"Old Coast Guard Station and Golden Gate Bridge" by U.S. National Park Service , public domain
Presidio of San Francisco
Pioneers of Flight
Brochure Pioneers of Flight at Presidio of San Francisco at Golden Gate National Recreation Area (NRA) in California. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).
Pioneers of Flight National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Presi io of San Francisco Gol en Gate National Recreation Area GGNRA Park Archives Crissy Airfield in 1919. Death-Defying Firsts at Crissy Fiel GGNRA Park Archives Pilo s ook heir families up o prove ha aircraf were safe. “Father of Aerobatics” Frank Marrero Collection Lincoln Beachey flies his “Li le Looper” in 1913. Success or Failure? Have you ever been scared during an airplane flight? Most of us have at one time or another even in today’s very safe aircraft. However during the pioneering days of flight every trip was death-defying and possibly one’s last. The early pilots flying in and out of Crissy Field performed many aviation firsts putting their life on the line every day to prove that airplanes were useful and reliable. Their contributions and commitment played a key role in making air travel safe and routine for all. In 1919 the army built an airfield on the Presidio to Even in the early years of aviation Lincoln Beachey the father of aerobatics knew that airplanes would one day be reliable and commonplace transportation. To promote this belief he flew anytime he could find an audience. And it wasn’t hard. Crowds flocked to see his stunts and if he would survive them. Beachey was the first person to fly upside down and to perform a tail slide and a spin recovery. So when the Panama-Pacific International Exposition opened in San Francisco he became a advance the military potential of airplanes proven by their success in World War I. But even before the airfield’s completion in 1921 it had already seen aviation history being made. As early as 1915 crowds gathered here to see if the “father of aerobatics” perform daring feats at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Standing on the grass of Crissy Field today we can only imagine the wild cheers as the first flight around the world landed or the fearful good-byes as the first flight to Hawaii departed. Crissy Field saw all these daring landmark events and more. main attraction flying over what would become Crissy Field. While performing stunts here in a new early monoplane its wings collapsed. Beachey was unable to escape the harness that held him to the sinking plane. He ultimately drowned in the bay between Crissy Field and Fort Mason. On October 8 1919 the First Transcontinental Reliability and Endurance Test captivated the nation when 46 pilots departed Roosevelt Field Long Island headed west and 15 planes left the yet unnamed airfield at the Presidio for the east coast. Three days later at Roosevelt Field New York a tired Captain Lowell H. Smith ended the first military flight to span the continent. Of the 61 planes in the test only nine finished the flight and nine men died enroute. Among those killed was Major Dana Crissy commander of Mather Field in Sacramento. Moved by the loss of his friend Major Hap Arnold commander of the Presidio airfield requested it be named Crissy Field. GGNRA Park Archives Major Dana Crissy was survived by his wife and wo children. (rev. 06/11) Magellans of the Air The world watched with excitement as four Douglas World Cruisers and their pilots made a daring attempt to fly around the world in 1924. The Seattle Chicago Boston and New Orleans lifted off from Clover Field Seattle Washington on April 6 commencing their historic around-the-world flight. Early on the Seattle crashed into a fog-shrouded mountain in Alaska placing Captain Lowell H. Smith the first army pilot to fly coast to coast in command of the mission. Later the Boston was lost at sea. Near the end of their journey the courageous pilots received a hero’s welcome at Crissy Field. When the surviving aircraft finally returned to Clover Field on September 28th the Chicago and New Orleans had covered 26 345 miles in 172 days. National Archives an Recor s A ministration Crowds of housands gree around- heworld fliers a Crissy Field. Surviving the Pacific Righ : Inspec ing he PN-9 a Crissy Field, af er being forced down. No e he damaged righ wing ip. NPS S aff Drawing Sails were cu from he canvas wings. Hawaii State Archives Islanders honored “Bird of Paradise” pilo s wi h fea her capes reserved for Hawaiian royal y. Crissy Fiel To ay Crowds once again flock o see hings fly a opening day of he res ored Crissy Field. Prin ed on recycled paper using soy-based ink National Archives an Recor s A ministration After the around-the-world flight which made short hops between the northern continents the nation engaged the next big challenge— long distance flight crossing entire oceans. In August of 1925 Navy Commander John Rodgers led two seaplanes down the ramp into the bay at Crissy Field to meet that challenge. After crossing six miles of the bay at full throttle the PN-9 planes finally became airborne and sped west towards Hawaii at 115 miles per hour. Within five hours an oil leak forced one plane down. But Commander Rodgers and his crew flew on alone. More than 400 miles short of Hawaii fuel became low causing Rodgers to fly off course in search of a refueling ship. Eventually the plane ran out of fuel which not only stopped the engines but also the radio. This left the crew stranded in shark-infested waters with a perilously small food supply. Resorting to their naval training the men made sails from the canvas wings. Imagine the crew’s thoughts as they sailed ever-so-slowly toward Hawaii watching for ships or land but seeing neither until they reached Kauai Hawaii over a week later. After the Navy failed to fly to Hawaii the Army Air Corps tried two years later. The runway at Crissy was too short for the fully fueled Fokker C-2 to take off so the crew flew to Oakland airport for final fueling. Charles Lindbergh called this “the most perfectly organized and carefully planned flight ever attempted.” Piloted by lieutenants Lester J. Maitland and Albert F. Hegenberger the “Bird of Paradise” successfully completed the trip to Hawaii in under 26 hours. Standing tribute today’s Crissy Field is the most intact 1920s Army airfield west of the Mississippi. The restored grass field and surrounding original buildings reflect the area’s appearance when the pioneers of flight made history here. As you look across the field you can almost hear the roar of aircraft as young aviators took off risking their lives to make air travel the safe and reliable form of transportation that it is today. EXPERIENCE YOUR AMERICA w w w. n p s . g o v / p r s f /