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Home > Fact Sheets > First Round-the-World Flight, March 22, 1924


Posted 12/4/2006 Printable Fact Sheet

Daily Flight Information

The World Fliers are preparing their aircraft for the official start of the Round-the-World flight on April 4.

Round-the-World Flight
Army Air Service

This is Part II of the Official World Flight planning document published by the Air Service in 1923 -- U-672-A.S. (see Part I in the March 21 edition)

Washington D.C. will be the starting point of the flight. Stops across the United States will be at Dayton, Ohio, Saint Joseph, Missouri, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Seattle, Washington. Pontoons will replace landing gears at Seattle, and the flight will proceed along the coast of British Columbia and Alaska to Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island; thence along the Aleutian Archipelago, which extends to within 400 miles of the eastern coast of Siberia, terminating at the Island of Attu, from which place the next objective is the northernmost island of the Japanese Archipelago, a distance of 800 miles. The route then extends through Japan, along the coast of Chosen, China, Indochina, Siam, Burma, and India - until Calcutta is reached, at which point landing gear will replace the pontoons, and the flight will proceed to Allahabad, Dehli, Karachi, India, and then along the Persian Gulf and the Tigris River to Baghdad, Mesopotamia; from thence to Aleppo, Syria, Angora and Constantinople, turkey; from which point the remainder of the flight over Europe will be over well organized commercial airways until London, England, is reached. This route passes through Thrace, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, France, and England. In England the planes will again be equipped with pontoons for long water flights across the Atlantic by way of the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland to the coast of Labrador.

Because of the vast uninhabited or sparsely inhibited area to be covered by this flight, the preparation of suitable landing fields along the entire route would, in itself, be an immense undertaking, and it is because of this fact, and also that the most feasible route follows the coast for a great distance, the planes will be equipped with pontoons for the greater portion of the journey. This will allow landings to be made in protected harbors along the coast which greatly diminishes the difficulties which would have to be encountered if this flight were to be made with land planes.

With every precaution taken to provide the safest route and to choose the best seasons of the year in which to fly the most difficult portions of the route, a great many obstacles which cannot be foreseen at this time, must be surmounted by the officers and men accomplishing this expedition. The crossing of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans seem to present the greatest difficulties to be overcome by this flight. Great stretches of water must be crossed between the Aleutian and Kurile Island groups, the greatest being a distance of 800 miles of open sea. Flying in this part of the world is especially difficult because of the varying weather conditions, frequent storms and the prevalence of fogs, and to add the difficulties, the means of communication are nil, and the Air Service will have to rely upon the United States Coast Guard to furnish facilities for communication while in these waters. The islands on the eastern side of the Aleutian Group are in a great many cases uninhabited, the few settlements have no communication with the outside world except by an occasional trading schooner and through the medium of the Coast Guard which patrols the waters in the vicinity of these far distant possessions of the United States.

The northernmost of the Kurile Islands are practically uninhabited, and are visited only occasionally by the Japanese Fishing and Sealing Fleets. The Kurile Islands are of volcanic origin, as are the Aleutian Islands, and a great many volcanoes are still in a semi-active state. This condition has a great influence on the climate. The weather conditions are as uncertain as those of the Aleutian Islands. It will be readily seen from the foregoing that to cover this particular portion of the route successfully, a great deal of caution must be exercised on the part of the personnel participating in this undertaking. The crossing of the Atlantic presents a number of formidable obstacles. The Faroe Islands are separated from the northernmost stop in the British Isles, Kirkwall, on Scapa Flow, by 200 miles of water. The Faroe Islands are barren of vegetation are very sparsely inhibited, the chief industry being fishing and sheep raising. They are separated from the coast of Iceland, the next stop, by 250 miles of the north Atlantic Ocean. The southeastern coast of Iceland is stormy and fogs are prevalent. Iceland is a barren, treeless country of volcanic origin, the inhabitants of which derive their chief livelihood from the fishing industry along the southern, southeastern and southwestern coasts. The first stop in Greenland is approximately 350 miles from Reykjavik, Iceland, of which distance 250 miles is over the open sea of the Danish Straits. From the last stop in Greenland, to Hamilton Islet, Labrador, is approximately 700 miles, which is over the open sea of the Davis Strait. Communication facilities as far as Iceland are excellent, but in Greenland and Labrador are little better than in the northern Pacific. The entire population of Iceland is 91,912 people, while Greenland, a continent almost as vast in area as North America, has a population of only 13,499 people, the majority of whom are Eskimos. The eastern coast of Greenland is bordered practically throughout the entire year by a belt of ice varying in width from eight to forty miles. The only regular communication to settlements on the eastern coast is the yearly visit by a Danish Government vessel. The western coast of Greenland is free from ice during the summer months and it is on this coast that the largest settlements have been located. Because of the fact that Greenland is buried under a cap of ice, with only the sea coasts accessible, the natural resources of Greenland of Greenland had not until recently been exploited, and as a result facilities for transportation and communication are very limited. The entire area of Greenland is an immense plateau, varying in altitude from 4500 feet along the coast, to from 8,000 to 10,000 feet in the interior, along the main mountain range. The entire area is a vast glacier, the coasts are indented with deep fjords where great glaciers project themselves into the sea. Even during the summer months snow often falls. Fog and mist is one of the greatest troubles that Arctic voyagers have to encounter. Fog frequently prevails during the greater part of the month of July, and sometimes for considerable intervals during the months of June and August. Further difficulty may be experienced in Icelandic and Greenland waters, on account of local magnetic attraction which causes compass variations at various points along the coast, with resulting serious difficulty in aerial navigation throughout the area.

