Notes from the Past

Notes on the Vin Fiz Flyer
Part III

Cal Rodgers left Chicago in the afternoon of the day he arrived and headed west.  He overflew St. Louis, his planned next major stop, as a result of good tailwinds and landed in Marshall, Missouri, in the evening on October 10.  This completed 1,398 miles which broke the cross-country record set just two months before.  Rodgers arrived in Tucson on November and met Bob Fowler heading east.  Fowler had to restart his attempt from the west coast.  (Fowler did ultimately reach the Atlantic Coast at Jacksonville, Florida, on February 9, 1912, after 112 days.)

Cal's misadventures continued.  He arrived in Pasadena on Sunday, November 5, after no less than 15 major accidents and who-knows-how-many incidents in his 49 day adventure.  He had only been in the air 3 days 10 hours and 4 minutes in flying over his 4,321 mile route (he followed the railroad tracks to be near his support train).

Cal was now within a short distance of the Pacific and nothing would do but to continue on to the destination.  This turned out to be an unwise decision.  He took off from Tournament Park in Pasadena and probably expected to land soon at Long Beach.  Halfway there, a broken control cable was his undoing.  He had an 'overly hard' landing.  He didn't regain consciousness until the next day.  He woke up with two broken legs, several cracked ribs, burns, and extensive bruises.  Even this did not shake his resolution, "I am going to finish that flight and finish it with the same machine."

True to his word and will, the Vin Fiz flyer's remains were patched together (almost all of the parts had been replaced at least once by now) and on December 10, after a month's recuperation, Cal Rodgers and the Vin Fiz Flyer rose from an alfalfa field in Compton, California, headed to a landing on Long Beach before a crowd of 40,000 on the boardwalk.  He taxied on the beach and the plane was pushed until its wheels were in the surf.  Afterwards, Cal flew back to Pasadena.

The flight had taken Rodgers 84 days including the month's recuperation.  He was modest about his accomplishment, saying, "My record won't last long . . . the trip can easily be made in 30 days or less."

 (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 5, 2000

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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