Arctic Aerial Exploration
Antarctic Exploration
Australian record flights
equal flying rights for women!
Calbraith Rogers
Cobham and Hinkler
Byrd and Bennett
Wiley Post
Amelia Earhart
Howard Hughes
Kingsford Smith
Amy Johnson
Beryl Markham
Italo Balbo
Jimmy Doolittle

Calbraith Rodgers

Calbraith Rodgers

Before 1911 Calbraith P. Rodgers was not well known in aviation circles and, if the truth be known, he was never considered a very accomplished flier. When he took off from Sheepshead Bay, New York, attempting to fly to the California coast in thirty days, aiming to win a prize of fifty thousand dollars offered by William Randolph Hearst, few people gave him much chance of even completing the flight, let alone doing so in the stipulated time.

He flew a Baby Wright plane that was prone to stalling even in the hands of a good pilot. The plane was called the Vin Fiz, after the grape-flavoured soft drink produced by the Armour Company, which sponsored the flight. Rodgers’ route took him from New York to Chicago, then down to San Antonio, Texas, and finally along the southern border of the United States to Long Beach, California.

Vin Fiz

This allowed him to avoid the mountains entirely, a barrier Rodgers was not equipped (by machinery or skill) to hurdle. During the flight, Rodgers made sixty-nine stops, sixteen of which were crash landings. (Rodgers refused to admit it, but there was no question that he had trouble landing.)

In between crashes!

 Each crash landing necessitated repairs, and the times he landed without crashing, people flocked to the plane and grabbed a souvenir, usually a vital piece of the aircraft. Fortunately, Rodgers was not alone.

He followed railroad tracks and below him was a private train paid for by Armour, on which were machinists, Rodgers’ wife and mother, and enough spare parts to build four complete airplanes just like the Vin Fiz. It turned out that he needed those parts, because only two parts of the original plane he took off in were still on the craft he flew into Long Beach on November 5.

Rodgers completed the four thousand-mile (6,436km) flight in fifty days, too late to win the Hearst money, but Armour rewarded him with a prize of their own of more than twenty thousand dollars. He became celebrated through the posters and advertisements Armour produced commemorating the flight, but the most remarkable aspect of it, aside from his perseverance, may have been simply his having lived though all those crashes.

In April of 1912, Rodgers died in a crash as the plane he was flying in an air show plunged into the Pacific off the coast of Long Beach. Observers thought he may have been attempting to land when the crash occurred. Rodgers paved the way for the first non-stop coast-to- coast flight, made on May 2 to 3, 1923. Flying a single- engine Fokker 1-2, powered by a Liberty engine, the U.S. Army Air Service team of Oakley G. Kelly and John A. MacReady made the 2,650-mile (4,264km) trip in just under twenty-seven hours.

They flew from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York, diagonally across the country, skirting below the Rocky Mountains and landing at Rockwell Field near San Diego. Although they arrived after midnight, a large crowd turned out to greet them and newspapers across the country hailed the feat as the beginning of a new era. The most direct consequence of the flight was that it prompted the U.S. government to prepare for a transcontinental airmail service, inaugurated in July 1924.

Army fliers McCready and Kelly established a new endurance record by staying aloft for thirty-eight hours in a Fokker monoplane, flying near San Diego, from October 14 to 15, 1922.