Monday, August 13, 2012

You Can Fly!

Thought for the day:  The sky is not the limit... I am.  [T.F. Hodge]

I read somewhere that man first tried to fly as early as the 11th century. Not successfully, of course. The wannabe flyer ended up with two broken legs.

Once man finally DID achieve flight, the sky was no longer the limit. It was a CHALLENGE. The race was on...  to fly ever faster, farther, and longer.

Would you be surprised to know that the current record for the longest, non-stop flight was set in the fifties?

Let's venture back to December 4, 1958, shall we?

That's when this plane, now housed at the Howard Cannon Aviation Museum at McCarron Airport in Las Vegas, took off on this history-making flight.

One of the pilots, Bob Timm, worked for the Hacienda Hotel and Casino, and convinced the owner, Doc Bagley, to back the venture as a great publicity stunt. Not to mention great PR for the hotel. A monitoring station was set up in the lobby so the public could hear transmissions from the plane, and amid all the hoopla, the flight also raised big bucks for the Damon Runyan Cancer Fund.

 Instead of having to add and change oil from the exterior of the plane like previous endurance fliers did, (OY!) Timm and co-pilot John Cook modified their Cessna 172 by rerouting the oil line and filters (they added a second one) through the firewall, so they could take care of that duty from inside. (Aircraft piston engines need a continuous flow of lubricating oil.) Smart cookies, huh? They also installed a 95-gallon fuel tank, and pretty much gutted the interior of the plane. Left only a single pilot's seat, and added a mattress and sink. The right side door was also made collapsible, so they could use a winch to haul supplies into the plane from the ground. No indication how they tended to other, um, more personal needs. I'm guessing that they also sent some, er, stuff, back down to the ground, too.

Just because they could change the oil from inside the plane doesn't mean they never had to exit the plane to do maintenance work. They just didn't have to do it as regularly and frequently as their predecessors. This picture shows Cook doing a little exterior work.
[Photo courtesy of Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum]

Twice a day, the plane flew above a truck, which hoisted up a hose, and pumped fuel to them. Each refueling took approximately three minutes.

[Photo courtesy of Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum]

How about THIS for a classy support vehicle? In case you can't tell, it's a 1956 Thunderbird. (More about that later for you car buffs.) When the usual refueling truck malfunctioned, the T-Bird took over. Fuel was hoisted by rope from car to plane via five-gallon cans. The car was also used to send food and water up to the pilots, and for Christmas, they even sent up a turkey dinner.

Oh, in case you're wondering if the pilots could've pulled a fast one and landed somewhere during this two-month plus ordeal, the answer is no. To prove the integrity of the flight, shortly after take-off, they flew above a car, and someone slapped some bright white paint onto the plane tires.

[Photo courtesy of Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum]

After flying non-stop over the Nevada and California desert for 64 days and 22 hours, the Cessna finally came in for a landing, completely shattering the previous record of 50 hours, set in the '40s.

But certainly, not without difficulties. About forty hours into the flight, the plane's heater gave up the ghost. (And from what I hear, desert nights get pretty darned cold.) They usually took four-hour shifts, with one in the pilot's seat and the other trying to catch some zees, but they also flew on autopilot on occasion so they could both rest. One time, they got a little off-course while on autopilot, and almost flew to Mexico. Oopsie. By the time they landed, many parts of the engine were showing tremendous signs of wear and tear. I reckon the pilots were pretty darned pooped, too.

In the picture above, from left to right: John Cook, Bob Timm, actor Preston Foster,  (not sure what the connection is there) and Hacienda owner Doc Bayley.

With today's FAA rules and regulations, it's highly unlikely that this record will ever be broken. A couple of pilots tried to set up such a flight a couple years ago, and were shut down before they even got off the ground. Do you think Timm and Cook would have done it again, given the opportunity? Do you think they would have volunteered, once again, to be closed up in a tin can for two months?

                                                                    Um,  I think not.

Okay, you car buffs. Wanta hear a little bit more about that Thunderbird?

Isn't she a beauty?

The original owners were George and Peg Crockett, who owned Alamo Airways. Believe it or not, this T-Bird served as their rescue/crash vehicle.  With two CO2 bottles strapped to her rear deck and a 2-way radio inside, she served to assist many planes and put out numerous fires. As indicated in the post, this car was also a support vehicle for the endurance flight. In 1967, when Howard Hughes bought Alamo Airlines, he also became the proud owner of this T-Bird. To make a long story short, this car sold at the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction in 2006 for $86,400, far more than similar T-Birds. What inflated this car's value is its unique history.

So, bottom line, if you ever doubt yourself, think again. And give it a go. You may  not be setting any endurance records, but you'll never know if you can fly... unless you try.

