Dancing With Clouds – The Longest Flight, Part One

A crowd of 500 stood near the Whiley Post Airport Terminal.

On the cold, crisp, clear day of November 17, 2000, 500 pairs of eyes scanned the horizon and a thousand ears strained to hear the sound of the approach of a very special aircraft.  At 3:00 p.m., their wait was rewarded with the drone of the sound of a radial engine that announced the return of the Stearman N2S-3 that was to complete the historical longest flight that had begun at this very location 176 days earlier.  Robert Ragozzino had completed his record-setting, solo, around-the-globe flight in the 1942 Stearman. Robert flew 24,645 miles at an average ground speed of 111 miles-per-hour in his plane powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp Jr., 450 horsepower, 985 cubic inch, supercharged, nine cylinder radial engine after an aircraft engine overhaul by Covington Aircraft.

Longest Flight

The flight was not without interruptions.

In fact, his first 115 mile hop was to Tulsa, Okla., where the tachometer was replaced.  The next leg of the journey was 410 miles to Mt. Vernon, Ill., where the tachometer drive was replaced.  Along this longest flight, the radio required maintenance, the oil cooler had a leak repaired and the starter was replaced.  Further delays included weather-related and nine weeks of delay  occurred while obtaining Russian permits.

A brief history of the longest flight.

Robert made 54 hops in his around-the-world flight.  His flight took him from Oklahoma City east to New York City, where he made a publicity stop.  From there, his path went north over Maine and into Canada.  His last stop in North America was at Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada.  His first oceanic traverse was from Goose Bay to Greenland at a distance of 776 miles in 6.75 hours and took place without incidence.  Iceland was made after an 833 mile hop in 7.3 hours.  After two stops in Iceland, the crossing of the Atlantic portion was done with a landing in Wick, Scotland.  From there, his route turned south to Italy, where it turned again in an easterly direction.  From Italy, he flew to Greece, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Taiwan and Okinawa before turning northward.  Following the Japanese Islands, he flew a northeast course to Kushiro, Japan, before attempting his longest over-water jump.  The longest jump in the longest flight was from Kushiro, Japan, to a landing at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Kamchatka, Russia—a distance of 954 miles in 8.5 hours.  This stop was unscheduled, a declared emergency, and he stayed in Petropavlovsk for 29 days.  From there, Robert returned to the United States with a stop at Shemya, Alaska, after a 655 mile, 6 hour flight over the northern Pacific.  From there, he made his way south and east to Oklahoma City in 176 days.  His average hop was 221.4 miles.

It was a good thing he had a Covington logo affixed on the engine casing.

The longest flight for you may not be across a part of the Pacific Ocean; it may be on a short hop when you develop engine trouble.  Trouble can arise at any time, but routine maintenance and inspection by a top quality shop will minimize this risk.  If it’s time for an aircraft engine overhaul, reach out to Covington Aircraft.  We maintain, overhaul, and sell turbine and radial engines.  Call us at (918) 756-8320.

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