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On September 28th, 1924 two American aircraft completed the first round the world flight. The journey took 175 days. The two aircraft were called the Chicago and the New Orleans. They covered a total of 26,343 miles. Two other aircraft failed to complete the flight.
The planes crossed South Asia via India, crossed the Middle East and arrived in Paris on Bastille Day July 14. Over the Atlantic Ocean on August 5th the Boston was forced to ditch, but its crew was rescued. The planes crossed the Atlantic via Iceland, Greenland, and reached Canada. The crews landed in Washington DC to a hero’s welcome.
Finally, the planes crossed the United States making many stops along the way, landing in Seattle on September 28, 1924. The aircraft had covered 27,553 miles in 175 days.
Wiley Post’s Historic Around-the-World Flight
In the early morning of July 15, 1933, Wiley Hardeman Post stood on the airstrip of Floyd Bennett Field in New York, waiting for favorable flying weather. Realizing that conditions probably wouldn't improve, Post—fortified with thermos bottles of water and tomato juice, three packets of gum, and a carton of zweiback—climbed into the purple-and-white Lockheed 5C Vega Winnie Mae and set off on what he hoped would be a record-breaking flight.
Seven days, 18 hours, and 49 ½ minutes later, Post landed at Floyd Bennett Field, becoming the first person to fly solo around the world.
This wasn't Post's first around-the-world trip. In 1931, accompanied by navigator Harold Gatty, he made a 14-stop world circuit in a little over eight days (12 days faster than the previous record set by the Graf Zeppelin in 1929). But on his solo attempt, Post hoped to complete the journey in six days, shaving two days off his earlier time. Two technological advances allowed him to attempt the solo effort: An autopilot, which Post immediately dubbed “Mechanical Mike,” and a radio compass (still in the experimental stage, and considered classified by the Army, which was developing the instrument).
Bad weather and a problem with the oil supply line on the autopilot kept Post from achieving his goal of circling the globe in six days with only five stops. But he cut 21 hours off his previous record, and was convinced that, with good weather, the route could be completed in four days. (Post made 11 stops total click on this interactive map for more details from his record-setting flight.)
More than 50,000 spectators thronged Floyd Bennett Field on July 22, 1933, waiting for a glimpse of the weary aviator at the conclusion of his flight, while thousands more were caught in traffic along the highway leading to the airfield. As the Winnie Mae dropped through the cloud cover at midnight, thousands of onlookers broke through the barriers and swarmed the field. One of the first to congratulate Post was his former navigator, Harold Gatty.
At a press conference a few days later, the pilot was asked if he would attempt a third flight. The Corning (New York) Leader reported that a spectator yelled from the crowd, begging him not to. “Don’t do it again, Wiley. It’s too tough on us,” he said.
Post’s solo flight would not be duplicated until 1947. When William P. Odom circled the globe in 73 hours and five minutes in a Douglas A-26 twin-engine attack plane, the press was blasé, if not downright hostile. Typical was Flight magazine’s comment: “Just what [Odom] has proved there is not clear.”
In August 1935, Post and humorist Will Rogers set out to tour Alaska and Siberia in an unusual hybrid aircraft made from the wreckage of a Lockheed Orion and a Lockheed Explorer. The one-of-a-kind Orion-Explorer was felt by some of Post’s colleagues to be nose-heavy—a condition that could lead to a crash. As the two men took off from Barrow, Alaska, the engine suddenly quit the Orion-Explorer hit the water, killing both men.
The news stunned the nation. Eight thousand people quietly waited at the airport in Oklahoma City to meet the DC-2 carrying Post’s body. More than 20,000 people viewed Post’s casket at the Oklahoma State Capitol Building.
The Winnie Mae was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution—through an Act of Congress—in 1936. It is currently on display in the Time and Navigation exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum.
First Around the World
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the first balloon flight around the world. For almost three weeks in the spring of 1999, Bertrand Piccard (left) and Brian Jones rode in the cramped quarters of a bright red, carbon-composite egg, 16 feet long and 7 feet in diameter, suspended beneath a gigantic but fragile envelope of hot air and helium cells. Their Breitling Orbiter 3 gondola, which is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., was crammed with navigation and communications equipment, emergency survival gear, a single bunk, and a pressure-operated toilet. After taking off from the small Swiss village of Chateau d’Oex on March 1, the pair headed south to Africa and, communicating with meteorologists and a control center in Geneva mostly by fax, caught rides in a series of jet streams that carried them 25,361 miles to a landing in Egypt on March 21. So impressive was the wind forecasting and strategy for their journey that Steve Fossett hired their meteorologist, Luc Trullemans, for his own solo round-the-world balloon flight.
