History Hour: 1st non-stop transcontinental flight on Fokker T-2
This article was written by Bryan R. Swopes and first published on This Day in Aviation. Read the original article here.
On May 2-3, 1923, the U.S. Army Air Service pilots Lieutenant John Arthur Macready and Lieutenant Oakley George Kelly made the first non-stop transcontinental flight with a “Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek” Fokker T-2 single-engine monoplane.
The two aviators took off from Roosevelt-Hazelhurst Field in Long Island, New York, at 12:30 p.m. ET and landed at Rockwell Field (now, Naval Air Station North Island) in San Diego, California, the next day at 12:26 p.m. PT. They had flown 2,470 miles (3,975 km) in 26 hours, 50 minutes and 38.8 seconds, with an average speed of 92 mph (148 kph).
Macready and Kelly had made two previous attempts, flying West-to-East to take advantage of prevailing winds and the higher octane gasoline available in California. The first flight was terminated by weather, and the second by engine failure.
For this flight, John Macready and Oakley Kelley won the 1923 Mackay Trophy. Macready had previously won the award in 1921 and 1922. He is the only pilot to have won it three times.
Lieutenants John A. Macready and Oakley G. Kelly with their Fokker T-2. (NASM)
The Fokker F.IV was built by Anthony Fokker’s “Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek” at Veere, the Netherlands, in 1921. The Air Service purchased two and designated the type T-2, with serial numbers A.S. 64233 and A.S. 64234.
Several modifications were made to prepare the T-2 for the transcontinental flight. Normally flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit, a second set of controls was installed so that the airplane could be controlled from inside while the two pilots changed positions. Additional fuel tanks were also installed in the wing and cabin.
The Fokker F.IV was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit which was offset to the left of the airplane’s centerline. The airplane was designed to carry 8–10 passengers in an enclosed cabin.
The F.IV was a scaled-up version of the preceding F.III. It was built of a welded tubular steel fuselage, covered with three-ply plywood. The wing structure had plywood box spars and ribs, and was also covered with three-ply plywood.
Fokker T-2 A.S. 64233 (FAI)
For its time, the Fokker was a large airplane. Measurements from the Fokker T-2 at the Smithsonian Institution are: 49 feet, 10 inches (15.189 m) long, with a wing span of 80 feet, 5 inches (24.511 m), and height 12 feet, 2 inches (3.708 m).
On this flight, it carried 735 gallons (2,782 liters) of gasoline in three fuel tanks. When it took off from Long Island, the gross weight of the T-2 was 10,850 lbs (4,922 kg), only a few pounds short of its maximum design weight.
The Fokker F.IV was offered with a choice of engines: A Rolls-Royce Eagle IX V-12, Napier Lion II “broad arrow” W-12, or Liberty L-12 V-12. The T-2 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Ford-built Liberty L-12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 5.4:1. (Serial number A.S. No. 5142). The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine.
Installed on the A.S. 64233, the engine turned a two-bladed Curtis fixed-pitch walnut propeller with a diameter of 10 feet, 5 inches (3.175 meters). The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 m) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 m) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 m) high. It weighed 844 lbs (383 kg).
Fokker T-2, A.S. 64223. (The biplane is a Verville-Sperry M-1.) (Harris & Ewing)
During testing to determine the feasibility of the flight, on April 16–17, 1923, Lieutenant Kelly and Lieutenant Macready set six Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for speed, distance and duration, flying the Fokker T-2.
At Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, they flew 1,553.428 miles (2,500 km) at an average speed of 51.83 mph (115.60 kkph); 1,864.114 miles (3,000 km) at 71.63 mph (115.27 kph); 2,174.799 miles (3,500 km) at 71.35 mph (114.82 kph); 2,485.485 miles (4,000 km) at 70.79 mph (113.93 kph).
The two aviators flew a total distance of 2,517 miles (4,050 km) and stayed aloft for 36 hours, 4 minutes, 34 seconds. Their overall average speed was 112.26 kilometers per hour (69.76 miles per hour) seconds.
The U.S. Army transferred the Fokker T-2 (A.S. 64223) to the Smithsonian Institution in January 1924. It is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.