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Loening OL

Loening OL

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Loening OL

The Loening OL was an unusual amphibian aircraft that used a single main float carried under the fuselage instead of the more standard flying boat hull. The OL was designed by Grover C Loening, a very talented aircraft engineer. His aim was to produce an amphibian with the performance of a landplane.

The same type of main float was used on the later Grumman JF and Grumman J2F Duck. This wasn't entirely surprising, as Leroy Grumman had worked for Loening, and the Grumman Company was originally founded to maintain existing Loening aircraft, with financial backing from Grover C Loening,

The OL was based on the Army's OA-1 (Observation, Amphibian). This had originally been developed in 1923 as the COA-1, powered by a 400hp Liberty V-1650-1 engine. The navy was interested in the design, and ordered two aircraft of its own, giving them the designation OL-1. These aircraft were similar to the COA-1, but carried a third cockpit (all in tandem) and were powered by a 440hp Packard 1A-1500 engine. The second OL-1 included a number of design improvements.

In 1925 the Navy bought five COA-1s for use on that year's Arctic Expedition. These aircraft were identical to the Army's COA-1, with the Liberty engine and a crew of two.

Next came the OL-3, which was based on the second improved OL-1, with the three-man crew and Packard engine. This would be the basis of all remaining versions, which eventually reached the OL-9, produced after Loening had merged with Keystone. The biggest change came with the OL-8, which used a Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engine, and reverted to the two-man crew. The OL-8, OL-8A and OL-9 accounted for 66 of the 111 OLs of all types produced for the US Navy.



The first two aircraft ordered by the Navy were given the designation OL-1. They were similar to the Army's COA-1, but with a third cockpit and used 440hp Packard 1A-1500 engines in place of the Liberty engines of the Army Aircraft. The second aircraft included a number of improvements and became the model for the OL-3 and most later entries in the series.


Five aircraft were ordered in 1925 to take part in that year's Arctic Expedition. They were identical to the Army's two-man COA-1 and were powered by the Liberty engine.


The OL-3 was the designation given to four aircraft that were identical to the second, improved, OL-1. They were thus powered by the Packard engine and carried a crew of three.


The OL-4 was the designation given to six aircraft that were similar to the OL-3, but powered by the Liberty V-1650-1 engine.


The OL-5 was the designation given to a small number of OL amphibians that were ordered for the US Coast Guard in 1926. Three were purchased late in 1926, and alongside three Chance-Vought UO-4s became the first aircraft to be owned by the Coast Guard. The first OL-5 was delivered in October 1926, making it the first aircraft to be built for the US Coast Guard. The OL-5 had a reinforced hull bottom and keel, modified wing-tip floats, higher rudders, extra fins and carried more fuel. Two of the three aircraft were written off after crashes and the third was retired in 1935. They were used for air-sea rescue and even armed with machine guns for police work.


The OL-6 was similar to the OL-3, but with a more angular fin and rudder, first introduced on the Army's OA-1C. It was otherwise similar to the OL-3, with a three-man crew and the Packard engine. Twenty eight were built, making it numerically the most important variant.


The XOL-7 was a single OL-6 that was given experimental thick-section wings.


The XOL-8 was a single OL-6 that was given a Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engine. This engine was adopted in the remaining production versions of the aircraft. The new engine had no real impact on speed, but it did almost half the time it took to climb to 5,000ft and improved the service ceiling.


The OL-8 was the production version of the XOL-8. It reverted to the two-main configuration of the OL-2 and Army aircraft, but with the angular tail introduced on the Ol-6 and the Pratt & Whitney engine of the XOL-8. Twenty were built.


Another twenty aircraft were built as the OL-8A, which was identical to the OL-8 apart from the introduction of arrester gear to allow for carrier operations.


The last twenty-six aircraft were produced as OL-9s. These was the same as the OL-8, but were produced after Loening had merged with Keystone.

