By his arrival at Pasadena, Cal., at 4: 04 P. M. on the afternoon of November 5th, aviator Rodgers practically completed his great trans-continental fight, although the real finish did not occur until several days later, when he few the 25 miles remaining, and landed on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Rodgers start was made from the Sheepshead Bay race track, near Coney Island, on September 17th last. He started with the intention of competing for the $50,000 prize offered by the proprietor of a New York newspaper. The time limit within which this prize could be won expired on October 10th, but Rodgers few on just the same, despite many mishaps and breakdowns. His total time to Pasadena was 49 days. The distance covered was some 3,350 miles, and the time in the air 82 hours. This corresponds to an average speed of about 40 miles an hour. Besides breaking all records, aviator Rodgers carried with him letters from Postmaster-General Hitchcock. Several of these were delivered in Chicago, and others, including one from Major-General Grant to the Department of the Pacific, and another from the commanding officer of the Atlantic feet to Rear Admiral Thomas of the Pacific squadron, were carried the entire distance across the continent and delivered. We have followed the progress made by Rodgers from week to week in the columns of the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, and now that he has completed his fight, it will be interesting to summarize briefly and give the causes of his various delays. The two chief causes appear to have arisen from bad weather and breakdowns of the motor. He was forced to descend some eight or ten times on account of engine failures. Some of these were simple troubles, such as a wire coming loose or the fouling of a spark plug, but toward the end 0' his fight, at Imperial Junction, Cal., a connecting rod broke loose and punched a hole in the crank case, and Rodgers was obliged to replace the motor with a spare one which his special train carried. When starting from Middletown, N. Y., the second day, Rodgers fouled a tree and smashed his machine. This delayed him three days before he could effect repairs. At Hancock, N. Y., his next stop- ping place, he descended on account of slight engine trouble and was delayed half a day because of a storm. After fying 50 miles farther to Canisteo, he again descended on account of engine tlouble. He mistook a marsh for a solid feld and damaged his machine in alighting. The next day, however, he few 99 miles to Red House, where he alighted to change · a spark plug. In restarting, he ran into a wire fence, smashing his machine and propellers, which caused a two days' delay. Engine trouble is of course blamed for this, as if he had not alighted at Red House, he would, not have collided with the fence there. At one other point in Texas, in starting on a narrow road, Rodgers smashed his machine by colliding with a fence. Two days were spent resting and overhauling the machine at San Antonio and El Paso, Tex., respectively. All told, some 13% days were lost making repairs, and of these, 2% days can be laid directly to engine trouble. The weather was responsible /or the loss of 11 days, so that a total delay of 24% days was occasioned from weather and repairs. Deducting this from the total time of 49 days, we have 14% days as the actual time of making the fight, which shows the possibility of crossing the continent In a month's time by aeroplane, In case one does not meet with bad weather and serious mishaps. It should be remembered that Rodgers chose a roundabout way, going far south into Texas and then following the line of the Southern Pacifc Railway. He broke the world's longdistance cross-country record on October 10th, when he reached Marshall, Mo., after a fight of 214 miles, as he beat by a few miles Atwood's record of 1,265 from St. Louis to New York, which fight was completed on August 25th. One of the important events in the course of his fight was his meeting with Robert G. Fowler at Tucson, Ariz. Fowler, it will be remembered, previously tried to cross the Rockies in his Wright biplane, but failed. On October 20th he left Los Angeles, determined to make the fight across the continent by the southern route. Up to November 6th, he had covered 825 miles in 16 days time. A comparison of Rodgers' fight with the frst transcontinental automobile trip is interesting. The frst attempt was made by Alexander Winton and Charles Shanks in 1901, but the Winton car was stuck in the sands of the great American desert. Two years later, however, Dr. H. Nelson Jackson and S. W. Crocker accomplished the feat of crossing from San Francisco to New York in a Winton machine, having a double-opposed-cylinder engine, in 65 days. A single-cylinder Packard automobile, driven by Tom Fetch, accomplished the journey in 62 days, including a four-day stop at Denver, and an Oldsmobile, driven by L. L. Whitman, made the journey in 72 days. All three trips were made in the summer of 1903. The following year, Whitman and Harris crossed the continent from the Pacifc to the Atlantic, a distance of 4,500 miles, in 33 days, thereby beating by 28 days, the best previous record; and in 1906 a 6-cylinder 30-horse-power Franklin air-cooled automobile was driven 4,000 miles across the continent in 15 days, 2 hours, and 12 minutes. This cutting down of the time to one-quarter in but three years shows the rapid development of the automobile from 1903 to 1906. The aeroplane has developed so much more rapidly that two years ago the past summer, Olieslagers remained aloft more than fve hours and covered a distance of 240 miles, while of late distancs of between 700 and 800 miles have been covered in a day with only a few stops. With a reliable motor, and the development of an automatic stability device which will enable the aviator to fy in windy weather, it should he possible to cross the continent in ten days' time, and without doubt this will soon be done. What a great time saver the aeroplane is was demonstrated time and again, especially in the far west, whe!e Rodgers frequentn out-distanced his special train by from one to two hours. Flying over mountains and canyons he found rather risky, but at the end of his journey he announced that Beachy's fight above Niagara Falls and down the gorge last summer was, in his opinion, the greatest fight ever made. The Wright biplane had for the second time broken the crosscountry touring record.
This article was originally published with the title "The First Trans-continental Aeroplane Flight" in Scientific American 105, 21, 449 (November 1911)