Shortly after Jones and Piccard returned, they founded the Winds of Hope foundation with a $1 million prize awarded by Anheuser-Busch for the record-setting flight. In celebration of the 10th anniversary, Jones is making a world tour in a much smaller, hot-air replica of the Breitling Orbiter 3 to raise money for the foundation. Among visits to Europe, Australia, Israel, Japan, and Venezuela, Jones will make several stops in the United States: a private visit to Barron Hilton’s Flying M Ranch, near Reno, Nevada, to make a tribute flight in memory of Steve Fossett, as well as a public appearance at the National Air and Space Museum (see below). At the Museum, Jones will bring birthday greetings to a ten-year-old girl, born on the night before he and Piccard landed, just at the time that the Breitling Orbiter 3 was crossing the latitude where she came into the world. Caught up in the balloonists’ adventure and delighted by the joyousness of their success, Annapolis, Maryland residents Howard and Sharon Snyder named their newborn daughter Breitling.
Pilot Brian Jones will make a special appearance at the National Air and Space Museum on the Mall on Thursday, October 1, at noon.
1924 World Flight
The Australian team is pictured here with their Vickers Vimy twin engine biplane. From left to right are brothers Ross and Keith Smith and their mechanics, James Bennett and Wally Shiers. The flight took 28 days to traverse the 17,911 kilometers (11,123 miles) from London to Darwin. (Australian War Memorial)
A Brief History of the First Flight Around the World
In the aftermath of World War I, Europeans pursued the airplane as a means of visiting overseas places far more vigorously than Americans. In 1919, two Brits, John Alcock and Arthur Brown, first flew the Atlantic. Later that same year, two Australians first flew from England to Australia. In 1923, two U.S. Army Air Service fliers made the first nonstop U.S. Transcontinental flight in a modified Fokker T-2. 1923 also saw several European flyers attempting to circumnavigate the globe by air. All were unsuccessful in their efforts.
Undaunted by these failures, the U.S. Army Air Service was drawing up plans of their own to stake their claim as the first fliers to make the flight around the world. In a team effort that some historians have equated with the 1960s' effort to put a man on the moon, Army planners in less than a year acquired suitable aircraft, researched an efficient but unorthodox route and devised a logistics network to support the flight. Working with the Douglas Airplane Company of Santa Monica, California, the Army purchased five highly modified Navy torpedo bombers capable of flying on wheels or pontoons -- a critical factor since they aircraft would switch between the two depending on which part of the world to be covered -- over land or along coastlines. One served as a prototype with the remaining four expected to make the journey, each with a pilot and mechanic. Douglas dubbed the aircraft the Douglas World Cruiser (DWC).
Crowds gather to see the aircraft at Clover Field, Santa Monica California on March 17th 1924.
Unlike the other attempts which relied on prevailing winds to fly an easterly course, the Army chose the alternative, a westerly route. Weather experts concluded the most favorable weather for crossing the treacherous North Pacific occurred in the spring while the best chance to span the Atlantic appeared to be in late summer. To accommodate these considerations, Major General Mason Patrick, commander of the Air Service, declared the flight would start and end at Sand Point, a small military airfield a few miles northeast of downtown Seattle on the shore of Lake Washington.
On April 6, 1924, the four DWCs -- the Seattle, Boston, Chicago and New Orleans -- departed Sand Point for southeast Alaska and points west. Despite horrible weather , the eight crewmembers pushed on. Unfortunately, the Seattle, piloted by the mission commander, Major Frederick. Martin, crashed into a mountain on the Alaska Peninsula. Surviving 10 days in the wilderness, Martin and Staff Sergeant Alva Harvey were rescued. Their flight was over' the three others continued on to Japan.
One of the Cruisers flies over the Port of Kushimoto, Japan. The large ship is the American four-funnel destroyer USS Pope (DD-225). The Pope was on a goodwill tour to Japan in 1924 to back up the coincident arrival of the Douglas World Cruisers flight.
As the first aviators to cross the Pacific, the Army fliers received an incredible welcome from the Japanese. With little time to spare in their efforts to beat the monsoons in South Asia, they departed after replacing their engines and pontoons. With Martin left behind, Lt. Lowell Smith in the Chicago became mission commander.
