Viewing page 30 of 69

18 U.S. AIR SERVICES August, 1931

Irkutsk they were on their way again, landing in the mud at Blagovestchensk at eight o'clock the same morning. 
    They were delayed in getting a tractor to free the Lockheed from the mud, so that while they were fourteen and a half hours on the ground, only a small portion of that time was spent in rest. At 10:30 P.M., Saturday night, they once more got under way and flew down the Amur River to Khabarovsk, where they arrived at half past two Sunday morning. 

FROM Tuesday morning till Sunday they had flown nearly two-thirds the way around the world. They had crossed one ocean and two vast continents. In five days of practically continuous flying they had only three opportunities to sleep.
    At Kharbarovsk was the longest rest period of the entire flight. The Lockheed stayed on the ground for twenty-six and a half hours. The flyers caught some much needed sleep. They carefully inspected the airplane in anticipation of the longest single hop of their whole journey. The flight over the Atlantic, twenty-two hundred miles from Newfoundland to England, had been fraught with peril, motor trouble would have meant certain death. The twenty-four-hundred mile flight from Kharbarovsk to Alaska was equally hazardous; a forced landing in the mountains of north-eastern Siberia would most surely result in disaster. It was with full realization of the dangers ahead that Post and Gatty meticulously checked and rechecked the condition of their plane and engine.
    From the moment of leaving Kharbarovsk the flight must have been a nightmare of continuous flying. In sixteen hours and forty-five minutes they had made the perilous flight to Alaska, landing at Solomon. Refueling and straightening a bent propeller took the entire nine hours they were on the ground at Solomon. They flew on to Fairbanks. At Fairbanks the plane was on the ground six hours while the damaged propeller was being replaced and the gas tanks were being filled for the fourteen-hundred-mile hop ahead. While this was being done the flyers were able to catch a couple hours' sleep. Again they were on their way and in ten hours flying they arrived at Edmonton. Here again they had trouble with a muddy field and it was necessary in taking-off to utilize one of the paved roads alongside the airport. The flyers had a ten-hour layoff at Edmonton in preparation for the seventeen-hundred-mile hop to Cleveland. 

WEDNESDAY, the final day of their Round-the-World journey, they left Edmonton at twenty minutes of seven in the morning, arriving at quarter past five in the evening at Cleveland, Ohio. Snatching a hurried lunch they left Cleveland at quarter of six. Three hours later they arrived at New York. Small wonder that these two speed kings were exhausted and did not respond blithely and gaily into the microphones that were thrust at them. They had taxed human endurance as it had never before been taxed. 
    Fatigue is a form of poison. The human system is able to rid itself of this fatigue-poison by rest. If the rest is not administered the fatigue-poison acts as a drug, the will-power is overcome. Nature enforces its demand for rest. The human who tries to stay awake for a long period finds that in time he reaches a condition where he is unable to resist longer his overwhelming craving for rest and he succumbs to sleep.
    Soft music, the dull, distant booming of surf and similar rhythmic sounds have a soothing action on the nervous system, they lull persons to sleep. The tremendous noise of an airplane engine, when first heard, beats harshly on the eardrums, but after a short time its noise becomes less noticeable; the ears become accustomed to the rhythmic roaring. It has a sedative action, the hearer tends to become drowsy.
    A change in the smooth running sound or a sudden cessation of the noise would startle one into wakefulness. The ears, grown inured to the regular beating, would give instant warning to the brain of something amiss. 
    With the engine hitting regularly, its regular pitched note has a soporific action. Air mail pilots, flying the same route day after day, have to combat this tendency towards drowsiness. 

Lindbergh knew that his hardest task on the New York to Paris flight would be the problem of keeping awake. Not having a companion to whom he could relinquish the controls, he realized that he would have to be in full possession of his faculties for thirty-six or more hours. Before going ahead with the major plans for his great flight he tested himself to see if he could keep himself awake for the requisite length of time. On two occasions he performed the experiment of sitting in a chair, alone in a room, for forty hours. He had no book or magazine with which to while away the time. He had nothing to distract his attention. Not once during the long vigils did he get up and walk around to send the blood coursing through his veins to ward off sluggishness. By will-power alone he was able to stay awake. It was not till these tests had satisfied him that he was physically able to keep mentally alert that Lindbergh went ahead in his preparations.
    The epochal flight of Lindbergh was a single hop. He could drain all of his energy for the supreme effort knowing that if successful he would have ample time to relax and recuperate. After the one long struggle he could rest.
    With Post and Gatty it was not a single flight but a succession of flights. After the gruelling trip across to Berlin, the brief rest that they had was totally inadequate. There were other flights ahead. With their energies not yet completely restored, they had to take-off and fly on and on.
    Coming to Khabarovsk, they were tired physically and mentally. While they wisely took a full day's rest there, that could hardly have been sufficient to assuage their intense weariness. After hours of flying one mentally hears the roar of the motors even after going to bed. If sleep comes it is not a restful sleep. 

The flight from Kharbarovsk to Solomon was 2,440 miles over rugged peaks and skirting dangerous shorelines. All by itself it would have been a noteworthy flight. Post and Gatty had, however, flown 9,000 miles in the previous five days. They must have been in such a mentally sluggish condition that the successful flight to Alaska was most remarkable. 
    While sincere tribute must be paid to the skilful piloting of Post and the accurate navigation of Gatty, greater tribute must be paid to their physical
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact