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The Big Fokker: 1923

The Big Fokker: 1923

An unlabeled Harris & Ewing plate showing the U.S. Army Air Service Fokker T-2 that set a number of aviation records for unrefueled flight, including a nonstop transcontinental run from New York to California in just under 27 hours in May 1923, piloted by Lieutenants Oakley Kelly and John Macready. View full size.


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One Impressive Thing that aviation progressed so rapidly that less than twenty years after the Wrights' first flight, there's an airplane with an essentially modern shape and a wingspan two-thirds as great as that first flight was long, able to cross the US non-stop. Wow.

Great and small

That spiffy little bi-plane under the Fokkers wing was no doubt selected for that duty because it was the smallest aircraft in the Army's inventory while the T2 was one of the largest. See more on the Sperry Messenger ( wingspan 20 feet ) here.

Few rewards

They did receive the 1923 MacKay Trophy, a major award in aviation (no, not like A Christmas Story). The Distinguished Flying Cross would not be authorized by Congress until 1926 and no rapid promotion to captain came their way. Both would retire as colonel years later. I suppose it was like a limp handshake and thanks from a grateful Nation, rather like what I got when I left the Air Force.

Hearing check

It seems they offset the engine to the right and the cockpit to the left. Imagine flying for hours right next to that V-12. At least they ran the exhaust up over the wing.

Can any aviation experts identify the fighter? It seems to have a three cylinder radial like the experimental sub-launched plane previously on Shorpy, but I can find no mention of an Army variant.

Thanks, Roverist. Should have known to check the Smithsonian.

The pilots

should have been given medals for flying 27 hours in May in an open cockpit.

Stay on the sidewalk

I like the idea that the pilots need a concrete sidewalk to stay clean on their way to the aircraft, but there's no real concern about the equipment sinking up to the axles in that nasty-looking turnip field.

Dutch Craftsmanship

I'm sure that there are practical limits to the size/capacity of aircraft with a single reciprocating engine. And I strongly suspect Fokker is at the margins of that envelope with this design.

Fokker T-2 AS64233

That's the same 1923 T-2 that is currently hanging in the National Air & Space Museum.

Big Guy

I find this picture interesting because it gives a perspective to the size of some of the aircraft in those days. There were some very large planes, such as this one, but seldom if ever pictured so as to show just how large they were.

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