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Douglas Around the World Flight — first among many

6 April 2015

Douglas Around the World Flight — first among many

Douglas World Cruiser symbol for the historic flight — photo by Joseph May

Douglas World Cruiser symbol especially designed for this historic flight — photo by Joseph May

Largely forgotten today, the Flight Around the World (175 days in 1924) was a first and brought long lasting recognition as well as good will from across most of the world for the United States. Though taking a long time by today’s standards these aviators were intrepid, skillful and brave. Each aircraft required a mechanic such were the reliability and endurance issues of the day and the mission would require several engine changes. Facilities were lacking, as were airfields and maps, so much of the flying was over what would be considered remote territory. The Seattle crashed into an unmapped mountain in low visibility. Perhaps unheard of today, it was routine to fly in mountainous terrain unsure of the features back in the day.

Route of the Record Setting Douglas World Cruisers — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Route of the Record Setting Douglas World Cruisers — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Hot or cold the aircrew lived in the elements in their open cockpits and there was no autopilot available so the hours of flying were all active flying. The lack of airfields meant many of the refueling and service locations were alongside U.S. Navy vessels. Each crew must have paid special attention to the engine as a forced landing more often than not would place them amidst dangerous wildlife like tigers, bears and crocodiles.

Indeed, the accomplishment was extraordinary in many senses. It should be remembered as well as the time when populations would come together to witness and celebrate human achievement without overshadowing political or commercial messages.

Douglas World Cruiser 1924 — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Douglas World Cruisers aloft in 1924 — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Douglas World Cruiser 1924 — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

The aviators Harding, Nelson, Wade, Martin, Arnold, Smith as well as the alternate Schultze, of the First Flight Around the World (black arm bands are for respecting President Woodrow Wilson’s death) — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Douglas World Cruiser 1924 — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Signed Douglas World Cruiser photo — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Douglas World Cruiser 1924 — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Douglas World Cruiser Boston being taken under tow — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Douglas World Cruiser 1924 — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Douglas World Cruiser on the water in 1924 — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Douglas World Cruiser 1924 — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Douglas World Cruiser in flight — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Douglas World Cruiser 1924 — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Douglas World Cruisers at the start in 1924 — San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive photo

Douglas World Cruise diorama at the North Pacific Trading Co. at the NASM on the Mall — photo by Joseph May

Douglas World Cruise diorama at the North Pacific Trading Co. at the NASM on the Mall — photo by Joseph May

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