National Geographic : 1924 Jul
THE NON-STOP FLIGHT ACROSS AMERICA whether we had come all the way across the continent to find that the plane would not even move on the ground with the heavy load. It began to move very slowly forward, plainly showing the enormous weight that it was attempting to lift. After a run of a trifle less than a mile the airplane slowly lifted from the ground and continued very gradually to gain alti tude, until a left turn was made to avoid hitting Point Loma. After this turn down wind the airplane started to settle and continued to do so, despite all efforts of the pilot, until dangerously close to the ocean. Two complete circles of the island were made before an altitude of 200oo feet was reached and the nose pointed in the direc tion of the proposed transcontinental non stop flight. NO WISH TO COMMIT SUICIDE IN A FOG Temecula Pass is 50 miles from San Diego. The T-2 had slowly and carefully obtained an altitude of 1,700 feet when the pass was reached. Here fog was en countered. This at first did not appear dangerous and the climb was continued. We dived blindly into the white mass and came through the cloud and pass with a short stretch of lower, open, rolling coun try ahead. From Temecula Pass the route was al most northeast of San Jacinto; then over a narrow stretch of mountains and foot hills to Banning, at an elevation of 2,700 feet. Banning is at the rough, broken upper end of a valley which descends to below sea-level in Salton Sea, north of Imperial Valley. Trouble would be over if this high point could be negotiated. Between Temecula and San Jacinto the terrain slopes gradually up to the north and is dotted with mounds or foothills. The route was continued until a point near San Jacinto was reached. Here the ground extended into the fog. Kelly and I were a couple of young fel lows who enjoy living to the fullest extent and we had absolutely no intention of committing suicide. To attempt to fly through those winding mountain passes at a speed of Ioo miles per hour, with a heavy, loggy plane loaded to capacity, in a fog so dense that one could not see 50 feet ahead, would have been about the same as putting the muzzle of a loaded gun up to the side of your head and pull ing the trigger. After dodging the foothills for one hour, hoping that the fog would dissipate or break, and with little apparent chance of getting through the more rugged and higher country ahead, it was decided to return to Rockwell Field and try for the world's endurance record for airplanes. This decision, though hard to make, seemed the only sensible thing to do. The hour's delay north of Temecula meant that the T-2 would not be out of the mountain passes of New Mexico before dark. The gasoline supply had also been wasted, thus impairing the chance of reaching New York. The endurance flight would provide a means of securing reliable information regarding gasoline, water and oil con sumption, and data on the performance of the airplane when loaded. This last was especially desirable, as it would be necessary to reach an altitude of 6,800 feet at Santa Rosa, New Mexico, after nine hours' flying. There was also the uncertainty of landing the transport with this load. However, the primary reason for stay ing in the air for two long days and a night was because we did not have the nerve to return to San Diego at once after being hand-shaked, slapped on the back by many friends, and started for New York with all proper ceremony and eclat. On returning to Rockwell Field, the following message was dropped: CAPTAIN R. G . ERVIN, Commanding Officer, Rockwell Field: Impossible to get through mountain passes with heavy load on account of dense fog at ground and aloft. An hour and a half wasted in attempting to get through, with no sign of clearing. Cannot now reach the high altitudes south of Tucumcari, New Mexico, by nightfall. We are attempting to break the world's endurance record for air planes and will make the transcontinental non-stop flight later. Please get in touch with the representatives of the National Aeronautical Association and take the steps necessary to authenticate a world's airplane endurance record, should the attempt prove successful, and also wire this information to the Commanding Officer, McCook Field. MACREADY.