While the tropical climate offered some relief from the chilly weather previously experienced, the aircraft proved less reliable than expected, prompting unscheduled delays for maintenance. Finally reaching Kolkata (Calcutta) on India's East Coast, the aircraft underwent major changes -- the engines and wings were replaced and the pontoons swapped for wheels.
Relying on limited navigation aids and overcoming unfavorable weather and mechanical headaches, the crews battled their way westward across modern-day Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and into Turkey. From there they made their way across Europe, arriving in Paris on Bastille Day, July 14. Nearly back on schedule, they continued to London and then to Hull, where they transitioned back to pontoons before attempting the first successful east-to-west crossing of the Atlantic by airplane.
Between the Faeroe Islands and Iceland, engine failure prompted the Boston to land. A Navy destroyer positioned along the route for just such an eventuality rescued Lt. Leigh Wade and Sergeant Henry Ogden, then took Boston under tow, but the aircraft eventually sank. On August 31, the two surviving aircraft reached Icy Tickle, Labrador. The world expressed a collective sigh of relief. The prototype aircraft, renamed Boston II, with Wade and Ogden at the controls, rejoined the surviving pair for their victory lap across North America.
On September 28th, 1924 they touched down to a jubilant reception at Sand Point. They had come full circle to complete their long journey around the globe and into the history books.
The Sikorsky S-40 had laid the groundwork for Pan Am’s Latin American route system, but Pan Am was never fully satisfied with its compromise design,. Even before the S-40 first entered service, Pan Am technical adviser Charles Lindbergh was developing specifications for a streamlined airliner that could truly span the oceans and fulfill Pan Am’s intercontinental ambitions.
Two aircraft manufacturers made credible bids for Pan American’s next airliner. Igor Sikorsky wanted the chance to build improve the S-40, whose limitations he fully understood, and Glenn Martin wanted to expand his business from military to commercial aircraft. To hedge his bets against either company’s possible failure, and to stimulate competition, so that Pan Am would not be overly dependent on any one firm, Juan Trippe accepted both bids and ordered three planes from each company. On October 1, 1932, Pan Am placed a firm order for three S-42 aircraft, with an option for seven additional planes.
March 2, 1949: Around the World Without Landing
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A tanker plane refuels the Boeing B-50 Lucky Lady II. Photo: Courtesy National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
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1949: After 94 hours, 1 minute of flying time, a Boeing B-50 named Lucky Lady II lands at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, completing the first ever nonstop, around-the-world trip by an airplane.
The flight covered 23,452 miles, averaging a ground speed of 249 miles per hour. The modified bomber required air-to-air refueling four times as it flew ever eastward.
The Lucky Lady II departed Fort Worth, Texas, on Feb. 26 with the express goal of making the first nonstop transglobal flight. The airplane was an updated version of the B-29 that had fought in World War II and was close to being obsolete by 1949.
Jet aircraft were the future. The Boeing B-52, which continues to serve as the mainstay of the U.S. bomber fleet today, would make its first flight just three years later. Despite the fact that officials knew the propeller-driven B-50 would not remain the premier bomber for long, there was a need to send a strong message to an evolving Cold War adversary that the United States military could fly anywhere in the world with one of its aircraft.
World War II established the importance of controlling the skies during a modern conflict. Bombers from the major combatants inflicted devastating damage to cities in Europe and Asia. The ability of an aircraft to fly long distances to deliver a payload of bombs established the importance of the bomber fleet.
After the Soviets blocked land access to Berlin in 1948, the ability to deliver humanitarian assistance further established the importance of being able to fly heavy aircraft for long distances. The Berlin Airlift also made it clear the Cold War had truly begun.
The newly formed United States Air Force wanted to demonstrate that air power eliminated all distance or geographical barriers for the military. The thinking was that aerial circumnavigation without the need to land would show the Soviet Union that the USAF could strike anywhere.
Refueling while flying was the biggest challenge of the flight. Though commonplace today, the technique was not widely used at the time. The Lucky Lady II was refueled from its close relative, the tanker version KB-29. Four pairs of KB-29s based in the Azores, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Hawaii were used as airborne gas stations.
The record-setting flight used a probe-and-drogue system, similar to what the Navy uses today. Essentially a long hose is reeled out from the KB-29 tanker and is attached to a refueling nozzle on the B-50 during flight.
Sept. 28, 1924 | First Around-the-World Flights Touch Down in SeattleUnited States Army The Chicago, one of two Douglas World Cruisers to complete the flight.
Learn about key events in history and their connections to today.
