Certain visions have inspired humanity to achieve excellence. Like Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days” from 1873. Inspired by this, adventurers sailed, flew and toured the world in hot air balloons and bicycles.
Today, the “Around the World” ticket is accessible in just a few clicks on the Internet. Germans can spend their vacation in Thailand in ten hours by plane. Entire crowds regularly board the tourist bomber and let the flight attendants treat them to free nuts and wine. 100 years ago, this was still an audacious goal – on the part of the U.S. military.
The US Army Air Service, predecessor of the US Air Force, wanted to pioneer the “World Flight” program and successfully circumnavigate the world. Specifically for this purpose, the Douglas Aircraft Company had its torpedo bomber developed into the Douglas World Cruiser (DWC).
The route had to be planned precisely: powered flight was still young. Just 21 years ago, the Wright brothers were in the air for a few seconds in a powered plane for the first time. Problems were to be expected during the first world tour.
Thus, 74 stops in 28 countries were planned along the route. Spare parts, fuel and provisions for the crew of the four planes were deposited there. “Seattle”, “Boston”, “Chicago” and “New Orleans” took off near Seattle in April 1924 and began their flight around the world to Alaska.
It was actually a good idea to start with four planes, because just a few weeks after takeoff the “Seattle” crashed and the “Boston” sank a few months later after an emergency water landing.
However, the DWCs continued to buzz across the northern hemisphere at 75 miles per hour and, with their many spare brakes and motors, circumnavigated the world. The “Chicago” and “New Orleans” as well as the replacement aircraft “Boston II” were welcomed with a party in Seattle on September 28, 1924, 99 years ago today. They traveled 44,342 kilometers in “only” 175 days.
The mentality of flying “higher, faster, further” still inspires engineers today: in 2016, a Swiss man flew around the world with the solar plane “Solar Impulse 2” without any fossil fuel, and Technologies such as hydrogen propulsion are also in the starting blocks. The chapter “Stealing” has not yet been told.
Read all previously published episodes of the “Tagesrückspiegel” section here.
“Bacon nerd. Extreme zombie scholar. Hipster-friendly alcohol fanatic. Subtly charming problem solver. Introvert.”