Transcontinental flight

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A transcontinental flight commonly refers to, in North America, a non-stop passenger flight between an airport on the West Coast of the United States or Canada, and an airport on the East Coast of the United States or Canada, or, more generally, between any two airports at opposite, often coastal locations on a particular continent.


The first transcontinental flight across the United States[clarification needed] was made in 1911 by Calbraith Perry Rodgers in an attempt to win the Hearst prize offered by publisher William Randolph Hearst. Hearst offered a $US 50,000 prize to the first aviator to fly coast to coast, in either direction, in less than 30 days from start to finish. Previous attempts by James J. Ward and Henry Atwood had been unsuccessful.

Rodgers persuaded J. Ogden Armour, of Armour and Company, to sponsor the flight, and in return he named the plane after Armour's grape soft drink "Vin Fiz". Rodgers left from Sheepshead Bay, New York, on September 17, 1911, at 4:30 pm, carrying the first transcontinental mail pouch. He crossed the Rocky Mountains on November 5, 1911, and landed at Tournament Park in Pasadena, California, at 4:04 pm, in front of a crowd of 20,000 people. He had missed the prize deadline by 19 days. He was accompanied on the ground by a support crew that repaired and rebuilt the plane after each crash landing. The trip required 70 stops.

On December 10, 1911, he flew to Long Beach, California, and symbolically taxied his plane into the Pacific Ocean.


Transcontinental air speed record[edit]

