Washington

First Round-
the-World Flight Departs from and Arrives in Seattle


In 1924 four Douglas World Cruisers and eight American crewmen set out from Seattle, Washington, to attempt the first around-the-world airplane flight. One hundred seventy-five days later, three of the aircraft and crews became the first to circumnavigate earth.

The Douglas World Cruiser biplane was a variant of the Navy's DT-2 torpedo bomber that could be operated either with wheels or floats. The prototype was delivered 45 days after the contract was let in summer 1923. Tests were successful, and four more aircraft were ordered. Each of the aircraft was named after a US city representing a compass point: Seattle, crewed by Maj. Frederick Martin (pilot and flight commander) and SSgt. Alva Harvey (mechanic); Chicago, crewed by Lt. Lowell H. Smith (pilot) and 1st Lt. Leslie Arnold; Boston, with 1st Lt. Leigh P. Wade (pilot) and SSgt. Henry H. Ogden aboard; and New Orleans, with Lt. Erik Nelson (pilot) and Lt. Jack Harding in the cockpits.

The success was largely a result of extensive planning; 30 spare engines were dispatched all over the world prior to the flight; with co-operation of the Royal Air Force and the US Navy, 28 nations supplied thousands of gallons of fuel and oil along the flight path.

Douglas Word Cruiser
The Douglas World Cruiser was a two-place biplane with a 50-foot wing span, powered by a 420 horsepower Liberty engine. Based on the Cloudster and DT designs, five planes were built for the Aviation Service of the U.S. Army. In 1924, two were flown 28,945 miles around the world in 175 days.
World Cruiser at Smithsonian

1993 Smithsonian Institution

"The Chicago" (pictured above) was restored in 1971-1974 and moved into the new National Air and Space Museum building in 1976. Of the five Douglas World Cruisers built, the New Orleans is the only other survivor. It is in the collection of the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

 

Aviation Firsts Logo

The airplanes left Seattle, Washington, on April 6, 1924, and headed west, equipped with the latest navigational aids. Even so, fog, blizzards, thunderstorms and sand storms took a toll. On April 30, Seattle crashed in dense fog on a mountainside near Port Moller on the Alaska Peninsula. Major Martin and Sergeant Harvey hiked out of the wilderness. The remaining crews continued, flying on to Japan, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, Europe, England, and Ireland. On August 3, Boston was forced down in the North Atlantic, sinking in rough seas while being towed. A prototype was dispatched to Nova Scotia, where Lieutenant Wade and Sergeant Ogden renamed the aircraft Boston II and rejoined the flight. The crews stopped in several U.S. cities and returned triumphantly to Seattle on September 28.

The trip had totaled 175 days, covering 27,553 miles, with stops in 61 cities, the total flying time being 371 hours, 11 minutes.

The 1924 round-the-world flight remains one of the truly great achievements in aviation. More than just an aviation milestone, the flight was an important step toward the goal of world-wide air transport in the decades to come.