From August 9 to December 10, 1947, Clifford Evans and George Truman circled the globe in their Piper Super Cruisers, covering 35,897 kilometers (22,436 miles), the first time light personal aircraft accomplished such a feat. Evans flew the City of Washington while Truman flew the City of The Angels, now at the Piper Aviation Museum in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.
The PA-12 was a more powerful J-5 Cruiser, with an electric starter, navigation lights, and a cabin heater. For the flight, Piper Aircraft arranged for second-hand planes and extra fuel tanks while radio and navigation equipment were also donated. Evans built a drift meter for each aircraft. Flags of each nation they visited were hand-painted on the fuselages' left sides and 53 of 55 city stops on the right sides.
From August to December of 1947, Clifford Evans and George Truman flew their Piper PA-12 Super Cruisers around the world, marking the first time a light personal aircraft circled the globe. Evans piloted the City of Washington, now in the Museum's collection, and Truman flew the City of the Angels, now at the Piper Aviation Museum in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.
The end of World War II saw the resumption of private aircraft manufacture and the Piper Aircraft Company, already well known for the J-3 Cub and the J-5 Cruiser, began production of improved models of these aircraft. These were the Piper PA-11 Cub Special and the Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser. Walter Jamoneau, who was head of the engineering department at Piper for many years, modified the J-5 into the PA-12. Test flights were made in December 1945, and the first production version of the aircraft appeared in February 1946. A four-place version, known as the PA-14 Family Cruiser and featuring a 115-hp Lycoming engine, was built in 1948.
The original J-5 series were fabric-covered, three-place, high-wing monoplanes, initially powered by 75-hp Lycoming engines, and later by 90-hp Lycomings. The PA-12 was also fabric-covered, over a welded metal tubular frame and wooden wing spars, and featured a Lycoming O-325-C engine, fully cowled. Later models of the PA-12 had as optional equipment a slightly more powerful engine. Standard features on the PA-12 included an electric starter, navigation lights, and a cabin heater. The Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser was used in a number of roles, from private pleasure flying to light cargo carrying and many are still flying. It was also successful in the export market.
Twenty-six year old Clifford V. Evans and thirty-nine year old George Truman, two Air Force Reserve officers and flight instructors at College Park Airport in Maryland, became interested in the flight as a result of an offhand remark by Evans stating that a Piper Cub could fly around the world. Neither Evans nor Truman was wealthy, so they had to convince Piper, Lycoming, and other manufacturers to donate the necessary equipment. Finally, they were able to arrange for two fully equipped, secondhand Piper Super Cruisers to be furnished for the trip. These planes were modified by the addition of a metal, rather than wood, fixed-pitch propeller, extra instruments, sophisticated radio and navigation equipment, and two extra 50-gallon fuel tanks for a total supply of 138 gallons to allow for 26 hours of endurance. They also carried survival equipment. Evans built a drift meter to help with navigation for both aircraft as well.
On the morning of August 9,1947, Evans in the City of Washington and Truman in the companion ship, City of the Angels, left Teterboro, New Jersey. The flight took just over four months and encompassed 22,436 miles. Weather was the biggest problem, confining them to the ground for many days. Flying above the overcast for 950 miles from Greenland to Iceland, they flew south of the island, realized their mistake and turned back, landing just before fog settled on the airport. After an uneventful but pleasant time in Europe, the pilots were detained six days by the authorities in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, even though their papers were in order. Several 1,000-mile legs took nine to twelve hours with an approximate airspeed of 112 mph and prevailing weather conditions. After two stops in China, they arrived in Japan where they met a USAF B-17 that was to escort them across the North Pacific Ocean to the Alaska mainland. Then, the weather encountered in Alaska and Canada proved to be the worst of the entire trip.
After a leisurely flight across the United States, highlighted with dinners and receptions, the "Modern Magellans," as they were billed, arrived back at Teterboro Airport on December 10, 1947. The only mishap was a damaged tail wheel on one of the landings. Enroute, flags of each visited nation were hand-painted on the left fuselages and 53 of their 55 stops were painted onto the right side of the fuselages. In Washington, D.C., they received heroes' welcomes and were greeted by President Harry Truman.
This light aircraft world flight, only ten years after Amelia Earhart's ill-fated world attempt in a much larger and heavier aircraft, owed its success to the advancements in navigation and communications equipment and a world-wide network of ground-based radio stations, all developed during World War II.
Evans left for China shortly after the flight and left the City of Washington in his father's name. William T. Piper Sr. purchased the aircraft and presented it to the National Air Museum on September 17, 1949. The aircraft was restored in 1974 for exhibit in the Arts and Industries Building and then for the General Aviation gallery of the new National Air and Space Museum building that opened in July 1976. The original flag portion of the fuselage panel was saved and is in environmental storage. The flags and stopping points were repainted onto the fuselage sides. The aircraft is now on display at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia.