National Museum of the USAF   Right Corner Banner
Join the Air Force

Home > Fact Sheets > Flight of the Question Mark


Posted 10/16/2014 Printable Fact Sheet
Previous ImageNext Image
Question Mark
DAYTON, Ohio -- Question Mark exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Download HiRes

In 1929 the U.S. Army Air Corps attempted to break the world's record for an endurance flight with an Atlantic-Fokker C-2A aircraft. To capture the public's attention, the Army Air Corps stated that the aircraft would remain aloft as long as possible, and to highlight the point, the aircraft was named the Question Mark. 

On New Year's Day, the C-2A commanded by Maj. Carl Spatz (later changed to Spaatz) took off from Metropolitan Airport at Van Nuys, Calif., and began circling the area. Since the aircraft carried only a limited amount of gasoline, inflight refuelings were accomplished through hoses lowered from two Douglas C-1 aircraft. Oil, food and water were lowered by rope.

Due to the unreliability and extra weight of air-to-air radios, the Question Mark and refueling planes did not carry radios. The aircrews communicated with hand signals, flashlight signals, ground panels, notes dropped to the ground and by messages written on blackboards carried in the planes.

After 42 refuelings, including nine at night, one of the Question Mark's engines failed, which forced the aircraft to land at Metropolitan Airport on Jan. 7. However, the Question Mark's crew had set the world flight endurance record by staying aloft for 150 hours, 40 minutes and 14 seconds.

Besides setting the world record, this flight had proven the reliability of the Army Air Corps' aircraft and engines, and it provided data about the effects of continuous flight on aircrews. It also triggered a rash of civilian endurance flights, which focused even greater public attention upon aviation. In 1930 a civilian plane carrying two men remained in the air for 647 hours, 28 minutes.

Click here to return to the Endurance Flights Overview.

 Inside the Museum

ima cornerSearch

ima cornerInterwar Years History


tabRelated Links

Museum Virtual TourMuseum Facebook PageMuseum Twitter PageMuseum Instagram
Museum Google Plus PageMuseum Pinterest PageMuseum YouTube ChannelMuseum Flickr Page
Museum PodcastsMuseum E-newsletter Sign-upMuseum RSS Feeds

Site Map      Contact Us     Questions     Security and Privacy notice     E-publishing  
Suicide Prevention    SAPR   IG   EEO   Accessibility/Section 508   No FEAR Act