Sunday, March 30, 2014

Little Known Characters in America: Calbraith Perry Rodgers

Born on Jan. 12, 1879, Rodgers had contracted scarlet fever as a child which left him deaf in one ear and hearing impaired in the other ear. This did not stop the adventurer, as on March of 1911, he visited the Wright Aircraft Factory and Flying School in Dayton, Ohio. He received 90 minutes of flying lessons from Orville Wright on Aug. 7, 1911.

He then took his official flying examination at Huffman Prairie and became the 49th aviator licensed to fly. Rodgers was the first civilian to purchase a Wright flyer.

Calbraith decided to purchase the Wright airplane but needed cash to buy the plane from the Wright brothers. Therefore, in order to obtain the plane and pay other expenses for his proposed flight from one coast to another, he had J. Ogden Armor of the Armor and Company finance the long trip by naming his plane the Vin Fiz. This was the name of a soft drink manufactured by the Armor company.

Responding to a challenge, Calbraith Perry Rodgers made the first transcontinental airplane flight across the United States. The flight began on September 17, 1911, from Sheepshead, New York, and ended in Pasadena, California, on November 5, 1911.

After landing in Chicago on October 9, 1911, he took a southerly route to Texas to avoid flying over the Rocky Mountains. Landing in San Antonio, Texas, he headed west and landed in Pasadena on November 5. After landing, he was met by 20,000 enthusiastic fans.

Calbraith’s attempt to fly the transcontinental route was probably the result of publisher William Randolph Hearst offer to pay any pilot $ 50,000 if he or she were able to fly from one coast to another in less than thirty days from start to finish. Unfortunately, Rodgers missed collecting the prize by 19 days. In order to rest and obtain more fuel, Rodgers had made dozens of stops.

On April 3, 1912, Calbraith was making an exhibition flight over Long Beach, California, and flew into a flock of birds, causing the plane to crash into the ocean. He was never able to recover from his injuries and died at the young age of thirty-three.

Calbraith was the first pilot known to have died as a result of striking a flock of birds. Even today, airports around the world have had difficulty with birds flying into airplanes. This is especially true if the airport is located near an ocean.

The American aviator was the 127th to die as a result of an airplane accident and only the 22nd American. Of course, the year 1912 was before the beginning of World War I, where many aviators were killed during action in the skies above France and Germany.