On Sept. 28, 1924, two United States Army Air Service planes completed the first ever circumnavigation of the world by air, landing in Seattle 175 days after their mission began.
The Associated Press, in an article appearing in the Sept. 29 edition of The New York Times, quoted a short speech given by Maj. Gen. Charles G. Norton to the pilots: “The encircling of the globe has been an acid test and a brilliant proof of expert flying and mechanical ability … I can but reiterate our gratitude to you, our gratitude for bringing to America, the birthplace of aviation, the gift that it has rightfully inherited — world air prestige.”
The flight began on April 6, 1924, when four Douglas World Cruiser planes, named the Seattle, Chicago, Boston and New Orleans, set off from Seattle to Alaska, then over the Pacific to Japan, through Asia, the Middle East and Europe, over the Atlantic to Newfoundland via Iceland and Greenland, and finally over America from Boston back to Seattle.
Two of the planes were lost during the trip, though their crews survived: the Seattle crashed over Alaska, while the Boston was forced to make an emergency landing in the Atlantic. The remaining two planes were joined by a third plane, the Boston II, for their final leg over America.
“The route of the aviators traversed or touched 21 foreign countries and 25 states and one territory of the Union. A total of 57 hops were made, with an average of 483 miles to each jump,” The A.P. reported.
The flight was one of many significant aviation milestones in the post-World War I “Golden Age of Aviation.” Other accomplishments of the era included the first non-stop Atlantic crossing by John Alcock and Arthur Brown in 1919, the first solo cross-Atlantic flight by Charles Lindbergh in 1927 and the first nonstop cross-Pacific flight and global circumnavigation across both hemispheres by Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm in 1928.
Connect to Today:
It’s been almost a century since the pioneering flights of these early aviators. Today, very few around-the-world 𠇏irsts” remain to be reached by air, land, or sea. You may remember the recent account of American teen Abby Sunderland who tried to become the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe but was unable to complete the mission because of difficulty in the Indian Ocean.
What never-done-before and record-breaking missions do you predict will occur in the remainder of the 21st century? Why?
The First Flight Around the World
The trip was started by four specially made airplanes, piloted by Major Frederick Martin, Lieutenant Lowell H. Smith, 1st Lieutenant Leigh P. Wade and Lieutenant Erik Nelson. The airplanes were built by the Douglas Aircraft Company which was awarded the contract just 45 days before they delivered the first airplane. The airplanes were specially equipped with wheel landing gear that could be changed depending on the location, and were also especially equipped with pontoons. The airplanes were named Seattle, Chicago, Boston and New Orleans.
In preparation for the flight, the United States Navy delivered thirty spare engines to various places around the world. The Navy, with the help of Royal Air Force, delivered thousands of gallons of fuel to various places around the world, before the flight ever commenced.
Trouble started from the beginning, with Douglas delivering the last airplane only days ahead of the departure. The initial start was delayed several times, due to weather. Just twenty four days into the flight, the first plane was lost as the Seattle crashed in dense fog near Port Moller, Alaska. The crew was not found until they walked to Port Moller, arriving on May 10, 1924.
The remaining three planes continued on their flight path. First, the planes traveled to Japan, before arriving in Southeast Asia, India, England before finally arriving in Ireland. Trouble continued to plague the planes, throughout the flight and another of the original planes was lost on August 3, 1924, when the Boston was forced down due to oil problems. While trying to tow the plane for repairs, the plane sunk. The crew continued in another plane, which was called Boston II.
The crews arrived back in the United States on September 8, 1924, and the United States was becoming increasingly excited that they would indeed fly around the world. In the United States, the crews first stopped at Mere Point, Maine. The crews had hoped to arrive in Boston, but severe weather forced them to land at Mere Point, instead.
For September, the crews made various stops at cities in the United States before returning to Seattle, on September 28, 1924. The flight took 354 hours and forty seven minutes to make and for most of the airplane the total mileage logged were 25, 180 miles.
John Glenn becomes first American to orbit Earth
From Cape Canaveral, Florida, John Herschel Glenn Jr. is successfully launched into space aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft on the first orbital flight by an American astronaut.
Glenn, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, was among the seven men chosen by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1959 to become America’s first astronauts. A decorated pilot, he flew nearly 150 combat missions during World War II and the Korean War. In 1957, he made the first nonstop supersonic flight across the United States, flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and 23 minutes.
