Smithsonian National Air and Space MuseumPioneers of Flight

Civilian Aviation

First U.S. Transcontinental Flight

In 1911 in the Wright EX Vin Fiz, Calbraith Perry Rodgers became the first person to cross the United States from coast to coast by airplane—a trip that took 49 days.

A $50,000 Prize and a Pilot Named Cal...
In 1910 publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst captured the attention of the aviation world when he announced a $50,000 prize for the first flight across the United States in 30 days or less.

...and a Soft Drink Named Vin Fiz
Rodgers secured financial backing for the transcontinental flight from Chicago's Armour Company, then introducing Vin Fiz, a new grape-flavored soft drink. Armour agreed to pay Rodgers $5 for each mile he flew east of the Mississippi River and $4 for each mile west of it.

Rodgers bought the Wright EX himself and covered all other expenses. The airplane was emblazoned with the Vin Fiz logo—the first time an aircraft was used for commercial advertising.

Rodgers left Sheepshead Bay, New York, on September 17, 1911. After countless stops, delays, and accidents, he arrived in Pasadena, California, to a hero's welcome 49 days later. Cal Rodgers covered the 6,954 kilometers (4,321 miles) in 82 hours and 4 minutes of flying time. Unfortunately, he far exceeded the 30-day limit set by Hearst and lost out on the $50,000 prize. He did secure his place in history by making the first U.S. transcontinental flight, but his celebrity was short-lived. Less than four-months later, he was killed in a crash during a test flight.

Calbraith Perry Rodgers

Cal Rodgers secured his place in history by making the first U.S. transcontinental flight, but his celebrity was short-lived. Less than four-months later, he was killed in a crash during a test flight.

Who Was Calbraith Perry Rodgers?
A man with a notable Navy heritage, he was drawn to the sky instead of the sea. Rodgers was the first airborne advertiser, one of the first long-distance airplane record setters and an instant aviation star whose life was cut short.

The Wright EX Vin Fiz
The Wright EX was a single-seat airplane for exhibition flying manufactured and sold by the Wright brothers. The Vin Fiz was rebuilt so many times during its historic cross-country flight that almost every part was replaced along the way.

Wright (Co) Model EX "Vin Fiz"

Wingspan: 9.6 m (31 ft 6 in)
Length: 6.5 m (21 ft 5 in)
Height: 2.2 m (7 ft 4 in)
Weight, empty: 408 kg (900 lb)
Engine: Wright vertical 4-cylinder, 35 hp

More about the Wright EX Vin Fiz

The Wright EX

After the Wright brothers perfected their original design in 1905, and publicly demonstrated it in 1908 and 1909, they began manufacturing airplanes for sale in 1910. Their first offering was the Wright Model B. The Wright EX (shown here) was a slightly smaller, single-seat version for exhibition flying.

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