Stats for OL-3
Engine: Packard 1A-2500
Power: 475hp
Crew: 3
Span: 45ft
Length: 35ft 1in
Height: 12ft 9in
Empty Weight: 3,673lb
Gross Weight: 5,316lb
Maximum Speed: 122mph
Climb rate: 10 minutes to 5,500ft
Service Ceiling: 13,000ft
Range: 423 statute miles

'It's the Legacy of Slavery': Here's the Troubling History Behind Tipping Practices in the U.S.

T hese days, the expectation at U.S. restaurants that diners will tip their servers is a key part of the culinary economy: tips subsidize a server or bartender’s salary at the vast majority of the nearly 650,000 restaurants in the country.

But tipping wasn’t always part of the U.S. dining landscape &mdash and scholars who have studied its origins point out that its oft-debated role in the modern economy isn’t the only thing potentially troubling about tips.

In the earliest days of the practice, its spread was linked to the racial oppression of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period.

The idea of giving someone money for their work isn’t one that really needs an origin story, but modern American tipping &mdash the practice of the customer giving a gratuity on top of the money that the employee gets from his or her employer &mdash does have a beginning. (As for the word itself, many are familiar with the tale that “To Insure Promptness” was a phrase written on dishes for coins at shops, thus creating the acronym of “tip,” but that’s just a myth.) Some accounts credit European travelers with bringing the custom to the U.S. others credit American travelers with bringing tipping back from Europe. The truth? Wealthy Americans in the 1850s and 1860s discovered the tradition, which had originated in medieval times as a master-serf custom wherein a servant would receive extra money for having performed superbly well, on vacations in Europe. Wanting to seem aristocratic, these individuals began tipping in the United States upon their return.

At first, most diners were largely against it, deeming it both inherently condescending and classist. How could poor Americans be expected to pay for their food, and add a “tip” on top? In fact, there was so much anti-tipping traction that, in the 1860s, the attitude spread to Europe. That’s one reason why there is no tipping expected at most European restaurants today, according to Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and president of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) and the director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley, who advocates for the equalization of wages for tipped and non-tipped workers.

“But in the States, that movement was squashed, and we went to the exact opposite direction,” Jayaraman tells TIME, “because of slavery.”

After the Constitution was amended in the wake of the Civil War, slavery was ended as an institution but those who were freed from bondage were still limited in their choices. Many who did not end up sharecropping worked in menial positions, such as servants, waiters, barbers and railroad porters. These were pretty much the only occupations available to them. For restaurant workers and railroad porters, there was a catch: many employers would not actually pay these workers, under the condition that guests would offer a small tip instead.

“These industries demanded the right to basically continue slavery with a wage and tip,” Jayaraman says.

Despite tipping’s growing prominence, many remained unhappy about the custom in the years following Reconstruction. Six states temporarily abolished the practice in 1915. In 1918, Georgia’s legislature deemed tips as “commercial bribes,” or tips for the purpose of influencing service, illegal. Iowa’s initial 1915 decision said that those who accepted a gratuity of any kind &mdash not those who gave the money themselves &mdash could be fined or imprisoned.

Even with that pushback, the practice grew in popularity in many Southern states. By 1926, all of these laws had been repealed or deemed unconstitutional by the respective state’s Supreme Court, according to Kerry Segrave’s Tipping: An American Social History of Gratitudes.

Restaurateurs soon realized that they stood to benefit from the opportunity to subsidize a worker’s pay with guests’ extra money, says Douglass Miller, a lecturer at the Hotel School of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University. So, even as the racial dynamics of the United States evolved, the practice spread throughout the country &mdash including in the North &mdash and stuck.

Loening OL - History

Days Of Glory And Early Aviation Page 1

My father was a man of few words, but he believed in getting the job done and doing it right the first time. As a young man his dream was to become a Pilot and fly all over the world. Few of us ever get to see our dreams come true and to do everything we ever wanted to do, but I truly believe that he did. During 1937 and 1938 while loaned out by the Lockheed Company as private pilot for Lord Beaverbrook, the British Industrialist, publisher, and cabinet member of Ministry of Aircraft Production, before World War II, he flew all over Europe.

