National Geographic : 1924 Jul
THE NON-STOP FLIGHT ACROSS AMERICA sea-level at the Salton Sea. The T-2 passed the Salton Sea at an elevation of approximately 2,000 feet, and instead of going on south through the Imperial Valley to Yuma, a cut-off was made at Niland in an easterly direction to the Colorado River, which was crossed, and the course continued to the Gila River. The Gila was partially followed, crossed diagonally, and in a short time the South ern Pacific Railroad was picked up and followed. The pilots changed at the Colorado River. The proposed route would take the T-2 from Rockwell Field to Banning, Cali fornia, south to the lower end of the Salton Sea; thence southeast to the Southern Pacific Railroad; thence through Tucson, Arizona, to Deming, New Mex ico; northeast to Rincon, New Mexico; north to Estancia, New Mexico; thence to Santa Rosa, New Mexico; Tucumcari, New Mexico; Dalhart, Texas; Guymon, Oklahoma; Wichita, Kansas; St. Louis, Missouri; Terre Haute, Indiana; Indian apolis, Indiana; Dayton, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; New York, New York, and Mitchel Field, Long Island. Certain deflections, which are hereafter noted, were made from this route to meet emergencies. BUMPY FLYING AT LOW ALTITUDES As the country around Tucson was ap proached, it became a continuous strug gle, with the climb at practically the abso lute ceiling of the airplane, in order to cross over the high passes, mountains, and elevations, the passing of each ob stacle being doubtful. The atmosphere was very rough and bumpy, with numerous air currents, which would raise the airplane 100 feet or more at a time, sometimes possibly 200 or 300, and then let it down quickly, even though the same position or angle of climb of the machine was maintained. Many times it seemed that the T-2 would not be able to get over these high areas, but, apparently just as the summit was reached, one of the air currents com ing over the high elevation would raise the airplane just enough to clear the top. For long periods the T-2 was flown within 40 or 50 feet of the surface of the ground, more altitude being impos sible of attainment. This was especially noticeable over the large plains west of Deming, where a terrific wind from the south was blowing, causing the air to be extremely rough and bumpy. Flying under these conditions, with such a large and heavy airplane, was very fatiguing, as much physical exertion was required. At Deming an elevation of approxi mately 5,200 feet was attained. The air plane would go no higher at this point. I had been desirous of passing on to Lieu tenant Kelly as much altitude as possible, knowing that an elevation of 6,800 feet would be encountered within the ensuing few hours. Lieutenant Kelly took the controls after leaving Deming and attempted to follow the original course over the high elevations to the left of the Rio Grande, but after a half hour's flight it was plainly seen that the airplane would run into the ground if a straight course were continued, so he changed the route which had been previously planned and at tempted to fly up another valley consid erably to the right. This valley carried the airplane over the deserted alkali dry lakes and the vast snow-white salt marshes of New Mexico, and then over the Malapals, or ancient volcanic lava beds, stretching beneath for 80 or Ioo miles like a huge sheet covered with grotesque black tufts and masses. This was a very strange and picturesque part of the flight. The airplane was flown close to the mysterious black volcanic craters. It is improbable that airplanes have been through this region before, at least at such extremely low altitude, and the appearance of the T-2 just above the sur face of the ground caused great conster nation among the Indian tribes living in their mud huts and caves in this barren region of alkali and lava beds. It appeared that the airplane could not gain altitude sufficient to get over the country ahead, yet as each gallon of gasoline was consumed a few more feet of elevation were possible, due to the lightening of the load, and although it remained in flight hardly above the tops of the low hills and buttes, the airplane kept on until the higher elevations near Tecelote, New Mexico, were reached, and was being flown at an altitude of approximately 150 feet above the ground.