Crew of First Around-the-World Flight, 1924

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Crew of First Around-the-World Flight, 1924

Inducted in 1977

Chicago

1st. Lt. Lowell H. Smith, Pilot; 1st. Lt. Leslie P. Arnold, Mechanic

Boston

1st. Lt. Leigh Wade, Pilot; Sgt. Henry H. Odgen, Mechanic;

New Orleans

1st. Lt. Erik H. Nelson, Pilot; 2nd. Lt. John Harding, Jr., Mechanic

On April 6, 1924, four Douglas World Cruisers and eight crewmen set out from Seattle, Washington, to attempt the first around-the-world airplane flight. Some 175 days later, on September 28, three of the bi-planes and the six men aboard became the first to circumnavigate the earth by air.

Named after four major American cities — Seattle, Chicago, Boston, and New Orleans — the airplanes were capable of operating from both land and water and were equipped with the latest navigational aids. Even so, fog, blizzards, thunderstorms and sandstorms took their toll. While flying in dense fog, the “Seattle” crashed on an Alaskan mountainside. It was not replaced. The “Boston” was forced to land at sea and subsequently sank. It was replaced by a backup plane that had been built as a quintuplet to the four that began the flight. No serious injuries resulted from either accident, and the six crewmen continued on in the Boston II, Chicago, and New Orleans.

While other nations were competing to achieve the first world flight, the American success was largely a result of extensive planning. The cooperation of 28 countries along the flight path was enlisted. Stations were established to supply thousands of gallons of gasoline, oil, spare parts and other necessary supplies. The Army’s most qualified pilots and mechanics were recruited to participate in the effort.

Today world air travel can be accomplished in a fraction of the time of those 1924 flights. The men and airplanes participating in this flight are credited with one of aviation’s greatest achievements.

2017-02-23T23:05:02+00:00