Notes from the Past

Notes on the Vin Fiz Flyer
Part II

Cal Rodgers took off from Sheepshead Bay on September 17, 1911, flying over Brooklyn at an altitude of 800 feet in pursuit of the Hearst's $50,000 reward.  He crossed the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge and flew up Broadway to Madison Square where he turned west for New Jersey, He rendezvoused with the Vin Fiz train on the tracks of the Erie railroad, then flew north to Middleton, New York, where he landed smoothly at the fairgrounds.  He had gone 84 miles in 105 minutes including some time for rubbernecking.

The first day's flight was the last good day for quite a while.  The next day the plane's undercarriage didn't clear a willow tree on takeoff from Middleton and Cal was forced to cut the engine to fly under some power lines and crashed into a chicken coop.  The Vin Fiz flyer was badly damaged but the erstwhile mechanics were able to get it ready to fly again in forty hours.  Typical of the hazards of such flights, Jimmy Ward, another flyer, had to abandon the journey after crashing in Rathbone, New York, on the same day.

The trip to Chicago, the intermediate checkpoint on the flight, took Cal 21 days rather than the 4 days planned for the trip.  Cal survived two more crashes en route to Chicago.  Surprisingly, he had only been in the air 23 hours and 37 minutes between New York and Chicago.

Cal arrived in Chicago on Sunday, October 8, just short of the October 10 deadline Hearst had set for the entire transcontinental trip.  When reporters asked whether he would abandon the attempt to reach the west coast, he replied, "I am bound for Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean.  Prize or no prize, that's where I am bound . . . I mean to get there . . . I am going to cross this continent simply to be the first to cross in an aeroplane."  And continue he did.

 (to be continued)

-Excerpted from
AIR MAIL an illustrated history 1793 - 1981
Donald B. Holmes; edited and designed by Ladislav Svatos
Published 1981

  Posted February 4, 2000

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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