Vin Fiz Flyer
The Vin Fiz Flyer was an early Wright Brothers
Wright brothers
The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur , were two Americans credited with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903...

 Model EX pusher
Pusher configuration
In a craft with a pusher configuration the propeller are mounted behind their respective engine. According to Bill Gunston, a "pusher propeller" is one mounted behind engine so that drive shaft is in compression...

A biplane is a fixed-wing aircraft with two superimposed main wings. The Wright brothers' Wright Flyer used a biplane design, as did most aircraft in the early years of aviation. While a biplane wing structure has a structural advantage, it produces more drag than a similar monoplane wing...

, that in 1911 became the first to cross the North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

n continent by air.


The publisher William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst was an American business magnate and leading newspaper publisher. Hearst entered the publishing business in 1887, after taking control of The San Francisco Examiner from his father...

 had offered a US$50,000 prize to the first aviator to fly coast to coast, in either direction, in less than 30 days from start to finish.

Calbraith Perry Rodgers
Calbraith Perry Rodgers
Calbraith Perry Rodgers was an American pioneer aviator. He made the first transcontinental airplane flight across the U.S. from September 17, 1911 to November 5, 1911, with dozens of stops, both intentional and accidental...

, grandnephew of naval hero Oliver Hazard Perry
Oliver Hazard Perry
United States Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry was born in South Kingstown, Rhode Island , the son of USN Captain Christopher Raymond Perry and Sarah Wallace Alexander, a direct descendant of William Wallace...

 and a risk-taking sort of sportsman, had taken about 90 minutes of instruction from Orville Wright in June 1911 before soloing, and had won an $11,000 air endurance prize in a contest in August. Rodgers became the first private citizen to buy a Wright airplane, a Wright Model B
Wright Model B
|-See also:-References:* * * * * * -External links:* *...

 modified and called the Model EX. The plane's 35 horsepower (26 kilowatt) engine allowed a speed of 50 miles per hour (80 km/hr) at 1000 feet (305 meters).

Since the airplane would need a considerable support crew, Rodgers persuaded J. Ogden Armour
J. Ogden Armour
Jonathan Ogden Armour was an American meatpacking magnate in Chicago, and owner and president of Armour and Company. During his tenure as president, Armour & Co...

, of meatpacking fame, to sponsor the attempt, and in return named the plane after Armour's new grape soft drink
Soft drink
A soft drink is a non-alcoholic beverage that typically contains water , a sweetener, and a flavoring agent...

 Vin Fiz. The support team rode on a three-car train
A train is a connected series of vehicles for rail transport that move along a track to transport cargo or passengers from one place to another place. The track usually consists of two rails, but might also be a monorail or maglev guideway.Propulsion for the train is provided by a separate...

 called the Vin Fiz Special, and included Charlie Taylor
Charlie Taylor
Charles Edward Taylor built the first aircraft engine used by the Wright brothers and was a vital contributor of mechanical skills in the building and maintaining of early Wright engines and airplanes.-Biography:...

, the Wright brothers' bicycle shop and aircraft mechanic, who built their first and later engines and knew every detail of Wright airplane construction; Rodgers' wife Mabel; his mother; reporters; and employees of Armour and Vin Fiz.

The flight began at 4:30 pm, September 17, 1911, when Rodgers took off from Sheepshead Bay, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. Although the plan called for a large number of stops along the way, in the end there were 75, including 16 crashes, and Rodgers was injured several times. Taylor and the team of mechanics rebuilt the Vin Fiz Flyer when necessary, and only a few pieces of the original plane actually made the entire trip.

On November 5, having missed the prize deadline by 19 days, Rodgers landed in Pasadena, California
Pasadena, California
Pasadena is a city in Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although famous for hosting the annual Rose Bowl football game and Tournament of Roses Parade, Pasadena is the home to many scientific and cultural institutions, including the California Institute of Technology , the Jet...

, in front of a crowd of 20,000. On the 12th he took off for Long Beach, California
Long Beach, California
Long Beach is a city situated in Los Angeles County in Southern California, on the Pacific coast of the United States. The city is the 36th-largest city in the nation and the seventh-largest in California. As of 2010, its population was 462,257...

, but crashed at Compton, with a brain concussion and a spinal twist. He was hospitalized for three weeks. Finally, on December 10 he landed on the beach, and taxied the Flyer into the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

, completing the unprecedented journey of over 4,000 statute miles (6,400 km). Actual flying time totalled under 84 hours. Rodgers was killed in an air crash on the Pacific shore of the US shortly after the flight across the US.

The aircraft was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

 in 1934, and eventually joined the collection of the National Air and Space Museum
National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution holds the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world. It was established in 1976. Located in Washington, D.C., United States, it is a center for research into the history and science of aviation and...

, after being fully restored for display by the Smithsonian in 1960. As of August 2009, the plane was still on display at the NASM but was undergoing further conservation.


In addition to the Vin Fiz endorsement, Mabel Rodgers used the flight to promote an airmail
Airmail is mail that is transported by aircraft. It typically arrives more quickly than surface mail, and usually costs more to send...

 service, and sold special 25-cent postage stamp
Postage stamp
A postage stamp is a small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage. Typically, stamps are made from special paper, with a national designation and denomination on the face, and a gum adhesive on the reverse side...

s for items to be carried on the airplane. They were semi-official - the Post Office tolerated them, but insisted that mail carry regular stamps as well. The stamps were large, inscribed "RODGERS AERIAL POST" and "VIN FIZ FLYER", with a picture of the airplane in the center. It is believed that they were ordered by Cal's brother, Robert S. Rodgers, from a printer in Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri is the largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri and is the anchor city of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, the second largest metropolitan area in Missouri. It encompasses in parts of Jackson, Clay, Cass, and Platte counties...

, and they were probably first available around October 14.

Twelve Vin Fiz stamps are known to exist today - seven on postcard
A postcard or post card is a rectangular piece of thick paper or thin cardboard intended for writing and mailing without an envelope....

s, one on a cover
Cover (philately)
In philately, the term cover pertains to the outside of an envelope or package with an address, typically with postage stamps that have been cancelled and is a term generally used among stamp and postal history collectors. The term does not include the contents of the letter or package, although...

, and four individuals. One of the cards sold in 1999 for $88,000. Another one of the cards was only recently discovered; it was bought at an Internet auction for several hundred dollars, then auctioned by Siegel in December 2001 for $44,000.

Shreves Philatelic Galleries, Inc. ( held a specialized auction "The Pioneers Of Flight Collection" on Nov. 29, 2006 selling 4 stamps:
the only one on cover for $70,000 and 3 on postcards (for $60,000, $60,000 and $47,500).

External links

See also

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