First Flight Round the World
In 1924 four Douglas World Cruisers and eight American crewmen set out from Seattle, Washington, to attempt the first around-the-world airplane flight. One hundred seventy-five days later three of the aircraft and crews became the first to circumnavigate earth. The Douglas World Cruiser biplane was a variant of the Navy's DT-2 torpedo bomber that could be operated either with wheels or floats. The prototype was delivered 45 days after the contract was let in summer 1923. Tests were successful, and four more aircraft were ordered. Each of the aircraft was named after a US city representing a compass point: Seattle, crewed by Maj. Frederick Martin (pilot and flight commander) and SSgt. Alva Harvey (flight mechanic); Chicago, crewed by Lt. Lowell H. Smith (pilot) and 1st Lt. Leslie Arnold; Boston, with 1st Lt. Leigh P. Wade (pilot) and SSgt. Henry H. Ogden aboard; and New Orleans, with Lt. Erik Nelson (pilot) and Lt. Jack Harding in the cockpits.
The success was largely a result of extensive planning; 30 spare engines were dispatched all over the world prior to the flight; with cooperation of the Royal Air Force and the US Navy, 28 nations supplied thousands of gallons of fuel and oil along the flight path.
The airplanes left Seattle, Washington, on 6 April 1924 and headed west, equipped with the latest navigational aids. Even so, fog, blizzards, thunderstorms and sand storms took a toll. On April 30, Seattle crashed in dense fog on a mountainside near Port Moller on the Alaska Peninsula. Major Martin and Sergeant Harvey hiked out of the wilderness. The remaining crews continued, flying on to Japan, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, Europe, England, and Ireland. On 3 August Boston was forced down in the North Atlantic, sinking in rough seas while being towed. A prototype was dispatched to Nova Scotia, where Lieutenant Wade and Sergeant Ogden renamed the aircraft Boston II and rejoined the flight. The crews stopped in several US cities and returned triumphantly to Seattle on 28 September.
The trip had totalled 175 days, covering 44 360 km (27,553 miles), with stops in 61 cities, the total flying time being 371 hours, 11 minutes.
Earlier, in 1931, ex-barnstormer Post and navigator Harold Gatty had thrilled the world by dashing around the globe in the Winnie Mae. The flight was not only a great technical achievement, but one which demanded extraordinary fortitude. For over 106 hours, neither Post nor Gatty had an opportunity to sleep. The flight's elapsed time of 8 days, 15 hours and 51 minutes far surpassed the previous record of 21 days set in 1929 by the airship Graf Zeppelin.
First Solo flight around the world
Nine years later, in 1933, it took another American, Wiley Post, only 7 days to be the first to fly solo around the world. Between July 15 and 22, Post covered 25 110 km (15,596 miles) in 7 days, 18 hours and 49 minutes in one of the most remarkable displays of flying endurance of the century. Post's single engine Lockheed Vega, the Winnie Mae was equipped with a Sperry automatic pilot, a radio direction finder, and other new devices.
First Non stop flight round the world
The first non-stop flight around the world was made by, again, a team of the US Air Force flyers in 1949. Taking off from Carswell Air Force base in Fort Worth, Texas on 26 February, Captain James Gallagher and a crew of 14 headed east in a B-50 Superfortress, called Lucky Lady II. They were refuelled four times in air by KB-29 tanker planes of the 43rd Air Refuelling Squadron, over the Azores, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Hawaii. The circumnavigation was completed on 2 March, having traveled 94 hours and 1 minute, covering 37 743 km (23,452 miles) at an average 398 km/h (249 mph).
Flight around the world, nonstop, non-refuelled
By 1986 designer Burt Rutan and pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager had devoted over five years to building and flight-testing the Voyager. The canard wing design, or forward elevator, similar to that successfully used by the Wright brothers in 1903, provided additional lift and improved the plane's efficiency and range. A preliminary sketch of the 1903 Wright Flyer was drawn on a brown paper bag in the Wrights' living quarters in 1902. Coincidentally, the first sketch of the Voyager was made on a paper lunch napkin in 1980.
