Famous Flights

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A chronological summary of flights

The index page gives access to a number of detailed descriptions of the most important flights made in Fokker aircraft. The summary below offers a comprehensive chronology of flights, including many details on those of lesser fame.


May 2, First non-stop flight across America
US Army Air Service lieutenants Oakley Kelly and John MacReady made the first non-stop coast to coast flight, flying from Roosevelt Field on Long Island to Rockwell Field near San Diego. The 2,650 mile journey took them 26 hours 50 minutes and some 600 gallons of fuel, at an average speed of just under 100 mph. The American press followed the flight with great interest and some saw it as "a page of history being turned". Their aircraft, a single-engine Fokker Army T-2, was actually an extensively modified F. IV airliner and is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.


October 1, First flight from Holland to the Dutch East Indies
Two days after Captain Van der Hoop and Lieutenant Van Weerden Poelman, along with engineer Van den Broeke, set off for Java in an F. VII their single engine quit and they made a forced landing in Bulgaria. The flight seemed to be over, but the enthusiastic Dutch public donated enough money for a replacement engine. It took almost a month to get there and then had to be fitted to the aircraft that was still stuck in the pasture. The crew managed to take off again and reached Batavia, now Jakarta, on November 24. Even though a ship would have been faster, to the Dutch public the flight seemed to usher in a new era in relations between the motherland and its faraway colony.


May 9, First flight over the North Pole
Just as polar veteran Roald Amundsen was preparing his airship "Norge" for an attempted first flight over the North Pole, an American team arrived at Spitzbergen with their F. VIIa-3m "Josephine Ford". The aircraft was quickly assembled and test-flown. Then a favourable weather forecast came in, and with Richard Byrd as commander and navigator and Floyd Bennett as pilot, the Fokker took off, anxiously watched by both Americans and Norwegians. After some 16 hours the two men returned with news that they had circled the North Pole. Amundsen was among the first to congratulate them. The historic aircraft is exhibited at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.


June 15, First return flight from Holland to the Dutch East Indies
The first flight to the Dutch East Indies, in 1924, had shown the difficulties that a regular service would encounter. Therefore, no more attempts were made until, three years later, American millionaire Van Lear Black entered the scene. He chartered a KLM plane for several flights in Europe and was so impressed that he wanted to be flown to the Dutch East Indies as well. Pilots Geysendorffer and Scholte, accompanied by engineer Weber, proved up to the challenge. Of course, Dutch tax payers loved it. It was basically a trial flight, like the one in 1924, but this, the first intercontinental charter flight in history, had been paid for by a passenger!

June 28, First flight from California to Hawaii
The C-2 "Bird of Paradise", piloted by US Army Air Corps lieutenants Lester Maitland and Albert Hegenberger, completed the 2,407-mile flight over the Pacific in 25 hours and 50 minutes. The wireless receiver that was meant to guide them to the Hawaii directional transmitter failed shortly after their take-off from Oakland, but they managed to find the island, a "speck" in the ocean, by using the traditional navigational methods.

June 29, Third flight across the Atlantic
After his flight over the North Pole, Richard Byrd entered the frenzied competition for the Orteig prize. After lenghty preparations, he decided to go ahead with his plans even though the prize had already been awarded to Charles Lindbergh for his New York to Paris flight. Byrd's effort in the C-2 "America", with Bert Acosta and Bernt Balchen as pilots and George Noville as engineer and wireless operator, ended after 46 hours with a ditch landing just off Ver-sur-Mer, France. They had spent 6 hours trying to find Paris in dense fog.

August 31, First Atlantic attempt by a woman
After a number of successful Atlantic crossings by men, the race was on to be the first woman to perform the feat. Sixty-two year old Anne Löwenstein-Wertheim, daughter of the Count of Mexborough and a princess through her marriage to a German prince, had been one of the first women to fly across the English Channel and thought this would do nicely for a sequel.
She ordered an F. VII, fitted it with a wicker airchair for herself and found Imperial Airways pilots Frederick Minchin and Leslie Hamilton willing to fly it. Called the "St. Raphael", it was blessed by the Bishop of Cardiff, and took off from Upavon Airport, in Wiltshire, bound for Ottawa. It was sighted over Ireland and the mid-Atlantic, but after that nothing was ever heard or seen of it. The plane and its crew had suffered the fate of so many others in those years of Atlantic madness.