I know that he had a high security clearence in the Military and did some flying that he never talked about. He did tell me once that he used to carry a group of men out into the desert (here in the U.S.) where they were doing some testing, and on the return flights he would have to search the aircraft and pick up all scraps of paper after everyone got off and before anyone ealse could come on board. The time was during the early 1940's, the men were Scientist and were very careless about writing down notes and then wadding up the paper and throwing it on the floor of the plane. It all started on 17 Jan 1925 when he enlisted in the Army in order to get his Wings and to become an Aviator. He lost his Army Flight Instructor and had to enlist in the Marine Corps on 22 May 1926 in order to complete his flight training. He got his wings on 1 Nov 1926. Dad was an Enlisted man while in the Marines, not an Officer, and when he became a Flight Instructor at Penscaola, Florida during the year of 1929 that fact gave him a lot of problems with some of his students that were Officers.

Before becoming a Flight Instructor he served as a Pilot with the Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp MacMurray, Hsin Ho, China during 1927-1928. These were the first Marine Pilots to fly in China. At first their flights were not well accepted, and very restricted by the Chinese. By giving air dimonstrations, air shows, and rides to certian Chinese Officials the Marines were soon able to show that that they were not a threat to the people and could be of help to the Warlords should the need arise. This gave the Marines more freedom in the skies over China.

(This is a Loening Amphibian.)

(In the first 12 months of deployment, Marine planes flew 2,343.2 hours during a total of 3,731 flights. There were 5 crashes but with no injuries to the crews. On 10 Nov 1927, the Marine Corps' birthday, the 3rd Brigade arranged for a special review. Fourteen planes were flown from Camp MacMurray to put on an air show for the Chinese at Tientsin. One incident that occurred during the air show has long been remembered by thoes who witnessed it. During an exhibition of stunt flying, Captian James T. "Nuts" Moore made a low pass over the crowd and then went into a breathtaking roll, lost the wings from his aircraft, bailed out,and parachuted into a moat in front of the stands. Most spectators, unaware that it had not been planned, thought it was the best show they ever saw. What you are looking at above could be the remains of the aircraft that James T. Moore flew at the air show.)

(Aircraft maintenance and pre-flight 1927-28 China. The aircraft is a F8C-3 Helldiver. The next aircraft over is a Loening OL-6 Amphibian. Invaluable experience in connection with reconnaissance and observation missions was gained in China in 1927 and 1928 when Marine squadrons attached to the 3rd Marine Brigade covered more than 8,000 square miles on daily recon flights. In 18 months of operations, about 3,800 flights were made.)

The First Helicopter

In 1944, tests with Sikorsky HNS-1 and HOS-1 aboard the ancient CGC Cobb were the very first American shipboard landings of helicopters. The HNS-1, known in Army jargon as the R-4, looked like a jungle gym of metal girders wrapped in fabric – it was not canvas, as widely reported, but linen – and had limited carrying capacity.

Developmental work on helicopters is often credited to the persistence of the Coast Guard’s Cmdr. Frank Erickson, who’d been designated a Coast Guard aviator a decade earlier, became the Coast Guard’s first helicopter pilot, and urged the helicopter’s use in air-sea rescue. Erickson envisioned rotorcraft performing convoy escort duty. In World War II, the Coast Guard was ahead of the other services in helicopter development – although, of course, it was doing the job in part because the chief of naval operations, Adm. Ernest King, assigned the mission. On June 29, 1944, Erickson made the first landing on Cobb’s deck in Long Island Sound.

