Aviation Memorabilia Newsletter Since 1995

Aviation Memorabilia Newsletter

Since 1995

Alan RustNewsreel footage of early successes (and failures!) of flight

I found this interesting video on YouTube showing various attempts (some successful) to get a "flying machine" in the air.

The following comments are noteworthy as well (from the video comment section) in regard to the autopilot (self flyer) in one of the clips;

See video below at 8:31 - More on the 'Self-Flyer'. Found in some fairly modern articles (Whittier Daily News web article dated 1/13/13) & contemporaneous (Popular Aviation, October 1933, p. 234). The Whittier article says Dr. C.H. Vance of Pomona invented the autopilot device, and pilot Paul Munro flew the plane. The newsreel film was taken Nov. 3, 1932. On Nov. 12-13, 1932, Munro spent 37 consecutive hours piloting the Curtiss Robin, and was refueled in the air. He was the first pilot to fly solo and have his plane fueled in mid-air, (he had to leave the pilot seat to guide the fueling hose). He came down missing the solo-pilot endurance record by one hour, when the refueling plane couldn't find his plane.

The Sperry gyroscopic autopilot (which became standard equipment on most if not all large planes) was commercially introduced in 1932 but not fully perfected until some years later, so it's not such a surprise that this 'Self-Flyer' was a sensation in 1932.

I wonder if the pilot is actually Douglas 'Wrong-Way' Corrigan flying under a pseudonym. Corrigan had helped build Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis at Ryan Aircraft Co. nearby, and wanted to copy the feat. He was an aircraft mechanic in the area for some years, and was an expert stunt pilot while keeping his flying secret from his employers. In 1938, he famously flew a Curtiss Robin to Ireland while claiming (probably to thwart prosecution) he'd intended to fly westward from Long Island. On the other hand, he may not have even been in Southenr California in 1932. Sources say he operated a small passenger service on the east coast starting 1930, bought his Robin with an OX-5 (WWI-era V-8, considered antique in 1933, different engine than in the clip) on the east coast in 1935, and nursed it back to San Diego then. I tried comparing the clips of Munro here with photos of Corrigan. The pictures are a little fuzzy, so hard to say one way or the other.

flying machines