Glenn was preceded in space by two Americans, Alan B. Shepard Jr. and Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, and two Soviets, Yuri A. Gagarin and Gherman S. Titov. In April 1961, Gagarin was the first man in space, and his spacecraft Vostok 1 made a full orbit before returning to Earth. Less than one month later, Shepard was launched into space aboard Freedom 7 on a suborbital flight. In July, Grissom made another brief suborbital flight aboard Liberty Bell 7. In August, with the Americans still having failed to make an orbital flight, the Russians sprinted further ahead in the space race when Titov spent more than 25 hours in space aboard Vostok 2, making 17 orbits. As a technological power, the United States was looking very much second-rate compared with its Cold War adversary. If the Americans wanted to dispel this notion, they needed a multi-orbital flight before another Soviet space advance arrived.
It was with this responsibility in mind that John Glenn lifted off from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral at 9:47 a.m. on February 20, 1962. Some 100,000 spectators watched on the ground nearby and millions more saw it on television. After separating from its launching rocket, the bell-shaped Friendship 7 capsule entered into an orbit around Earth at a speed of about 17,500 miles per hour. Smoothing into orbit, Glenn radioed back, psule is turning around. Oh, that view is tremendous.”
During Friendship 7‘s first orbit, Glenn noticed what he described as small, glowing fireflies drifting by the capsule’s tiny window. It was some time later that NASA mission control determined that the sparks were crystallized water vapor released by the capsule’s air-conditioning system. Before the end of the first orbit, a more serious problem occurred when Friendship 7‘s automatic control system began to malfunction, sending the capsule into erratic movements. At the end of the orbit, Glenn switched to manual control and regained command of the craft.
Toward the end of Glenn’s third and last orbit, mission control received a mechanical signal from the spacecraft indicating that the heat shield on the base of the capsule was possibly loose. Traveling at its immense speed, the capsule would be incinerated if the shield failed to absorb and dissipate the extremely high reentry temperatures. It was decided that the craft’s retrorockets, usually jettisoned before reentry, would be left on in order to better secure the heat shield. Less than a minute later, Friendship 7 slammed into Earth’s atmosphere.
During Glenn’s fiery descent back to Earth, the straps holding the retrorockets gave way and flapped violently by his window as a shroud of ions caused by excessive friction enveloped the spacecraft, causing Glenn to lose radio contact with mission control. As mission control anxiously waited for the resumption of radio transmissions that would indicate Glenn’s survival, he watched flaming chunks of retrorocket fly by his window. After four minutes of radio silence, Glenn’s voice crackled through loudspeakers at mission control, and Friendship 7 splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean. He was picked up by the USS destroyer Noa, and his first words upon stepping out of the capsule and onto the deck of the Noa were, “It was hot in there.” He had spent nearly five hours in space.
Glenn was hailed as a national hero, and on February 23 President John F. Kennedy visited him at Cape Canaveral. He later addressed Congress and was given a ticker-tape parade in New York City.
Who was the first around the world?
A sheep, a duck and a rooster were the first passengers in a hot air balloon. More than 200 years later, the quest to become the first to circumnavigate earth in a hot air balloon grabbed the attention of the world.
The Age of Discovery was led by the the great sea adventurers in their search for a route to spice markets of the Far East. They started the race to be first to circumnavigate earth.
In 1924, four Douglas World Cruisers and eight American crewmen set out from Seattle to attempt the first around-the-world flight. 175 days later three of the aircraft completed the flight. Nine years later, another American did it in only 7 days!
Farfetched it may seem, but when Benoit Lecomte swam across the Atlantic in 1998,he introduced a new global sport challenge: the first to swim around the world.
From around the web
Dave Kunst was the first man to walk around the world. Starting in Waseca, Minnesota on 20 June 1970, he completed the journey in 4 years, 3 months and 16 days. He wore out 21 pairs of shoes in more than 20 million steps to cover 23,250 km (14,450 miles). He is know as the Earthwalker
No less remarkable was an earlier walking journey by P.L. Wingo: in April 1931 Wingo left California to arrive in Istanbul 19 months later – he walked all the way backwards!
Thomas Stevens was the first person to cycle around the world, between 1884 and 1886.
Arthur Blessitt walked around the walked carrying a 12-foot cross. And he didn’t stop there.
The Amazing Race : CBS reality show of couples racing around the world.
The first known commercial around-the-world passenger may be Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Carreri. Between 1693-98 the Italian sailed to Mexico, crossed by land to the Pacific, then returned to Italy on other ships via Asia.
Around alone in a small open boat : Anthony Steward’s incredible journey on a small open boat around the world.