Dancing With Clouds – The Longest Flight, Part Two

Robert Ragozzino was not the first to attempt the longest flight.

In 1923, a race took place to determine who could complete an around-the-globe flight the fastest.  The U.S. Army commissioned Douglas Aircraft to build five aircraft to circumnavigate the globe.  Four of the “World Cruisers,” as they were coined, left westbound from Seattle in April 1924 to accomplish the feat.  After 175 days, two of the four proudly returned to the United States.  These were not solo flights and no further attempts were made to complete the trip in an open cockpit biplane at that time.  In 1990, a Dallas ex-military pilot attempted to make the longest flight in a home-built biplane.  He abandoned the trip after running into permit and planning problems in Russia.  1991 saw an attempt by pilot Carl Hayes and a Russian pilot in a modified 300 horsepower Stearman.  The flight lasted from San Diego to the Colorado Rockies, where unknown complications forced a landing on Interstate 70, ending the attempt.  One attempt made it half the distance.

In September 1993, a 45-year-old businessman from Canada quietly departed eastbound from Vancouver in a 275 horsepower Waco biplane.  Frank Quigg made his way halfway around-the-globe to Bombay, India, in just 15 days.  While there, he contracted hepatitis and was forced to abandon the attempt for the longest flight.  His plane was shipped home in a container.  However, because of his experience, he became a part of the Stearman World Flight organization as a logistics adviser and was a major asset in the successful completion by Roger Ragozzino.

Longest Flight

The building of a “World Cruiser” biplane.

The 1942 Boeing Stearman N2S-3 began life on November 22, 1942, as a B75-N1 civilian aircraft.  Originally built as a two-seat forward and aft aircraft that was in service as an around-town trainer, Robert began alterations in 1993 for the longest flight.  Teaming with Sam Birchett of Associated Aero at Wiley Post Airport, the seven-year task to convert the trainer into a globe-circling aircraft began.  The plane was rebuilt from the bottom of the landing gear to the top of the wings with great care and attention to detail.  One of the two seats was removed, fuel capacity increased from 55 gallons to 347 gallons, including a 150 gallon belly tank, and up-to-date instrumentation added.  When it came to the business end of the aircraft, Robert stated, “I had chosen a Covington overhaul because I wanted the best engine I could get.”  He further added, “I toured the Covington overhaul facility and was very impressed. The engine performed flawlessly and gave me the confidence to fly the seven seas.”

Trusted when all the chips are in the pot.

Robert Ragozzino knew a quality shop when he saw one.  That is why he trusted Covington Aircraft with the overhaul of the engine that had to be the best it could be.  Whether traveling across an ocean or a state, engine trouble can make any flight the longest flight of your life.    If it’s time for an aircraft engine overhaul or routine maintenance, call us at Covington Aircraft.  We maintain, overhaul, and sell turbine and radial engines. Call us at 918-756-8320.

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