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Military Aviation

First Flight Around the World

The Douglas World Cruiser World Flight Crews

The World Flight crews at Sand Point, Washington, before the start of their journey. Left to right: Tech. Sgt. Arthur Turner (who did not make the flight), Staff Sgt. Henry Ogden, Lt. Leslie Arnold, Lt. Leigh Wade, Lt. Lowell Smith, Maj. Frederick Martin, and Staff Sgt. Alva Harvey. Not pictured: Lt. Erik Nelson and Staff Sgt. John Harding Jr.

On April 6, 1924, eight U.S. Army Air Service pilots and mechanics in four airplanes left Seattle, Washington, to carry out the first circumnavigation of the globe by air. They completed the journey 175 days later on September 28, after making 74 stops and covering about 44,337 kilometers (27,550 miles).

The airplanes were named for American cities and carried a flight number: Seattle (1), Chicago (2), Boston (3), and New Orleans (4). They flew over the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans and encountered climatic extremes from arctic to tropical. Only the Chicago, flown by Lts. Lowell Smith and Leslie Arnold, and the New Orleans, flown by Lts. Erik Nelson and John Harding Jr., completed the entire journey.

Lt. Lowell Smith

Lt. Lowell Smith

Lt. Leslie P. Arnold

Lt. Leslie P. Arnold

Who Were Smith and Arnold?
The crew of one of four Army World Cruisers that set out together to circle the world. Smith had set a flight endurance record of 37 hours aloft. Arnold had been a pilot and barnstormer for the Army. They relied on the support of a vast global network to achieve the daunting feat of a world flight.

The Douglas World Cruiser Chicago
To handle the harsh conditions of a flight around the world, the U.S. Army Air Service needed a strong, reliable aircraft. Lt. Erik Nelson, who would pilot the Douglas World Cruiser New Orleans, worked with Donald Douglas to modify his DT-2 torpedo bomber design into a World Cruiser.

The new aircraft had increased fuel and cooling capacity, a tubular steel fuselage, strengthened bracing, a larger rudder, a cutout in the upper wing to increase visibility, and closer dual cockpit locations. Because the flight would take place over land and water, the aircraft also featured interchangeable floats and wheels. The Douglas Company delivered a prototype and four World Cruisers at a cost of $192,684.

Douglas World Cruiser (DWC) "Chicago"

Look Inside Douglas World Cruiser Front Cockpit


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QuickTime VR panorama created from actual cockpit photography.

Look Inside Douglas World Cruiser Rear Cockpit


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QuickTime VR panorama created from actual cockpit photography.

Wing span: 15.2 m (50 ft)
Length: 10.8 m (35 ft 6 in)
Height: 4.1 m (13 ft 7 in)
Weight (empty): 1,543 kg (4,380 lb)
Weight (gross): 3,317 kg (6,915 lb)
Top speed: 167 km/h (104 mph)
Engine: Liberty V-12, 420 hp
Crew: 2
Manufacturer: Douglas Co., Santa Monica, Calif., 1924

More about the Douglas World Cruiser Chicago

First Flight Around the World

First Flight Around the World
Plan a round-the-world flight - you may face unexpected challenges along the way.
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