A journey, I reflected, is of no merit unless it has tested you.  [Tahir Shah]

                                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


  1. NUTTERS. 6 hrs across the pond is enough for me. Lady Magnon often flies to Australia which is 20 hrs, or more (which is why I stay at home and look after the dogs).

  2. Holy smokes! All I can think about is 64 days with no toilet or bed. :)

  3. I like the Shah quote, Sus. And I didn't expect you to come back to the '56 Thunderbird in the same post! That was cool.

    Fantastic images, encouraging ride. :)

  4. Wow! What an ordeal -- and what an adventure! No, I wouldn't want to do it, but I admire their gumption!

  5. Cro- I'm with you. The longest flight I ever took was also the first flight I ever took, and that was from Maryland to Hawaii. I don't remember exactly how many hours we were in the air, but it was long enough for me to crochet an entire afghan. (TOO long!)

    Mr. C- I thought so, too.

    Jennifer- Or shower! I imagine those guys were a tad odoriferous by the time they landed.

    Suze- Glad ya liked it.

    Dianne- I wouldn't want to do it, either, but their adventure sure tickled my imagination.

  6. Holy smokes! That's freakin' amazing!!!

    What a cool thing to post about, Susan. I can't even imagine being trapped in a tiny, flying fuel tank like that. Not exactly what I would call luxurious, lol!

  7. Well there's my brain food for the day. I love the plaque quote. Some records just wouldn't be worth setting to me. ;)

    (And LOL, Susan... it's all about creating the right environment for red wine consumption, yes... I don't think we're young enough for the other anymore.) :D

  8. Chris- I thought it was freaking amazing, too. Kinda makes ya wonder, though. I mean, exactly how bad does a homelife have to be to prompt men to even consider spending that many days away from it ... flying around and around inside a sardine can with no... can... but lots of fuel?

    Carrie- Wouldn't be worth it to me, either. As for the proper environment for red wine consumption, pbbbbt. You're plenty young enough.

  9. 64 days of that noise and vibration? I'd be a maniac! Ya gotta hand it to them, but jeez.
    That TBird is niiiiice. I've ridden in one, it's cushy but surprisingly small. There's nothing like riding in one of those great solid cars. I wish I had my uncle's '53 Packard Clipper.

  10. Oh, I like this post. And thanks for the quote: "A journey, I reflected, is of no merit unless it has tested you."

    So true. :)

  11. I had no idea. I'd lose my mind closed up in a plane like that. I wonder if those guys ever fought.
    Very cool information. Thank you.


  12. Laura- Yeah, I think the noise would make me batty, too. If you like cars like your uncle's old Packard, you might get a kick out of my post this Wednesday.

    Linda- Glad ya liked it. And that is a neat quote, isn't it?

    Janie- I think it'd be more surprising if they NEVER fought.

  13. And I hate a 24 hr haul from Oz to UK!

  14. Cool post! That said, I'm sure glad it wasn't me in the plane. ;)

  15. oh my gosh! I have a recurring dream that i can fly...wonder how this information will affect my dreams!

  16. Lots of fun facts about flying! I especially enjoyed the T-Bird story! Julie

  17. Al- I'd consider twenty-four hours on a plane a real drag, but at least there's a closet-potty onboard, room to stretch your legs, and you don't have to step outside the plane to fiddle with the engine. And maybe something to eat. (If ya pack a lunch.)

    Linda- Ah, but think of all those unfettered days you could fill with reading. Well, unfettered except for that whole stepping outside the plane to do maintenance work, that is.

    Annmarie- I used to have recurring dreams about flying, too... maybe that means we're "free spirits"? Okay, so how might this info affect your dreams, huh? Let's see, maybe your dreams will last longer? Oh, and a snazzy red T-Bird will be waiting for you when you land, too.

    Julie- I thought the stuff about the T-Bird was pretty neat, too. Not exactly the first vehicle I'd think of as a rescue/crash/support role at an airport.

  18. Wow - I had no idea! Makes you think - what do you do for 64 days cooped up like that? Talk about yourself/your family/what is your favorite color? Tell jokes? I hope they knew a lot of good jokes. I wonder if the space station astronauts felt similarly.

  19. Pixel Peeper- I know! I mean, what could they do to pass the time without going stir crazy? "I see a color you don't see"? Nah. Twenty questions? That'd get old real fast. No room to play charades. And the darned sudoku wasn't even invented yet. Must've been quite a challenge.

  20. Hi Susan .. just sometimes in life - you have to love what you gotta do .. very glad it wasn't me though!

    Incredible what people do do ... ingenious tools and props too ...cheers Hilary

  21. Hilary- Yeah, you're right. (And I'm glad it wasn't me, too!)