Source: The Round-The-World Flight Air Service document U-672-A.S., 1923, ©USAF Academy Library Special Collections, Maj. Gen. Leigh Wade collection.

World Flight planning flight training
By Major F.L. Martin, A.S., Commander, Around the World Flight

This is Part II of Maj. Martin's World Flight planning (see Part I in the March 21 edition)

Due to the courtesy of the Navy Department and the Commandant, at the Naval Base, Norfolk, Virginia, a flight was made east from Cape Henry until out of sight of land, returning to the starting point following a triangular course for the purpose of instruction to demonstrate the knowledge acquired from the course of study that had been pursued at Langley Field. For this problem two F-5-L type seaplanes were used, making it possible for all officers assigned to the flight to participate. As the pilots of the seaplanes flew the course given them by members of the World Flight, it gave the officers of the flight considerable assurance of their ability to navigate under such conditions, as each of the seaplanes was brought back to the starting point with but a very slight error, after completing the triangular course, this with a 29 knot wind from the southwest. The possibility of other flights was offered by the Naval authorities at Norfolk Naval Base, but advantage could not be taken of these opportunities as the flight was ordered from Langley Field on February 15th.

The preparation of the maps for each of the six divisions into which the 24,000 mile route had been divided was the greatest task performed while the flight personnel were at Langley Field. All available time that could be spared was utilized in the preparation of the maps. Two sets for each pilot for each route were prepared, their courses accurately plotted, magnetic bearing determined and the courses marked at intervals of 30 miles for convenient reference during flight. Although several boxes of maps were carefully studied, the number on which courses were plotted was comparatively small and these were cut in strips which, when assembled for each Division, make a fairly small roll very convenient to handle and occupying but a small amount of space. Pilot books and all information which had been collected by Lieutenants St. Clair Streett and R.J. Brown, Jr., of the Training and War Plans Division Office, Chief of Air Service, were carefully read and notes taken. This information was found to be very complete and of greatest assistance in giving information on prevailing conditions to be expected throughout the route.

Source: Official Report of the United States Army Air Service Around the World Flight, Maj. F.L. Martin, A.S., 1924, ©USAF Academy Library Special Collections, Maj. Gen. Leigh Wade collection.

World Flight preparations continue

After arrival at Sand Point, Seattle, Wash., on March 20, the eight members -- four pilots and four mechanics -- have begun to prepare for the official start of their world flight, currently scheduled for April 4.

The first hop of their more than 26,000-mile journey will take them from Sand Point, north up the coast of British Columbia to the port city of Prince Rupert approximately 600 miles distant.

Later this week, the planes will be hoisted up so that the wheels can be replaced by pontoons. The pontoons are necessary because the sparsely inhibited country into which the flyers will travel has few if any prepared landing strips. The pontoons allow the planes to land in the protected harbors of port cities along the route through Canada, Alaska and across the northern Pacific into Japan.

Click here to return to the Round the World Flight: Preparation and Testing index.

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