The Transcontinental Flight Turns 100

By Jonathan Spira on 10 December 2011
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The transcontinental flight, or transcon, turned 100 today.  The Vin Fiz Flyer (pictured), a Wright EX biplane, was named after a grape-flavored soft drink of the time.  It departed Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn at 4:30 p.m. on September 17, 1911 and landed in Long Beach, California on December 10.  It was piloted by Calbraith Perry Rodgers, who navigated across the U.S. by following a train, the Vin Fiz Special, which carried family members, spare parts, and a repair shop.

The 4,000-mile (6,400-km) flight took 84 hours of actual flying time.  Several months later, Rodgers was killed in an air crash unrelated to the transcon.

It took until 1924 for the next major milestone to occur.  1st Lt. Russell L. Maughan, a U.S. Army Air Service test pilot made the first dusk-to-dawn transcontinental flight on June 23, 1924, departing New York’s Mitchel Field at 3:58 a.m. and arriving in San Francisco at Crissy Field at the Presidio at 9:46 p.m.

Today, there are dozens of transcontinental flights between airports in New York, Boston, Washington, and Philadelphia to west coast destinations including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, Portland, and of course Long Beach, where it all began.

Today numerous airlines including American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United, and Virgin America regularly fly transcontinental flights.

The first transatlantic flight took place in 1919 and took 23 days, a journey undertaken by the U.S. Navy with a Curtiss NC-4 seaplane.  The first non-stop flight was flown by British aviators Alcock and Brown in June 1919, flying a modified World War I Vickers Vimy bomber from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Ireland.  Regular passenger service across the Atlantic did not start until the late 1930s.

The City of Long Beach and Long Beach Airport are celebrating the transcon’s 100th anniversary with the installation of a one-third-sized replica of the Vin Fiz Flyer at the airport.

Accura News

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