; however, on 3rd August the Boston had to land on the water (the planes were fitted with floats for the legs that crossed over large bodies of water) but it capsized while being towed by the ship that rescued the crew.

The Chicago and the New Orleans continued across the Atlantic landing at Iceland and Greenland. When they arrived in Canada they were joined by the test plane for the remaining legs that took them to Washington D.C. and Santa Monica, California, before returning to Seattle on 27th September 1924. The two crews — pilot Lt. Lowell Smith and 1st Lt. Leslie Arnold of the Chicago, and pilot Lt. Erik Nelson and Lt. Jack Harding of the New Orleans — had travelled over 25,000 miles in 175 days.

To learn more see C.V. Glines' article 'Around the World' on the Air Force Magazine Online site.

Related posts
First successful powered aeroplane flight: 17th December 1903
Charles Lindbergh arrived in Paris: 21st May 1927
Maiden flight of Boeing 747: 9th February 1969
Last commercial Concorde flights: 24th October 2003


Noypi said...

Nice blog you got in here!

I checked on my birthday and the historical event for that day is quite interesting!

Keep posting good History stuff!

- Noypi here

Borkiman said...

Thanks for taking time to leave a comment.