September 6, Atlantic attempt
To promote his New York newspaper "Daily Mirror", William Randolph Hearst came up with a plan for a non-stop flight to Rome. He provided pilots Lloyd Bertaud and James Hill with the F. VII "Old Glory" and the paper's managing director Philip Payne announced he would join the flight. However, with the steadily growing number of fatalities over the Atlantic Hearst began to have second thoughts about the venture.
The crew remained completely confident and announced that halfway across the Atlantic they would drop a wreath in commemoration of French pilots Nungesser and Coli. After their take-off from Old Orchard Beach, Maine, radio reports indicated that all was well on board, until some sixteen hours into the flight an S.O.S. was heard. Five days later, the Canadian vessel "Kyle", chartered by Hearst, found a section of the wing. The crew had joined Nungesser and Coli's watery grave, sad proof of how right Hearst's misgivings had been.

September 16, East to West Atlantic attempt
Imperial Airways captain Robert MacIntosh and Irish Free State Air Force commander James Fitzmaurice were the third crew in just over two weeks to set off over the Atlantic in an F. VIIa but they wanted to be the first to make the more difficult westward crossing. American millionaire W.B. Leeds helped finance the flight and in honor of his Russian-born wife, the aircraft was called "Princess Xenia".
They took off from Baldonnel Airport, near Dublin, Ireland, aiming at the $25,000 prize for a succesful non-stop flight to Philadelphia. Apparently unaware that the award had been withdrawn in response to the souring public opinion about the Atlantic fever, they never came close to making it anyway. Two hours after their departure, they encountered turbulent headwinds which drastically cut their speed and made it almost impossible to maintain the proper heading. After struggling for about an hour, they decided to return, only to find that the weather in Ireland had also deteriorated, to the extent that they were forced to land on a beach.
Further attempts with the "Princess Xenia" were postponed and finally cancelled, but Commander Fitzmaurice would fulfil his ambitions in 1928 in the Junkers W 33 "Bremen". Together with the Germans Hermann Köhl and Günther Baron von Hünefeld, he reached Labrador, 37 hours after take-off from Baldonnel, after the first successful westward Atlantic crossing.

October 1, First return mail flight from Holland to the Dutch East Indies
Plans for regular flights to connect Holland and its colony were taking shape, but the two previous flights to what is now Indonesia had shown the drawbacks of flying single-engined aircraft. Flight-lieutenant Koppen offered to make a trial flight in an F. VIIa-3m trimotor. Fokker made a plane available for the effort and sent engineer Elleman to join the team, which was complemented by KLM-pilot Frijns. The flight was a complete success and thus showed that aviation had matured to the point that long-distance flights could be made with the punctuality and reliability required for passengers.


May 31, First flight across the Pacific
After several attempts at breaking the endurance record in his F. VIIb-3m "Southern Cross", Australian pilot Charles Kingsford-Smith had gained the confidence that "the Old Bus" could carry him across the Pacific. Accompanied by co-pilot Charles Ulm, and the Americans Harry Lyon and James Warner as navigator and wireless operator, he set off from San Fransico and reached Honolulu after 27 hours. The next leg to Suva, Fiji, turned out to be a 34-hour-battle with a failing radio, an engine running bad and storms that forced them off course a number of times. On the final flight they encountered even heavier storms, but the aircraft and its crew survived and they touched down at Brisbane after 21 hours.

June 17, First flight across the Atlantic by a woman
Amy Guest, American wife of British Secretary for Air Frederick Guest, bought an F. VIIb-3m, called it "Friendship", and hired pilot Wilmer Stulz to fly her across the Atlantic. However, her husband convinced her that the odds were against her safely making it. They went in search of a replacement woman, and found one Amelia Earhart willing to risk it. With Louis Gordon as engineer they took off from Newfoundland and some 25 hours later they landed in Wales. Amelia Earhart's experience so far had been in light aircraft and therefore she hadn't touched the controls. Nevertheless, she received most of the glory. Unwilling to go down in history as the first female passenger to cross the Atlantic, she made the first solo crossing by a woman in 1932.

