Today’s aviation stands on the shoulders of our pioneers
1927 two Army pilots flew to Honolulu from Oakland
Navigational Achievement of Historic Recognition
Aviation is the only industry to have a museum dedicated to its history on the National Mall. History matters to those who fly. These two Army pilots accomplished an incredible feat, but their place in the aviation firmament does not adequately reflect their courage, stick-and-rudder skills and the navigational talent.
1st Lieutenant Lester J. Maitland and 1st Lieutenant Albert F. Hegenberger, Air Service, United States Army completed the first transpacific flight from California to Hawai’i, flying the modified transport Bird of Paradise. Although the recognition accorded them was less in comparison with the adulation given Charles Lindbergh for his famed New York to Paris France only five weeks earlier, the Army’s feat was arguably more significant from a navigational stand point. Hard to miss Europe, easy to miss an island chain of eight incontiguous islands (a total land mass of 6,423 sq mi.) 2409 miles in a vast ocean.
Their two pilot achievement was also overshadowed by Amelia Earhart’s solo flight over the same course, but the aviatrix flew west to east, landing in Oakland in 1935.
Both Maitland and Hegenberger flew in WWI and WWII. Hegenberger was a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and used that education to refine the navigation system. His work was for this flight and for the rest of his Army Air Corps career were early contributions in the FAA’s progress towards a satellite-based air traffic system.
The first Transpacific Flight
1AviationA.S. 26-202, Albert F. Hegenberger, Atlantic Aircraft Company, Atlantic-Fokker C-2, Bird of Paradise, Distinguished Flying Cross, Lester J. Maitland, Oakland Municipal Airport, Trans-Pacific Flight, Transoceanic Flight, USAAS, Wheeler Field, Wright Aeronautical Corporation Model J-5C Whirlwind
The Air Service had been planning such a flight for many years. Specialized air navigation equipment had been developed, much of it by Lieutenant Hegenberger, and simulations and practice flights had been carried out.Atlantic-Fokker C-2 A.S. 26-202, Bird of Paradise, front view. (U.S. Air Force)Atlantic-Fokker C-2, A.S, 26-202, Bird of Paradise, right profile. (U.S. Air Force)
Bird of Paradise was built by the Atlantic Aircraft Co., Teterboro, New Jersey, the American subsidiary of Fokker. Derived from the civil Fokker F.VIIa/3m, a three-engine high-wing passenger transport with fixed landing gear. It had been adopted by the Air Service as a military transport. A.S. 26-202 was modified with a larger wing, increased fuel capacity, and the installation of Hegenberger’s navigation equipment.
It was powered by three 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) air-cooled Wright Aeronautical Corporation Model J-5C Whirlwind nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 5.1:1. The J-5C was rated at 200 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 220 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. They turned two-bladed Standard adjustable-pitch propellers through direct drive. The Wright J-5C was 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) long and 3 feet, 9 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter. It weighed 508 pounds (230.4 kilograms).
The C-2 was fueled with 1,134 gallons (4,293 liters) of gasoline and 40 gallons (151 liters) of oil.
For their achievement, both officers were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
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