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1923 US Army Air Service photo

March 1925 - story of 12 U. S. Army Air Service Curtiss P-8 Pursuit aircraft flying from Selfridge Field to Hialeah Airport

Unknown location - photo only for story reference


This story is from an Air Force website located at: http://www.127wg.ang.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123378323

The photo of a Curtiss P-8 Pursuit aircraft is from: http://aviadejavu.ru/Site/Crafts/Craft31032.htm which contains all kinds of details about the Curtiss P-8 Pursuit aircraft.

April 2, 1925

The Selfridge Field Flight to Miami

The most outstanding feature of this flight was the fact that for the first time in the history of aeronautics twelve planes flew 2900 miles at an average speed of 130 miles an hour.

Major Thomas G. Lanphier, Commanding Officer of the Flight, submitted a brief story of the flight, many features of which were overlooked by the press, owing to the much published dawn to dusk features of the flight. Major Lanphier states that while in Washington the Chief of Air Service expressed the desire that the flight should again be attempted and a second attempt may be made in April so that it would not interfere with any part of the training program of the First Pursuit Group. As the days are becoming longer it is believed that with favorable weather no difficulty would be experienced in getting the planes through in one day.

The pilots participating in the flight, in addition to Major Lanphier, were Lieuts. Thomas K. Matthews, T.E. Tillinghast, Cyrus Bettis, J. Thad Johnson, Alfred J. Lyon, Sam L. Ellis, Russell L. Meredith, Leland C. Hurd, E.V. Whitehead, Clyde K. Rich and R.J. Minty.

The total lapse of time for the flight was eight days. The planes were in the air four days of this time. There was one day's rest at Macon, Ga., one at Miami, Florida, one at Langley Field, V.a, and one at Washington D.C.

Never before in the history of aeronautics have so many planes undertaken such great distances and accomplished them in such a short space of time. The total flying time for the twelve planes between Detroit and Miami, a distance of 1300 miles, was 9 hours, showing that had the proper facilities been provided at the stopping points the trip could easily have been made during the daylight hours of one day.

One of the remarkable facts demonstrated by this flight was the reliability of the modern airplane. The planes used in this flight were the latest type Pursuit plane which this Government owns. They are called the Curtiss Pursuit plane, built in the summer of 1924 and delivered to the Government in August last.

Major Lanphier's story of the flight is as follows:

Twelve planes of the First Pursuit Group stationed at Selfridge Field, Mount Clemens, Mich., completed at four o'clock Monday afternoon, March 9, 1925, the longest flight ever made by that number of planes. The total distance covered by these planes was 2,840 miles. The distance was covered in 21 hours and 55 minutes flying time.

These plans took off from Selfridge Field on the morning of February 28th just before dawn and landed at Wilbur Wright Field, Fairfield, Ohio, over 200 miles distant, in 1 hour and 30 minutes. The only serious mishap of the flight took place at this field when in landing the landing gear of Lieut. Whitehead's plane struck a road and the plane was so damaged it was necessary to send for replacement in order for him to continue the trip.

Some delay was experienced at Dayton in getting the planes started owing to the extreme cold weather, the temperature being at that time 16 degrees above zero. The departure from Dayton was made at 10:55 and the flight was headed for Macon, Georgia, over a new route connecting Dayton with the South.

After leaving the Ohio River the country over which the planes flew became very rough and in Tennessee very mountainous. The route chosen by the flight took it around the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee through passes on both sides of which high mountains extended far above the altitude at which the planes were flying. The atmosphere on this part of the flight was very hazy due to low barometric pressure and dense smoke which was caused by numerous forest fires in the mountains in that vicinity. The flight on this part of the trip was blazing a new trail. None of the pilots had ever flown over that section of the country. Georgia from the air presents one of the most forbidding landscapes for an aviator than practically any State in the Union. There is very little level country in the northern part of the state and practically all of the land is heavily wooded. Landing fields between the Ohio River and Macon, Ga., were so rare as to be almost negligible. Owing to the fact that distinctive landmarks, for instance railroads, were very few in that section of the country the compass course was flown almost exclusively. The last real check which the flight had was on the Tennessee River. After leaving that river it was necessary to rely upon the compass almost entirely until reaching Macon, Ga.

When the vicinity of Macon was reached no distinguishing landmarks appeared which could give the pilots assurance that they were near Macon. Therefore, in order to make certain that no time would be lost, the Flight Commander landed and found that the flight was within 40 miles of Macon and practically on its course. Some twenty minutes was lost on this account. While the Flight Commander was on the ground the remainder of the flight circled in formation overhead. The flight was immediately resumed and landed at Macon at four o'clock.