September 10, First flight from Australia to New Zealand
After his succesful flight across the Pacific, Charles Kingsford-Smith set out to be the first to reach New Zealand by air. The "Southern Cross", again co-piloted by Charles Ulm, and with navigator H.A. Litchfield and New Zealander T.H. McWilliams as wireless operator, took off from Richmond Airfield near Sydney for Christchurch. The Tasman Sea, notorious for its severe weather conditions, lived up to its reputation, but after 14 hours of severe turbulence and the occasional thunderstorm they safely reached New Zealand.


June 25, Record flight from Australia to England
With the good old "Southern Cross" and the same crew as on the flight from Australia to New Zealand, Kingsford-Smith's next aim was to reach England by air. Their first attempt resulted in a crash in a remote corner of North West Australia and a lengthy rescue operation. Undaunted by the ordeal, after repairs on the plane were completed the same crew set off again in the same direction. This time there were no problems to speak of and in a record time of 12 days and 18 hours they arrived at Croydon.


January 8, First flight over Mount Kilimanjaro
During the winter of 1929-1930, Swiss explorer and photographer Walter Mittelholzer piloted the F. VII-3m chartered by Baron de Rothschild for a safari through Africa. Mittelholzer had been to Africa before, but this time his aircraft was fitted with powerful enough engines to attempt a flight over Africa's highest mountain. After struggling with severe downdrafts south of the mountain, the upcurrents north of it enabled his pilot Alfred Künzle to climb to 21,100 feet. There, Mittelholzer took the first ever pictures of the Kibo crater on top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

April 10, Record flight from Engeland to South Africa
Mary, Duchess of Bedford, had a passion for flying and money to spare. So, after gaining experience in smaller aircraft, she bought an F. VIIa for some serious flying. Her aircraft was the former "Princess Xenia" (see September 16, 1927), now called "Spider", and piloted by Barnard and Little she first made a return flight to Karachi and then to South Africa. The outbound flight to Capetown was made in a record 10 days.

June 24, Westward across the Atlantic
On his world-tour in the F. VIIb-3m "Southern Cross", Charles Kingsford-Smith reached Harbor Grace in Newfoundland some 32 hours after take-off from Portmarnock Beach, Ireland. Accompanied by Dutch KLM pilot Evert van Dijk, navigator Jonathan Saul of the Irish Free State Army Air Corps and New Zealander John Stannage to operate the radio, his was only the second flight to make the more difficult East to West crossing non-stop. But unlike its predecessor the "Bremen", the "Southern Cross" arrived in one piece and the foursome continued the next day for New York, where they received an enthousiastic welcome.


December 18, Record return flight from Holland to the Dutch East Indies
After a number of trial flights, KLM established a regular service to the Dutch East Indies in 1930. At the time, it was the longest route in the world, taking some ten days one-way. But it could be done faster, as was shown by captain Iwan Smirnoff, co-pilot Soer, wireless operator Van Beukering and engineer Grosfeld, in KLM's regular F. XVIII airliner "Pelikaan", albeit without passengers. They carried tens of thousands of Christmas cards from Holland to Java in a record time of only four days, and after a few days' rest, they completed the return flight in about the same time.


December 15, First flight from Holland to the Dutch West Indies
The Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, were reached by air ten years before an attempt was made to fly to the Dutch West Indies in the Caribbean. Main obstacle was crossing the South-Atlantic, still considered a major risk in those days. But the crew, captain Hondong, co-pilot Van Balkom, engineer Stolk and wireless operator Van der Molen, considered their KLM F. XVIII airliner "Snip", fitted with extra fuel tanks, reliable enough to undertake the journey. Their flight, via Casablanca and Porto Praia, took them first to Paramaribo, capital of Dutch Guyana, now Surinam, and ended at Curacao.


August 23, First auto-land
The first ever completely automatic landing was made in a C. 14, the designation given by the US Army Air Corps to their converted American-built F. 14 airliners. The aircraft was flown by Captains Carl Crane and George Holloman, director and assistant director of the Air Corps' instrument and navigation laboratory and project engineer Raymond Stout. That is to say, they flew it until the automatic system took over, some 20 miles out of Wright Field at Dayton, Ohio. The system consisted of radio instruments to track a beam sent from the ground, gyroscopes to hold the aircraft on a steady heading and electrically powered control surfaces. Modern auto-land equipment is still largely based on these same principles.

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