The first Coast Guard helicopter detachment. Sikorsky photo

Years would pass, however, before helicopters would redeem Erickson’s suggestion that they perform anti-submarine duty while carrying dunking sonar. As the war progressed, the German U-boat threat began to wane the Coast Guard shifted emphasis from convoy protection to SAR. Erickson was still a leading light. He developed much of the Coast Guard’s rescue equipment and carried out its first lifesaving flight, carrying cases of blood plasma lashed to an HNS-1’s floats following an explosion on board a Navy destroyer, the USS Turner, on Jan. 3, 1944.

In the mid-1940s, the Coast Guard ordered its version of the Sikorsky S-51, the HO3S-1G, while other services debated whether rotary-winged flying machines had any practical role.

One of the first helicopter rescues was a rush job requiring coordination by many. Coast Guardsmen disassembled an HNS-1 at Brooklyn, New York, loaded it into an R5D-1 Skymaster transport, and hauled the helicopter to Goose Bay, Labrador, for reassembly. Lt. August Kleisch flew 150 miles to a staging station, then 35 miles more to the crash site, and rescued everyone stranded by the plane crash and its aftermath. The HNS-1 was small and frail by any standard, but it proved its worth and demonstrated that rotary-wing rescues had the potential to become routine. The Coast Guard ultimately operated 10 HNS-1s, all diverted from Army R-4B orders, plus just two of the closely related HOS-1s, both drawn from Army R-6A funding.

Cmdr. Frank A. Erickson (left), who became the first Coast Guard helicopter pilot, is seen aboard with Igor Sikorsky in his namesake HNS-1 helicopter. The Sikorsky HNS-1 was used to demonstrate that rotary-wing rescues could become commonplace in the service’s SAR mission. U.S. Coast Guard photo

In the mid-1940s, the Coast Guard ordered its version of the Sikorsky S-51, the HO3S-1G, while other services debated whether rotary-winged flying machines had any practical role. In its Navy incarnation, the HO3S is remembered as the aircraft in which the Mickey Rooney character lost his life in the Korean War movie The Bridges at Toko-ri (1954). The Coast Guard operated nine HO3S-1Gs before graduating to the much larger HO4S-1G, more familiarly known as the H-19.

Pan American Good Will Tour 1926/1927

After the great success of circumnavigating the world with the Douglas DWC , the decision was made to do a Good Will Tour over Mexico , Central and South America . On December 21, 1926, five OA-1As took off from San Antonio, Texas . The tour led through 25 countries over 35,200 km.

The flight route went through Mexico, Guatemala , El Salvador , Honduras , Nicaragua , Costa Rica and Panama . We continued via Colombia , Ecuador , Peru , Bolivia to Valdivia in Chile . The group flew over the Andes to Bahía Blanca in Argentina . The return flight then went via Uruguay , Paraguay , Brazil , Guiana , Venezuela to the West Indies . On May 2, 1927, the planes landed in Washington, DC

The (Really, Really) Racist History Of Gun Control In America

There was a time when the NRA fought for a two-day waiting period on handgun sales and limits on concealed weapons permits. And a time when then–California Governor Ronald Reagan signed legislation forbidding the carrying of loaded firearms in public. Before gun control became a progressive cause, it was a right-wing staple, and it was aimed squarely at the rights of African-Americans nationwide.

The institution of slavery was written into the Constitution, but the rights of African-Americans to defend themselves was most certainly not, and concerns regarding slave revolts increased as the slave population rose. States passed laws forbidding African-Americans from carrying weapons. In South Carolina, slaves — who were "of barbarous, wild savage natures" according to Colony Law — could not have unsupervised access to weapons and could be killed freely, provided the murder wasn’t “wanton.” In Florida, white “citizens patrols” were permitted to search the homes of free African-Americans for guns “and other offensive or improper weapons, and may lawfully seize and take away such arms, weapons, and ammunition.” The message was clear: guns — like the ballot box, marriage, and the right to free assembly — were for white Americans only.

Many resisted, and did so with the very weapons they were forbidden to own. Harriet Tubman rescued more than 300 people from slavery with a gun under her arm. Frederick Douglass wrote in 1854 that a good revolver was critical to staying free: "Every slave hunter who meets a bloody death in his infernal business is an argument in favor of the manhood of our race."