During this entire leg of the flight head winds were encountered at all altitudes up to 8,000 feet. For a great part of the flight it was found that between 6,000 and 8,000 feet the head winds were not so strong and therefore, that altitude was maintained until the haze became so thick it was necessary to descend to a lower altitude in order to keep in contact with the ground.

Owing to the lateness of the hour of landing at Macon and the fact that the field at Miami was unknown to everyone except the Flight Commander, and also in view of the fact that heavy rains were reported in southern Georgia and northern Florida, it was decided to remain over at Macon and not attempt to continue the flight, which would have necessitated flying at night during the last part of the flight and landing at a strange field after dark. This decision was arrived at by the Flight Commander after considering the above facts and feeling the responsibility that the lives of the men who were with him rested in his hands and that he could not excuse himself for any undue risk that they might undergo by landing at Miami after dark.

The next day, being Sunday, was employed in tuning up the planes and getting them ready for the remainder of the trip. The flight took off from Macon at 9:30 a.m. Monday, March 2nd, and made excellent progress owing to the fact that a strong north wind was blowing at 3,000 feet. In fact, the first hour out of Macomb the flight covered 215 miles.

At Jacksonville, Florida, the weather began to get thick. The course of the flight from Jacksonville led over St. Augustine to the Atlantic Coast, thence down the coast to Miami, At Daytona a severe rain was encountered, forcing the planes down to an altitude of 200 feet, and from that point to Palm Beach the planes were flying continuously in a heavy tropical downpour. At Palm Beach the weather cleared and when we sighted Miami, 3 hours and 30 minutes after we had taken off from Macon, the skies were clear and the much boasted sunshine of Southern Florida was smiling on that city. After maneuvering for a short time over the City of Miami the flight landed at Hialeah Field, Miami.

Upon landing the pilots were immediately received by a committee of the Chamber of Commerce of Miami and also a committee representing the City of Detroit, headed by Commodore Schantz and Gar Wood of that city. The pilots were immediately taken to the Jockey Club (later named Hialeah Park) nearby, given a luncheon and invited to attend the races.

Our stay at Miami was most delightful. Everything possible was done for our entertainment. We attended a dinner dance at the Gables Country Club on Monday night. On Tuesday, after devoting the morning to working on our ships and getting them in shape for the return flight, some of the officers attended the races in the afternoon and some went for a speed boat ride in Gar Wood's "Baby Gar." In the evening we attended a Jai-lai game. Afterwards we attended a cabaret and dance.

On Tuesday morning, telegraphic orders were received from the Chief of Air Service directing the flight to proceed to Augusta, Georgia, on Wednesday and from there to Langley Field, Va., on Thursday, March 5th, in order to be present for an anti-aircraft demonstration to be held at Langley Field on the 6th.

Much loath to leave Miami, the flight took off from Hialeah Field at twelve o'clock March 4th. After forming, the twelve planes maneuvered over the City of Miami and Miami Beach and thirty minutes later headed north for Augusta, Ga., along the beach. At Daytona, Lieut. Rich developed slight motor trouble and landed. The rest of the flight continued on to Augusta and landed here after being four hours in the air. The distance covered on this leg was 550 miles. The stay at Augusta afforded the pilots an opportunity to rest after their strenuous time at Miami. The flight waited the next day until twelve o'clock for Lieut. Rich, who landed at that time. His ship was immediately serviced and the flight took off for Langley Field at one o'clock.

During this part of the flight from Augusta to Langley Field, probably the most severe flying conditions were encountered. After leaving Fayetteville, N.C. the planes were forced down by rain and low clouds to just over the tree tops. This condition grew worse as the flight approached the James River and Suffolk, Va. The planes were forced down to just above the smokestacks and buildings while passing over that town. The flight arrived at Langley Field about five o'clock. They came in over the hangars in formation much to the surprise of everyone at the field who believed it impossible for the Group to get through the storm which was raging at that place. During this whole flight a strong head wind was encountered which cut down the speed of the planes to approximately 100 miles per hour.

On the morning of Mach 6th, the flight proceeded to Bolling Field, D.C., and after resting over Sunday, took off on Monday morning at ten thirty for home. After forming over Bolling Field, the flight maneuvered over Washington for some twenty minutes and then headed off over the Potomac River in the direction of Pittsburgh the weather became thick and the planes were again forced down to the tree tops and from there until Toledo was reached were forced to fly in heavy rains and fog. From Toledo to Mount Clemens the weather cleared. This flight was conducted by 14 planes. Of the two planes in addition to the twelve that were with the flight, one was forced to land at Attica, Ohio, and the other at Toledo because of motor trouble. The original twelve planes came home without mishap.


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