by Thomas L. Thacker
Col, USAF (Ret)
Three years before Lindbergh’s famous flight across the Atlantic, four airplanes belonging to the Army Air Service set off from Seattle in an attempt to fly around the world. After nearly six months en route, they established a record for open-cockpit aircraft that remains unbroken 75 years later.
The years following World War I were noted for aeronautical achievement with a succession of new records for speed, endurance, altitude and other challenging aspects of flight. One of the few endeavors not yet attempted was circumnavigation of the globe, though at least a half dozen countries were aspiring for this honor.
It was 1923 when the senior staff of the Army Air Service, the early predecessor of the Air Corps and the United States Air Force, decided that experience and technology were advanced sufficiently to justify the attempt. Accordingly, when the War Department gave its approvals planning was given top priority for the flight to take place in the spring of 1924.
Such a project would require support from many organizations, in this country and abroad. Resources of the US Navy, the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries would be required plus clearance and assistance from the many nations along the route where 52 foreign stops were projected. Maintenance personnel, fuel, spare parts and other resources had to be accurately positioned to be available when needed.
Story credit: Air Force Museum Foundation; http://www.afmuseum.com/