Constructed of graphite composites, Voyager's total weight was 4 050 kg (9 000 pounds), including an unprecedented 3150 kg (7 000 pounds) of fuel. On 14 December 1986 Richard Rutan and Jeana Yeager took off from Edwards, California, piloting the Voyager from a cramped 2,3 m (7.5 ft) long, 1,1 m (3.3 ft) wide and 1m (3 ft) tall cockpit. Voyager's takeoff weight was more than 10 times the structural weight, but its drag was lower than almost any other powered aircraft. Voyager's wingtips sustained minor damage during its takeoff roll because of the massive amount of fuel. Approximately 75 cm (2.5 ft) of graphite skin was missing from the left wing's foam core.
Traveling at an average speed of 185 km/h (115.8 mph), it took the Voyager 9 days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds to become the first aircraft to circumnavigate the globe nonstop, non-refuelling. They triumphantly landed again at the Edwards Air Force Base at 8:06 a.m. PST 23 December 1987.
First around the world non stop, non refueled, solo
Between February 8, 2006 – February 11, 2006, Fossett flew the GlobalFlyer for the longest aircraft flight in history: 25,766 miles (41,467 km).
The Scaled Composites Model 311 Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer is an aircraft designed by Burt Rutan in which Steve Fossett flew the first solo nonstop airplane flight around the world in a time of 67 hours 1 minute from February 28, 2005 until March 3, 2005. The flight speed of 550.7 km/h (342.2 mph) broke the Absolute World Record for the fastest nonstop circumnavigation set by the previous Rutan-designed Voyager aircraft at 9 days 3 minutes and an average speed of 186.11 km/h (115.65 mph). The attempt was described as "the last great aviation record attempt".
The aircraft was owned by the pilot Steve Fossett, sponsored by Richard Branson's airline, Virgin Atlantic, and built by Burt Rutan's company, Scaled Composites. The companies had previously announced a combined effort for Virgin Galactic.
Notable aerial circumnavigations
- United States Army Air Service, 1924, first aerial circumnavigation, 175 days, covering 44,360 kilometres (27,553 miles).
- LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin, 1929, piloted by Hugo Eckener set a record for the fastest aerial circumnavigation, 21 days, which was also the first circumnavigation in an airship.
- On July 1, 1931, pilot Wiley Post and navigator Harold Gatty completed their circumnavigation of the world in a Lockheed Vega aeroplane, Winnie Mae, in 8 days, 15 hours and 51 minutes; the record for fastest circumnavigation was once again held by an aeroplane.
- In 1932 Wolfgang von Gronau flew around the World with a twin engine Dornier seaplane, Gronland-Wal D-2053, in nearly four months, making 44 stops en route. He was accompanied by co-pilot Gerth von Roth, mechanic Franzl Hack, and radio operator Frtiz Albrecht.
- In 1933 Wiley Post repeated his circumnavigation by aeroplane, but this time solo, using an autopilot and radio direction finder. He made the first solo aerial circumnavigation in a time one day faster than his previous record: 7 days, 19 hours, 49 minutes, in which he covered 25,110 kilometres (15,596 mi).
- In 1949 the United States Air Force B-50 Superfortress Lucky Lady II made the first non-stop aerial circumnavigation in 94 hours and 1 minute. Four in-air refuelings were required for the flight, which covered 37,743 kilometres (23,452 mi).
- In 1961 Yuri Gagarin made the first human flight in space, and completed the first orbit of the Earth, in Vostok 1.
- Geraldine Mock, 1964, first woman to complete a solo aerial circumnavigation.
- Don Taylor, 1976, first general aviation circumnavigation by homebuilt aircraft.
- Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, 1986, Voyager, first non-refueled circumnavigation in an airplane, 9 days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds.
- Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones, 1999, first non-stop balloon circumnavigation in Breitling Orbiter 3, 19 days, 1 hour and 49 minutes, covering 42,810 kilometres.
- Steve Fossett, 2 July 2002, first solo balloon circumnavigation.
- Steve Fossett, 3 March 2005, first non-stop, non-refueled solo circumnavigation in an airplane, 67 hours, covering 37,000 kilometres.
- Steve Fossett, 11 February 2006, longest non-stop, non-refueled solo flight (with circumnavigation) in an airplane, covering 42,469.5 kilometres (26,389.3 mi), in 76 hours and 45 minutes.