Pioneer. In 1911, Calbraith was the first aviator to successfully fly a plane across the United States. However, due to the fact that air travel
was still in its infancy, the terms successful
are both used in their loosest possible meanings.
Calbraith was attempting to claim the $50,000 prize offered by William Randolph Hearst to the first person to fly a plane from coast to coast in 30 days. Rogers was by trade a motorcycle racer, and only had limited experience in flying (albeit from the Wright Brothers school), but was still willing to rise to the challenge. He solicited a sponsorship from the grape soda manufacturer Vin Fiz, and equipped with the Wright EX biplane, he departed from Long Island, NY on September 17, 1911. His trip would head west to Chicago, then south to Texas and west to California, to avoid the Rocky Mountain ranges.
It was a tumultuous journey. The Wright EX did not come with a radio, landing gear, or even a compass. In fact, the only navigational 'instrument' on the plane was a tied shoelace to indicate the wind speed and vertical motion of the vehicle. Furthormore, many of the towns on Rogers' itinerary had never been visited by airplane before, and had few facilities, other than an open field, to accommodate one.
Over the course of the trip, Rogers managed to crash his plane 19 times, and still avoid injury. Fortunately, he had planned for such a contingancy, and his course was always followed by a train that carried his family, his mechanics, and $4,000 in spare parts. By the time he limped his plane into Long Beach, California on November 5th, the only parts of the plane that had not been replaced were the throttle and a wing strut.
C.P. Rogers' journey had taken him 49 days, with a total flight time of just over 82 hours. Although it was not enough to win Hearst's prize, his achievement did secure him a place in the record books for his tenacity.