Posted by: Democratic Thinker | October 4, 2014

Weekly Story: Great Transcontinental Air Race

Weekly Story

On October 8, 1919, the US Army initiates the first Transcontinental Air Race.

The Course of the Transcontinental Air Classic Is Dotted with Machines Which Came to Grief Because of Unsuitable Landing Places.


The Course of the Transcontinental Air Classic Is Dotted with Machines Which Came to Grief Because of Unsuitable Landing Places.


Air Race Across Continent.


Lieut. Maynard (at Right). Sergt. W. E. Kline and Their Mascot “Trixie”—the Pathfinders for Transcontinental Air Flights.

THE greatest endurance tests ever attempted by military airplanes began Oct. 8, 1919, when transcontinental flights by United States Army aviators were started simultaneously from New York and San Francisco by sixty-three planes. The rules of the race laid down three objectives: 1. The shortest airline time across the country. 2. Actual flying time. 3. Fastest flying time. Control stations were established in cities forming a chain across the country. The distance to be covered was 5,400 miles. Each machine, by actual test, was capable of attaining a minimum speed of 100 miles an hour.

The start occurred on schedule time, forty-eight contestants taking the air at Mineola, L. I., and fifteen from the West. The start was marred by three accidents, in which three of the aviators were killed and one injured. At sundown of the first day Lieutenant B. W. Maynard, a former Baptist minister, was in the lead. Various mishaps occurred to the two groups of planes flying respectively west and east, and other deaths occurred. After twenty-five hours’ flying at an average of 107 miles an hour Lieutenant Maynard maintained his early lead and landed on the Pacific Coast on Oct. 11 at 1:12 o’clock. Two easterly flying aviators, Major Carl Spatz and Lieutenant C. E. Kiel, landed at Mineola on the same day at 6 P. M., within thirty-one seconds of each other. In this first half of the race Lieutenant Maynard won first place, and Major Spatz the second.

Maynard started his return race on Oct. 14, and other aviators followed. New deaths occurred, bringing the death list to nine. Maynard was brought down by a broken crankshaft on Oct. 16, but by completing repairs in eighteen hours he was able to resume his flight, and eventually landed again at Mineola on Oct 19, to the cheers of enthusiastic crowds.

The actual result of the transcontinental flight was still in doubt when these pages went to press. The four closest contestants were Lieutenant Maynard, Lieutenant Alexander Pearson, Jr., Captain J. O. Donaldson, and Captain L. H. Smith. The time record for these aviators as given out by the War Department on Oct. 23, and from which, in actual flying time, Lieutenant Pearson appears to be the winner of the transcontinental air race, was as follows:

LIEUTENANT PEARSON—New York to San Francisco, 26 hours 45 minutes 52 seconds; San Francisco to New York, 21 hours 51 minutes 24 seconds. Total time, 48 hours 37 minutes 18 seconds.

LIEUTENANT DONALDSON — New York to San Francisco, 31 hours 37 minutes 19 seconds; San Francisco to New York, 25 hours 56 minutes 38 seconds. Total time, 57 hours 33 minutes 37 seconds.

CAPTAIN SMITH—New York to San Francisco, 26 hours 13 minutes 28 seconds; San Francisco to New York. 31 hours 37 minutes 19 seconds. Total time, 57 hours 50 minutes 47 seconds.

LIEUTENANT MAYNARD—New York to San Francisco, 25 hours 11 minutes 8½ seconds; San Francisco to New York, 41 hours 2 minutes 32 seconds. Total time, revised, 66 hours 13 minutes 48½ seconds.

These figures were taken from telegrams received by the Air Service, and it was explained that they would have to be revised on figures of the control stop commanders before the final award was definitely announced.

Current History, Vol. XI (Period Ended Oct. 25 1919).