Even after the Civil War, when slavery had ended, so-called "Black Codes" limited the rights of African-Americans in the South, banning them from owning guns (or liquor, for that matter). African-Americans lost the right to vote in many states because of poll taxes and literacy tests, and therefore the right to serve on juries (which was limited to voters). In 1892 alone, 161 African-Americans were lynched* across the country. Self-defense was an absolute necessity. Ida B. Wells, an African-American journalist and civil rights activist, wrote in a pamphlet entitled "Southern Horrors":

That conflict — between the fears of racist whites and the needs of African-Americans to defend themselves — arose again in the late 1960s. The leaders of the Civil Rights Movement recognized that the need for self-defense still existed — in fact, Martin Luther King Jr. applied for (and was denied) a concealed carry permit. Recounting his memories of "Freedom Summer" and the Civil Rights Movement, Charles E. Cobb Jr., former field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, said, "I know from personal experience and the experiences of others, that guns kept people alive, kept communities safe, and all you have to do to understand this is simply think of black people as human beings and they're gonna respond to terrorism the way anybody else would."

More radical voices, including Malcolm X and leading members of the Black Panthers, believed that “nonviolence” was a lie that would only put more African-Americans at risk. Charles C.W. Cooke, online editor of the National Review, told MTV News, “America had a tyranny in it. It was just not perpetrated against white people. America had a tyranny in the South, and people were lynched. It was institutionalized, organized violence.” Better to be armed and able to defend oneself than to give up one’s rights, the thinking went.

On May 2, 1967, a group of Black Panthers took to the steps of the California Legislature carrying revolvers, shotguns, and pistols and read a statement saying, “The time has come for black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late.” In a direct response to the incident, Governor Ronald Reagan signed the Mulford Act, banning the open carry of loaded weapons, barely two months later. Guns were “a ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will,” he said.

You may be surprised, reading this in 2016, to learn that both the Mulford Act and later the Gun Control Act of 1968 — which required gun sellers to have a federal license and banned the sale of certain kinds of small guns — had the support of the National Rifle Association. Before the 1970s, Cooke explains, the NRA was a “moderate sportsman’s organization” that believed there was no need for concealed weapons. That changed when the organization moved from Washington, D.C., to Fairfax, VA, and began fighting not for sport shooting but for an end to gun control laws altogether. As former NRA president Harlon Carter said in 1975, the use of guns by violent criminals or the mentally ill was simply the "price we pay for freedom." In 1980, the NRA endorsed Ronald Reagan — 13 years after Reagan had signed the first open-carry ban in the country.

But as the NRA and the Republican Party sprinted away from gun control, African-Americans, faced with a rising tide of violence in American cities and the explosion of crack cocaine use, began to embrace it. While black Americans are less likely to own guns today, they are more likely to be killed by them. In 1976, in a 12–1 vote by a majority black city council, the District of Columbia banned residents from owning or carrying handguns (excluding guards, police, and those with already registered handguns). The NAACP voted to support gun control measures in 1989. In 1993, during the peak of gun homicides among African-Americans, 74 percent of the demographic supported gun control.

But more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement hasn’t centered gun control as a priority — not only because of the racist history of gun control, but because gun control regulations, like drug laws, are more likely to be used against African-Americans than whites. In other words: White people may be more likely to carry a gun, but black people are more likely to be jailed for it.

Gun control remains a racially divisive issue. In 2015, 60 percent of African-Americans believed that gun control should be prioritized over gun rights, but 61 percent of whites believed that gun rights should be prioritized over gun control. The racist history of gun control still simmers with some African-Americans, who see the right to bear arms as a civil rights issue. Support for gun control among black Americans has decreased over the last two decades, even after the horrific spate of mass shootings across the country. In fact, since the massacre at the Charleston Emanuel AME Church in 2015, support for gun ownership by black Americans has grown.