In-flight and on-ground time are counted after the earliest flights

Year Date Time Direction Pilot Aircraft Notes and reference
1911 September 17, 1911 3 days, 10 hours, 14 minutes East to West Calbraith Perry Rodgers Vin Fiz Flyer The first transcontinental flight. It took fifty days (3 days, 10 hours, 14 minutes actual flying time). Rodgers made it in some seventy hops, flying a Wright biplane which was damaged and repaired so many times en route that nothing remained of the original machine at the finish but the drip pan and the vertical rudder.
1919 October 11, 1919 3 days, 3 hours, 5 minutes [1][permanent dead link] East to West Belvin W. Maynard DH-4 On the first leg of the "Transcontinental Air Race of 1919" which saw 33 planes cross the U.S. with 8 completing the round-trip (out of 67 which began the trip). Nine deaths occurred during what was officially the U.S. Army's "Transcontinental Reliability and Endurance Test"
1922 September 4, 1922 21 hours, 19 minutes East to West Jimmy Doolittle DH-4 Pablo Beach, Florida, to San Diego, California, with only one refueling stop [2]
1923 May 2–3, 1923 26 hours, 50 minutes, 38.4 seconds East to West Lt John A. Macready and Lt Oakley G. Kelly Fokker T-2 First nonstop transcontinental flight: Roosevelt Field, Long Island to Rockwell Field, North Island, San Diego. Longest straight-line distance covered nonstop until then[11]
1924 June 23, 1924 20 hours, 48 minutes East to West Russell Maughan Curtiss P-1 Hawk First transcontinental flight "during hours of daylight". See also: Dawn-to-dusk transcontinental flight across the United States, New York City to San Francisco, average speed 128 miles per hour
1929 February 4, 1929 18 hours, 22 minutes West to East Frank Hawks Lockheed Air Express Los Angeles to New York City with mechanic Oscar Grubb
1929 June 27, 1929 19 hours, 10 minutes East to West Frank Hawks Lockheed Air Express[12] New York City to Los Angeles[13]
1929 June 28, 1929 17 hours, 36 minutes West to East Frank Hawks Lockheed Air Express Los Angeles to New York City
1929 August 15, 1929 120 hours, 1 minutes 40 seconds[14] West to East and East to West Nick Mamer and Art Walker Buhl Airsedan "Spokane Sun-God" First non-stop transcontinental round-trip flight from Spokane, Washington to New York City and back
1930 April 20, 1930 14 hours, 45 minutes West to East Charles A. Lindbergh Lockheed Sirius Los Angeles to New York City.[15]
1930 May 27, 1930 18 hours, 43 minutes East to West Roscoe Turner Lockheed Air Express New York City to Los Angeles with 3 passengers.[16]
1930 Aug 13, 1930 12 hours, 25 minutes West to East Frank Hawks Travel Air "Mystery S" Los Angeles to New York City.[17][18]
1931 September 4, 1931 11 hours, 16 minutes, 10 seconds West to East Jimmy Doolittle 1931 Laird Super Solution Completed for a bonus prize after winning the inaugural Bendix Trophy race, Los Angeles to Newark, averaged 217 miles per hour [3]
1932 August 29, 1932 10 hours, 19 minutes West to East Jimmy Haizlip Wedell-Williams Model 44 Completed after winning the 2nd annual Bendix Trophy race.[19]
1932 November 14, 1932 12 hours, 33 minutes East to West Roscoe Turner Wedell-Williams Model 44 New York City to Burbank, California[20]
1933 July 1, 1933 11 hours, 30 minutes East to West Roscoe Turner Wedell-Williams Model 44 New York to Burbank, California[21]
1933 September 2, 1934 10 hours, 2 minutes, 39 seconds West to East Roscoe Turner Wedell-Williams Model 44 Burbank, California to New York[22]
1936 January 13, 1936 9 hours, 27 minutes West to East Howard Hughes Northrop Gamma [23] Burbank, California to Newark, New Jersey. Hughes took off from Burbank, California, on January 13, 1936, en route to Newark, New Jersey, and a new cross-country record. He made the flight in 9 hours, 27 minutes, 10 seconds, and bettered Roscoe Turner's previous mark by 36 minutes. [4]
1937 January 19, 1937 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds West to East Howard Hughes Hughes H-1 Racer nonstop Burbank, California to overhead Newark Airport, New Jersey
1939 February 11, 1939 7 hours, ? minutes West to East Benjamin S. Kelsey XP-38[24] 7 hr 43 min March Field, California to overhead Mitchel Field, New York including 41 min on ground at Amarillo and Dayton
1945 January 9, 1945 6 hours, 4 minutes West to East Curtin L. Reinhardt C-97 Stratofreighter Seattle to Washington, D.C., average speed 0 mph [5]
1945 May 1, 1945 5 hours, 40 minutes West to East Najeeb Halaby [[ ]] Muroc AFB to Patuxent River NAS, average speed 000 mph [6]
1945 December 1945 5 hours, 17 minutes West to East Glen Edwards and Lt. Col. Henry E. Warden XB-42 Mixmaster In December 1945, Captain Glen Edwards and Lt. Col. Henry E. Warden set a new transcontinental speed record when they flew the XB-42 from Long Beach, California to Bolling Air Force Base in Washington DC (c. 2,300 miles) and in just 5 hours, 17 minutes, the XB-42 set a speed record of 433.6 mph (697.8 km/h).
1945 December 1945 5 hours, 27 minutes, 8 seconds West to East Col C. S. Irvine Boeing B-29 Burbank, California to overhead Floyd Bennett Field, New York; average 450 miles/hour
1946 January 26, 1946 4 hours, 13 minutes, 26 seconds West to East Col W. H. Councill Lockheed P-80 Long Beach, California to overhead La Guardia Airport, New York; nonstop, unrefuelled
1949 February 8, 1949 3 hours, 46 minutes West to East B-47 Stratojet Larson AFB, Moses Lake, Washington to Andrews AFB near Washington DC, 607.8 mph average [7]
1954 January 2, 1954 4 hours, 8 minutes, 5 seconds West to East Col Willard Millikan North American F-86F Los Angeles LAX to overhead New York Floyd Bennett; time includes stop for fuel at Offutt AFB
1954 March 30, 1954 4 hours, 24 minutes, 17 seconds West to East Joe DeBona North American P-51C Los Angeles LAX nonstop to New York Idlewild—still the prop record (560 mph)
1955 March 9, 1955 3 hours, 46 minutes, 33.6 seconds West to East Lt Col Robert Scott Republic F-84F Los Angeles LAX to overhead New York Floyd Bennett; two aerial refuelings
1957 March 23, 1957 3 hours, 39 minutes, 24 seconds West to East Douglas A3D? Burbank CA to overhead Miami MCAS, FL
1957 May 19, 1957 3 hours, 38 minutes West to East N American F-100F Palmdale CA to McGuire AFB, NJ
1957 July 16, 1957 3 hours, 23 minutes, 8.4 seconds West to East Major John H. Glenn, Jr., USMC Vought F8U-1P Crusader "Project Bullet" non-stop from NAS Los Alamitos, California to Floyd Bennett Field, New York at an average of Mach 1.1, despite three refuelings from AJ tankers during which speed dropped below 300 mph. Glenn's on-board reconnaissance camera recorded the first continuous panoramic photograph of the United States.
1957 November 27, 1957 3 hours, 7 minutes West to East Lieutenant Gustav Klatt[25] F-101 Voodoo "Operation Sun Run" with 4 RF-101Cs each refuelled four times by KC-135s; Ontario, California to overhead Floyd Bennett Field, New York, 781.7 mph West to East leg, 721.8 mph roundtrip average [8][9]
1961 May 24, 1961 2 hours, 47 minutes, 18 seconds West to East Lieutenant Richard F. Gordon, Jr., U.S. Navy McDonnell F4H Ontario, California to overhead Floyd Bennett Field, New York; three aerial refuellings
1962 March 5, 1962 2 hours, 1 minute, 39 seconds West to East Robert G. Sowers Convair B-58 overhead Los Angeles to overhead New York; one aerial refuelling
1990 March 6, 1990 1 hour, 7 minutes, 53.69 seconds West to East Lt Col Ed Yeilding and Lt Col Joseph T. Vida SR-71A Blackbird


