Inducted in 1975
First United States Transcontinental Flight, 1911
1879 – 1912
In 1911 William Randolph Hearst offered a $50,000 prize to the first person to fly from coast to coast within a 30-day period. “Cal” Rodgers, a slender motorcycle racer with only limited flying experience (some of it gained at the Wright School), accepted the challenge. He took off from Long Island, New York, on September 17, determined to reach California and qualify for the award.
Rodgers flew a Wright EX biplane, named the “Vin Fiz” after a soft drink made by his commercial sponsor. The 35-horsepower airplane had no radio and was equipped with only one instrument, a fluttering shoelace to indicate vertical and lateral motion.
Rodgers chose a meandering route across the United States through Chicago and San Antonio to avoid dangerous mountain ranges. A train carrying his wife, mother, mechanics and $4,000 worth of spare parts followed him. The “Vin Fiz” made 30 stops, crashing 19 times in the process. It was virtually rebuilt by the time it reached California.
Rodgers covered 4,000 miles in 49 days. His actual time in the air was 82 hours and four minutes. Newspapers followed the flight day by day until at last he landed at Long Beach on November 5. Though Rodgers was 19 days too late to win the prize, he achieved a record of endurance and determination.