Gun control and race — and racism — are inextricably linked. While the debate over what the right to bear arms means and doesn’t mean continues to rage, it is critical to remember that for more than 200 years, black people were denied that right in the first place.

*Lynching typically implies death by hanging, but not always. One man, Henry Smith, was burned alive in front of 10,000 spectators in Paris, Texas.

Surviving aircraft

The Loening OA-1A "San Francisco" is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia. The San Francisco took part in the 1926-1927 Pan-American Goodwill Flight through Mexico, Central, and South America. It was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1927 and restored in 1964-1965. Γ] It was previously on loan to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio from 1977 to 2006.

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One of these articles, written by the expedition’s senior naval officer, introduced the public to the man who would go on to become perhaps the most famous aviator-explorer of his era: Richard E. Byrd, then a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy.

/>Richard E. Byrd in Eskimo clothes on deck of the Peary at Etah, Greenland, before the start of the first flight to Ellesmere Island. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

The 1925 expedition was significant in several respects. It marked the first productive use of aircraft in Arctic exploration by Americans, and it thrust Byrd into the limelight as spokesman for the role of aviation in such efforts.

As a joint operation with civilian and military components, it was well publicized and reported, with daily progress reports reaching the American public by radio. It also marked the convergence — or near collision — of the old and the new in Arctic exploration and in the careers of the men involved.

It was only peripherally an attempt to reach the pole, and yet, even with its modest goals, the expedition was no more than a nominal success.

Richard E. Byrd, the scion of an aristocratic and politically influential Virginia family, had graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1912.

Seemingly headed for success in the Navy, he found his career jeopardized by several injuries to his right leg — a fractured ankle while playing football at the academy, another fracture of the same ankle in a gymnastics accident while he was still a midshipman and yet another fracture in a fall on board the battleship Wyoming.

Byrd was given a medical retirement as an ensign in 1916, but he was brought back onto active duty when additional officers were needed during World War I.

With the help of well-placed friends, he obtained the ideal sit-down duty for a man with a limp: He was accepted for pilot training. After winning his wings, Byrd found himself largely in administrative positions in aviation.

He never flew in combat during World War I.

After the war he became the innovator and principal planner for the Navy’s Curtiss NC-4 flight across the Atlantic.

Disappointed that he could not make the flight himself, he nevertheless left his mark through his professional contributions to aerial navigation. These, according to a Navy news release, included not only the Byrd sextant, a bubble sextant he had developed, but also a drift and speed indicator, a course and distance indicator and a zenithal projection of the Atlantic that eliminated the difficult mathematical computations of the past.

/>The Naval Aviation Board in charge of the trans-Atlantic flight of the NC Aircraft, circa spring 1919. Aviation officers: (left to right): Cmdr. John H. Tower, USN Cmdr. Holden C. Richardson, USN Maj. Bernard L. Smith, USMC Lt. Cmdr. Godfrey de C. Chevalier, USN Lt. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd, USN and Lt. j.g. Roswell F. Barratt, USN. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph)

For the next few years Byrd organized Naval Reserve air stations and units around the country. But he continued to think about the Arctic, an area that had fascinated him for many years. Even as a young man he had dreamed of reaching the North Pole, but after Peary had attained that goal, Byrd thought in terms of being the first to fly over the pole.

Byrd saw his chance in 1925, a time of intense activity in aviation as well as competition among the military services.

In 1920 an Army plane had hopped from New York to Nome, Alaska, with frequent stops. In 1924 the Army made a spectacular flight around the world with considerable help from, but little recognition to, the Navy.

Early in 1925 the Navy was forced to scrub a projected Arctic flight of the dirigible Shenandoah when the airship was damaged in a storm.

That same year the service was planning a flight of twin-engine seaplanes to Hawaii. It appeared that Amundsen, the distinguished Norwegian explorer, would soon be ready to fly toward the North Pole. The timing seemed right for an Arctic flight with Navy planes.

