Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery

This gallery contains an impressive, eclectic assortment of aircraft and exhibits. A common theme unites them: all have to do with people who pushed the existing technological—or social—limits of flight. Each aircraft or exhibit represents an unprecedented feat, a barrier overcome, a pioneering step.

Things to see here include the Fokker T-2, the airplane that made the first nonstop, coast-to-coast flight across the United States; the Douglas World Cruiser Chicago, which completed the first round-the-world flight; a Lockheed Sirius flown by Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh and a Lockheed Vega flown by Amelia Earhart; the Explorer II high-altitude balloon gondola; and "Black Wings," an exhibit on African Americans and aviation.


Curtiss R3C-2 Racer

Curtiss R3C-2 Racer
On October 25, 1925, U.S. Army Lt. James H. Doolittle flew the Curtiss R3C-2 to victory in the Schneider Trophy Race with an average speed of 374 km/h (232.17 mph). The next day he flew the R3C-2 over a straight course at a world record speed of 395 km/h (245.7 mph). In the Schneider Trophy Race of November 13, 1926, this same airplane piloted by Lt. Christian F. Schilt, USMC, and powered by an improved engine, won second place with an average speed of 372 km/h (231.4 mph).

More Information: Curtis R3C-1

Douglas World Cruiser (DWC) "Chicago"

Douglas World Cruiser Chicago
The Douglas World Cruiser Chicago was one of two aircraft to make the first flight around the world. In addition to the prototype, the Army built four of these Douglas airplanes for this specific purpose. Only the Chicago and the New Orleans were destined to survive the effort.

More information: Douglas World Cruiser Chicago

Explorer II Gondola

Explorer II Gondola
Launched on Nov. 11, 1935, near Rapid City, SD, Explorer II carried two aeronauts and an assortment of instruments to a world-record altitude of 22,066 meters (72,395 feet).

Explorer was the brainchild of Capt. Albert W. Stevens, chief of the Army Air Corps' photography laboratory at Wright Field, Ohio. With funding from the National Geographic Society, he attempted a world altitude-record flight in 1934 with Explorer I. The flight ended in disaster when the balloon ripped shortly after launch, and its hydrogen mixed with air and exploded. After a harrowing few moments while Stephens had trouble escaping through the manhole, he and his two fellow aeronauts parachuted to safety.

For his next attempt, in Explorer II, the manholes were widened for easier escape, and the balloon was filled with non-flammable helium. To ensure that it attained a record altitude, Explorer II's balloon was enlarged, the crew was cut from three to two, and its scientific payload (the stated rationale for the flight) was halved.

Like Explorer I, Explorer II was constructed of welded magnesium/aluminum alloy sections. The 2.8 meter (9-foot) sphere weighs 290 kilograms (640 pounds) and can carry a payload of 700 kilograms (1500 pounds).

More information: Explorer II Gondola

Fokker T-2

Fokker T-2
The Fokker T-2 on display at the National Air and Space Museum was the first aircraft to fly nonstop coast to coast in May 1923. The flight took 26 hours and 50 minutes.

More information: Fokker T-2

Goddard Hoopskirt Rocket

Goddard Hoopskirt Rocket
American rocket pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard launched the Hoopskirt rocket on December 26, 1928, near Worcester, Massachusetts. It was so-named because it resembled an old-fashioned hoopskirt, a ladies' fashion of the late 19th century. Goddard made no effort to build the rocket as a streamlined vehicle. He only wanted to test the operation of his rocket motor and make the vehicle as light as possible. Powered by liquid oxygen and gasoline, it flew for 3.2 seconds, covering a distance of 204.5 feet (62 m). The rocket as it is now is a reconstruction, as the flimsy structure was smashed by the flight.

More information: Goddard Hoopskirt Rocket

Lockheed Model 5B Vega in Pioneers of Flight

Lockheed 5B Vega
The design of Amelia Earhart's red Lockheed 5B Vega is related to that of the Northrop Alpha in America by Air. Both were designed by Jack Northrop, and have the same streamlined shape. In 1932, exactly five years after Lindbergh's historic solo flight across the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart flew this Vega solo across the Atlantic becoming the first woman to do so.

More information: Lockheed 5B Vega

Lockheed Model 8 Sirius "Tingmissartoq"

Lockheed 8 Sirius "Tingmissartoq"
In 1931, Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh flew to Asia in this Lockheed Sirius — the first aircraft to reach the Far East by way of the "great circle route." Lindbergh described their trip as a vacation, with "no start or finish, no diplomatic or commercial significance, and no records to be sought." In 1933, while Lindbergh was technical advisor for Pan American Airways, the Lindberghs used the same Sirius to cross the Atlantic, researching flight paths. In Godthaab, Greenland, an Eskimo boy named the aircraft Tingmissartoq, meaning "one who flies like a bird." The aircraft bears this name, painted on the side by the same Eskimo boy.

More information: Lockheed 8 Sirius "Tingmissartoq"

Piper J-2

Piper J-2 Cub
The Cub was simple, slow, safe, and affordable—perfect for a beginner pilot. Thousands of people over more than 30 years learned to fly in them. Early J-2s came in several colors, but yellow became standard. The planes became so popular that people started calling all light airplanes "Cubs."

The tandem two-place J-2 is the transition model of stable and economical Cub light aircraft that made flying easy to learn and afford. The J-2 cost $1,470 or could be rented for $10 an hour. A total of 1,207 Taylor and Piper J-2 Cubs were built from 1935 to 1938. William Piper and the Piper Aircraft Corporation board of directors anointed the Museum's Cub, completed on November 2, 1937, as the first official Piper J-2 and flew it as the company plane until April 1939.

More information: Piper J-2 Cub

Wright (Co) Model EX "Vin Fiz"

Wright EX Vin Fiz
In 1911, William Randolph Hearst offered a prize of $50,000 to the first pilot to make a transcontinental flight in fewer than 30 days. After 20 hours of flying lessons, adventurer Cal Rogers acquired a Wright EX biplane and a sponsor (the Armour Company) and prepared to depart for California. The airplane was decorated with the trademark of an Armour soft-drink product, Vin Fiz. In addition to the prize money, Rogers was to receive five dollars from Armour for every mile he flew. But it was not until almost two months later, after 70 landings, a number of which were crashes, and extensive repairs to the aircraft, that Rogers reached his destination.

More information: Wright EX Vin Fiz

Steve Fossett's Spirit of Freedom gondola

Bud Light Spirit of Freedom
Steve Fossett, a Chicago-based adventurer, launched the Bud Light Spirit of Freedom balloon from Northam, Australia, on June 19, 2002 . Fourteen days and 19 hours later, on July 4, he landed in Queensland Australia, to become the first person to make a solo flight around the world in a balloon. During the trip he traveled 32,963 kilometers (20,385 miles), reached speeds of up to 322 kilometers (204 miles) per hour, and flew as high as 10,580 meters (34,700 feet).

The flight was Fossett's sixth solo attempt since 1996 to achieve this extraordinarily difficult goal. On one of those flights, in August 1998, he plunged 8,900 meters (29,192 feet) into the Coral Sea when his balloon ruptured in a thunderstorm. He was rescued after 23 hours in a life raft.
Gondola gift of Steve Fossett

More information: Bud Light Spirit of Freedom