"For the 900 gallons of gas we planned to take, two large elliptical tanks, in addition to those in the wings, were constructed in the cabin. These occupied the space normally used for passenger chairs in the modern airliner. The weight of all filled would be about 6000 pounds, as gasoline weighs a little more than six pounds to the gallon, and the tanks themselves are heavy, too. With the gas we actually took, the Friendship weighed more than five tons.
The Motors to carry the Fokker were Wright Whirlwinds, 225 Horsepower each. The width of the wings of the ship was about 72 feet. .. they were painted.. gold... because "chrome-yellow'.. can be seen father than any other color.
In what space the tanks left in the cabin, a small table was set up for navigating instruments. Our rolled up flying suits and a five gallon can of water constituted the available seats. In the cabin floor was a hatch which had to be opened for each calculation to show drift or actual velocity over the ground.
We .. took off with 700 (gallons of fuel)... We had with us scrambled egg sandwiches.. coffee for the men (I don't drink coffee unless I have to and a special promised container of cocoa .. didn't materialize), a few oranges, a bottle of malted milk tablets, some sweet chocolate and five gallons of water.
I was crowded in the cabin with a stop watch in my hand to check the take off time, and with my eyes glued on the air speed indicator as it slowly climbed. If it passed fifty miles an hour, chances were the Friendship could pull out and fly. Thirty - forty - the Friendship was trying again. A long pause, then the pointer went to fifty. Fifty, fifty-five, sixty - we were off at last, staggering under the weight carried with the two sputtering outboard motors which had received a.. dousing of salt water.
I kept a log of the Friendship Flight and find I mention clouds more than anything else... Every time the plane plowed through them the outboard motor would cough and complain. They didn't like being wet because they'd been caked with salt water on the take off and the salt had dried to make a contact for the sparks to jump from the plugs.
We circled around the vessel.. (hoping) the captain would have the bearings painted on the deck for us to read. .. I wrote out a request that he do so, put the note into a bag with a couple of oranges for ballast, and tried to drop it on the deck, through the hatchway in the bottom of the plane... my aim was faulty and the two oranges landed some distance from the ship..
(The gas supply) was so low.. that the engines were supplied only when we were flying level. Stultz set the Friendship down.. and taxied to a heavy marking buoy, to which the man made the plane fast to keep her from drifting in the swift tide... then.. we waited for the village to come out and welcome us.
We stayed on the Friendship waiting for something to happen... Slim crawled onto the pontoons and called for a boat, to no avail. "I'll get a boat," I said finally, and squeezed forward into the cockpit. Out of the open window I waved a white towel s a signal of distress. At my gesture.. a man on shore took off his coat and waved.. at me. But that was all. Finally a boat came out.. but it was several hours before the Friendship sailed into her mooring place for the night..
My entire baggage consisted of two scarfs, a toothbrush and a comb. One scarf was quickly snatched by some enthusiast. The other stayed with me because it was tied on.
I came to know Gene Vidal and Paul Collins of Transcontinental Air Transport... Vidal, an ex army flyer and engineer, had been on the technical staff of TAT. His interest and experience chiefly concerned the analysis of problems of passenger carrying and operation coasts. At West Point, he had been selected for the all American football team, had established track records which still hold there, and was a member of several Olympic teams. He also contrived to play baseball and basketball.
I was asked to join the project and gladly did so, becoming with Vidal and Collins, a vice president of the corporation when it was launched. I had the fun of sitting in on all the details of actual commercial air pioneering, first on paper, and later in practice..
Elinor Smith.. it's been said of Miss Smith she learned to fly as soon as she learned to walk.. first flight at the age of eight.. fifteen when her father bought a plane..flew under all the East River bridges one Sunday (in 1928.) Set the solo endurance record.. flown many kinds of planes, .she's a radio announcer, speaks fluently, has real wit, and knows nearly everyone in the field. Miss Smith's clothes can usually counted on for a surprise. She's apt to wear whatever fancy or comfort of the moment dictates. At air meets I have seen her in costumes that range from overalls or shorts..
THE VEGA FLIGHT
I chose to fly the Atlantic because I love flying.. because I wanted to. Extra fuel tanks were put in the wings (of the Vega) and a large tank installed in the cabin. These increased fuel capacity to 420 gallons, giving the plane a cruising radius of about 3200 miles. In addition, there was tankage for 20 gallons of oil. Loaded, the plane weighted about 5500 pounds. Additional instruments; a drift indicator and additional compasses. Of the latter I had three - an aperiodic, a magnetic and a directional gyro.. A new Pratt Whitney "Wasp" motor, supercharged, 500 Horsepower.
At the field, the engine was warmed up. A final message from my husband was handed to me. I shook hands with Bernt and Eddie (mechanics) and climbed into the cockpit... at 12:07 I gave her the gun. The plane gathered speed and despite the heavy load, rose easily.
And then something happened that has never occurred in my twelve years of flying. The altimeter, the instrument which records height above ground, failed. Suddenly the hands swung around the dial uselessly and I knew the instrument was out of commission for the rest of the flight.
I ran into a severe storm with lightning, I was buffeted about, with difficulty held my course... it was very rough. This lasted an hour.. I thought I could pull out on top of the clouds, so I climbed.. (then) realized I was picking up ice.
I knew.. ( was picking up weight from) ice. Then I saw slush on the windowpane. Ice began to coat my air speed indicator so that it refused to register accurately on the panel before me.
I went down hoping the ice would melt... until I could see the waves (below) I kept flying until fog came down so low, I dared not keep on (going lower)..
I gave up, just plowing through the "soup" and not looking out of the cockpit again until morning..... the directional gyro was a real life saver.
Four hours out of Newfoundland, I noticed a small blue flame licking through a broken weld in the manifold ring. I knew it would grow worse.. the flames appeared so much worse at night than in the daytime.
I went ..higher.. the sun was as dazzling as on real snow. I had dark glasses but it was too much for me even so, and I came down.. Ten hours had passed.. I saw one vessel since Harbor Grace, I blinked my navigation lights, but (no one saw me), I picked up a fishing vessel.. those were the only two I saw.I didn't bother much about food.. which consisted of one can of tomato juice which I punctured and sipped through a straw. The last two hours were the hardest; my exhaust manifold was vibrating badly, I turned on the reserve tanks and the gauge (was) leaking (fuel). I decided I should come down to the nearest place, wherever it was... not having the altimeter.. I was afraid to plow through (thunderstorms over Ireland) not knowing the country. I circled hoping to locate a field but found pastures instead. I succeeded in frightening all the cattle in the country as I came down low several times before landing in a long sloping meadow.