Teaming up with the veteran Arctic ship captain Robert A. ‘Bob’ Bartlett, who had been with Peary in 1909 and was considered the grand old man of Arctic exploration, Byrd launched a fund-raising effort on behalf of his project.

To obtain the necessary airplanes, he turned to the Navy Department.

Initially he argued that the Far North needed to be explored hydrographically, because military and commercial flights would eventually cross the pole.

As a clincher, he noted that the U.S. Navy needed a striking accomplishment to offset the harsh public criticism it was receiving at the hands of Brig. Gen. William D. ‘Billy’ Mitchell of the Army Air Service, who was campaigning for the supremacy of air power, delivered by a separate air arm, in future military operations.

Eventually Byrd convinced Secretary of the Navy Curtis D. Wilbur of the benefits of the expedition, and Wilbur in turn sold the idea to President Calvin Coolidge.

/>Loening OL-2, one of the planes purchased for use by the MacMillan Arctic Expedition, circa 1925. Shown here entering water from ramp. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

The plane that the Navy furnished was a relatively new amphibian design built by the Loening Aircraft Company. Loening’s planes were unique in that they did not make use of a flying boat hull, as did earlier amphibians, but instead used a large single float faired into the underside of the fuselage.

This two-seater, open-cockpit biplane was manufactured for several years, during which a number of modifications appeared, designated by the Navy as OL-1 through OL-9.

Some were powered by Liberty engines, others by Packards and a later series by Pratt & Whitney air-cooled engines.

The model turned over to Byrd was an OL-2, which had an inverted 400-hp Liberty engine. It had a maximum speed of 122 mph, with an original range of about 500 statute miles — hardly impressive performance characteristics for a plane that was going to engage in exploration.

Ultimately, three of these planes were allocated to the expedition.

The Navy issued an announcement assuring the public that if the expedition encountered any serious difficulties, the Navy would have two dirigibles, Los Angeles and the recently repaired Shenandoah, standing by for a rescue.

/>The Navy dirigible Shenandoah (Robert Fricks Collection, U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

Gratified that he had obtained planes and personnel, Byrd moved ahead with his planning. But he discovered that not only was the Norwegian Amundsen preparing for an attempt at the North Pole but also another American Arctic expedition was being planned for the same general time frame.

This effort was being spearheaded by Donald MacMillan, a former college professor and longtime Arctic explorer who had also been with Peary in 1909 and was a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve.

MacMillan had already approached the Navy about getting a plane for his expedition after lining up strong sponsorship by the National Geographic Society, with financial support from Chicago millionaire E.F. McDonald, Jr., who headed the Zenith radio manufacturing firm.

McDonald was also a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve.

Sensing that his own effort needed broader support and that a joint expedition could achieve more than two individual ones, Byrd approached MacMillan about combining their efforts. The older man reluctantly agreed, insisting, however, that he must be in overall charge of the operation.

Capt. Bartlett was dropped out of the plans at this point.

Knowing that the Navy distrusted outsiders, Byrd managed to have his own orders drawn up so that he was put in command of a naval force that was in a cooperative support relationship with the civilian expedition, rather than a component of it. Nevertheless, that arrangement was fraught with problems.

Throughout the expedition the two polar philosophies of MacMillan and Byrd — dog sled vs. aircraft and scientific research vs. military operations — would remain in conflict.

McDonald, too, complicated the leadership struggle by proclaiming himself the commanding officer of Peary, one of the expedition’s two ships. He also controlled the radio traffic, even on occasion preventing Byrd from sending coded messages to the Navy Department.

/>At the launch of the expedition, Lt. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd (center), shows off an instrument while pilot Lt. M.A. Schur (left) looks on. (National Archives)

The several purposes of the expedition were announced in advance.