On delivery flight to the Smithsonian Institution, where the aircraft is now on display at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy center, this SR-71 set the current transcontinental air speed record. Yeilding and Vida crossed the west coast near Ventura, CA and, 2,404.5 miles later, crossed the east coast near Salisbury, MD averaging 2,124.51mph[10]
2003 November 5, 2003 3 hours, 55 minutes, 12 seconds East to West Mike Bannister and Les Broadie Concorde G-BOAG Flying to museum at retirement of the aircraft, New York to Seattle [11] [12]

Junior transcontinental air speed record[edit]

For the junior record only in-flight time is counted at a certain speed

Year Date Time Pilot Aircraft Reference
1928 Richard James (aviator) Travel Air Previous "record" of 48 hours, set last year by 18-year-old Richard James, was spread over a month elapsed time.[13]
1930 October 4, 1930 East to West in 23 hours, 47 minutes Robert Nietzel Buck Pitcairn PA-6 Mailwing On October 4, 1930 Robert beat the junior transcontinental air speed record of Eddie August Schneider in his PA-6 Pitcairn Mailwing he named "Yankee Clipper". His time was 23 hours, 47 minutes of elapsed flying time. Robert said on February 6, 2005: "I was the youngest to fly coast to coast and that record still stands. I had my license at 16 and after that, they raised the minimum age to 17. With that change, no one could break my record."
1930 August 18, 1930 East to West in 29 hours, 55 minutes Eddie August Schneider Cessna Leaving from Westfield, New Jersey on August 14, 1930 to Los Angeles, California in 4 days with a combined flying time of 29 hours and 55 minutes. He lowered the East to West record by 4 hours and 22 minutes. He then made the return trip from Los Angeles to Roosevelt Field, New York in 27 hours, 19 minutes, lowering the West to East record by 1 hour and 36 minutes. His total elapsed time for the round trip was 57 hours, 14 minutes.
1930 East to West in 32 hours ? minutes Frank Goldsborough Combined East to West and West to East in 62 hours and 58 minutes. [14]

Women's transcontinental air speed record[edit]

