First Transcontinental Flight

In 1911 a newspaper editor named William Randolph Hearst offered up a prize of 50,000 US dollars to the first person who could fly an airplane coast to coast in less than 30 days.

The Wright Brothers and the first powered airplane had only been flying for eight short years when Hearst's challenge was put forth. A young pilot named Cal Rodgers saw the prize money and decided to try to take on the challenge. With only 60 hours of flying experience, Cal Rodgers became the first private individual to buy one of the Wright Flyers. After a couple of hours of instruction from Orville Wright, Cal was in the air and ready to begin. Cal's plane was a modified Wright Flyer called an EX. Still the most primitive of planes, the EX was not equipped with a cockpit and could only reach speeds of 50-60 miles per hour. With no instruments or gauges, Cal Rodgers could only depend on line of sight navigating to take him across the continent. As Cal strapped himself into the Flyer, he also carried along with him a pair of crutches. Little did he know these would come in quite handy on his trip across the continent.

On September 17, 1911 Cal Rodgers lifted off from a small airfield in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. With a 35 horsepower engine, and a plane as flimsy as the wind, Rodger's flew off to make history. In front of Rodger's lay a 4000 mile flight, no airports, and no navigation equipment. What Rodger's lacked in technology, he made up for with strength and courage. Rodger's trip from coast to coast would be one of the most memorable airplane journeys ever taken.


Upon takeoff Rodger's plane immediately snagged a tree and crashed to the ground. After making repairs, Rodger's was determined to try it again. Along his 4000 mile journey, he would crash land over 15 times and make several visits to various hospitals. By the time he arrived at his destination on the West Coast, Rodger's plane had to be repaired and rebuilt so many times that little of the original craft actually still existed. After 70 stops, numerous injuries, and 86 hours in the air, Rodger's would finally reach his destination in Pasadena, California. Although Rodgers was 19 days too late receive the prize money, he never gave up until he finished the first transcontinental airplane flight.


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