For the women's record, only in-flight time is counted

Year Pilot Time
1930 Ruth Nichols 13 hours, 21 minutes
1933 Amelia Earhart 13 hours, 7 minutes, 30 seconds
1934 Laura Ingalls 10 hours, 5 minutes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Flier, Seeking to Reach San Francisco, Lands at Calicoon Late in the Afternoon". New York Times. September 15, 1911. Retrieved November 25, 2010. James J. Ward, who left New York for San Francisco Wednesday, flying for the W.R. Hearst $50,000 prize for a transcontinental flight, reached Callicoon, N.Y., a few miles from here, at 4:35 o'clock this afternoon. He covered 59 1–10 miles in 57 minutes, having left Middletown, N.Y., at 3:38 o'clock.
  2. ^ "C. P. Rodgers' Aero Plunges into Surf at Long Beach. Hundreds See Tragedy. Hero of First Transcontinental Flight Victim of His Own Daring. When Lifted From Wrecked Machine His Neck Is Found to Be Broken. Birdman's Home in Havre de Grace, Maryland. Cousin of Lieut. Rodgers in Navy's Aerial Corps. Victim Author of Theory of 'Etherial Asphyxia.'". Washington Post. April 4, 1912. Long Beach, California, April 3, 1912. Calbraith P. Rodgers, the first man to cross the American continent in an aeroplane, was killed here almost instantly late today, when his biplane, in which he had been soaring over the ocean, fell from a height of 200 feet and buried him in the wreck. His neck was broken and his body mangled by the engine of his machine.
  3. ^ Pattillo, Donald M. (February 28, 2001). Pushing the Envelope: The American Aircraft Industry. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. p. 14. ISBN 9780472086719. Retrieved November 21, 2014.
  4. ^ "Fokker T-2". Collections. National Air and Space Museum. Archived from the original on March 11, 2016. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
  5. ^ Meister, Richard L., Jr. (2000). "The Flight of the Spokane Sun-God". Aerofiles. Archived from the original on March 12, 2016. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  6. ^ "Glider is Towed by Plane Across the Nation". Popular Mechanics. Hearst Magazines. 1930. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Merritt, Larry (2003). "From mail-sack seats to sleeping berths and above-cloud routes". Boeing Frontiers. Boeing. Archived from the original on March 12, 2016. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  9. ^ Proctor, Jon; Machat, Mike; Kodera, Craig (2010). "The Jet Age Begins, Or Does It? (1949–1952)". From Props to Jets: Commercial Aviation's Transition to the Jet Age 1952–1962. North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-1580071994. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  10. ^ "Biography of John H. Glenn". History. NASA. November 12, 2008. Archived from the original on March 12, 2016. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  11. ^ NASM site
  12. ^ "Frank Hawks: The Story of the Legendary Speed Flying King » HistoryNet". Aviation History. Retrieved January 21, 2009.[unreliable source?]
  13. ^ Kinert 1967, p. 57
  14. ^ The Flight of the Buhl Airsedan Spokane Sun-God first airplane to make a non-stop transcontinental round-trip flight
  15. ^ Lockheed Sirius "Tingmissartoq", Charles A. Lindbergh National Air and Space Museum
  16. ^ Kinert 1967, p. 70
  17. ^ "Travel Air (Model R) "Mystery S" - USA". The Aviation History On-Line Museum. Retrieved January 21, 2009.
  18. ^ "Behind the name of Captain Frank M. Hawks, in aviation's record book today is set down the time of 12 hours, 25 minutes, 3 seconds for an eastward transcontinental flight, the fastest ever flown by man over the distance of 2,500 miles." Newark Advocate, Newark, Ohio, August 15, 1930; Valley Stream, New York; August 14, 1930 (Associated Press)
  19. ^ Glines 1995, p. 154
  20. ^ Glines 1995, p. 155
  21. ^ Glines 1995, p. 159
  22. ^ Glines 1995, p. 166
  23. ^ Wildenberg, Thomas (2007). "A visionary ahead of his time: Howard Hughes and the U.S. Air Force - Part I: The Air Corps Design Competition". Air Power History. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  24. ^ "Sleek, Fast and Luckless". Time Inc. February 20, 1939. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  25. ^ "Fact Sheets : Operation Sun Run : Operation Sun Run". Archived from the original on May 3, 2009. Retrieved June 8, 2009.


  • Glines, Carroll V. 1995. Roscoe Turner; Aviation's Master Showman. Smithsonian Institution Press ISBN 1-56098-798-7
  • Kinert, Reed. 1967. Racing Planes and Air Races: A Complete History, Vol.2 1924-1931. Aero Publishers Inc ASIN B000J40KCU