The National Geographic Society scientists would study the natural phenomena of the area, while the Navy planes would survey the great expanse of uncharted ice lying between Alaska and the pole. Among other things, this survey would try to determine whether the lands reported by Peary as ‘Crocker Land’ or by his rival Frederick A. Cook as ‘Bradley Land’ or by MacMillan as the ‘Lost Continent’ actually existed.

Little was said officially about the North Pole, although one of the ‘proposed routes of exploration flights’ shown on a map published at the time of the expedition went close to the pole.

In the meantime, Amundsen and Ellsworth had taken off from Spitzbergen on May 21, 1925, en route to the North Pole, using two Dornier Wal flying boats configured as amphibians. Powered by two Rolls-Royce engines in a tractor-pusher arrangement, the planes had adequate range to make the trip, but they carried only enough gasoline for 200 miles beyond the actual distance to the pole and back, about 1,200 miles.

When they failed to return, a search was launched for the fliers. Byrd and MacMillan agreed that finding the missing explorer and his expedition would become a priority of the American expedition.

As it turned out, the two Wal aircraft of Amundsen and Ellsworth, after getting within 150 miles of the pole, were forced to make emergency landings on the ice. During three weeks of hard work, with their food nearly gone, the six men in the party were able to carve an airstrip out of the hummocked ice and then take off in one overloaded ski-rigged plane in which they returned safely to Spitzbergen.

Byrd was unaware of that development when the American expedition left for the Arctic, but he apparently learned of it en route north.

/>Chief Aviation Pilot Floyd Bennett, co-pilot for Lt. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd on the MacMillian Arctic Expedition in the Summer of 1925 and the Byrd Arctic Expedition of May 1926. For the later mission, he was awarded the Medal of Honor and commissioned to the warrant rank of Machinist. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

The MacMillan Expedition left Wiscasset, Maine, on June 20, 1925, aboard two small ships. The Navy men and their crated aircraft were aboard Peary, a former Canadian minesweeper, while the bulk of the scientific party was aboard Bowdoin, an auxiliary schooner named for MacMillan’s alma mater that had been used in previous Arctic expeditions.

The departure was late in the season, considering the distance that had to be traveled even before any of the time-consuming scientific work could begin on the way north.

The final destination was the port of Etah, a small settlement on Greenland’s northwest coast, about 700 miles south of the pole. MacMillan had helped to establish it on a 1912 expedition.

After battling through icefields near the end of the voyage, the two ships finally reached Etah on Aug. 1.

While plenty of daylight remained, the chill winds of autumn were beginning to blow harder each day. At last, however, the American airmen could unload and reassemble their planes. Four days later they began the exploratory flights they had anticipated for so long.

The three aircraft, designated NA-1, NA-2 and NA-3, were crewed respectively by Lt. Cmdr. Byrd and pilot Floyd Bennett Chief Boatswain’s Mate Earl E. Reber, a pilot, and Aviation Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Charles F. Rocheville, mechanic and Lieutenant M.A. Schur and pilot A.C. Nold. Two other men were also in the detachment: Albert A. Francis, who served as the aerographer, and N.P. Sorenson, a mechanic.

Byrd had planned that two advanced bases would be established for the planes, one at the farthest edge of the large islands to the west, either on Ellesmere Island or Axel Heiberg, and the other at an intermediate location on the way to those sites.

From these locations, with their caches of gasoline and other supplies, flights to the northwest would then be made to the outer limits of the planes’ capabilities.

Initial test flights showed that the planes were tail-heavy when loaded with the planned cargoes for the advanced bases. The problem was partially solved by removing a 33-gallon forward gas tank and stowing the cargo there, but the reduced gasoline capacity affected the range of the aircraft.

These early flights, which went low over nearby ice floes, convinced Byrd that the ice was so rough that his planes could not land on them, even if skis were added to their landing gear.

In view of the ruggedness of the terrain below, the speed with which the weather could change and the unreliability of the compass, every flight became a dangerous mission into which Byrd chose not to order his men, accepting only volunteer participation instead.

As expected, all the men volunteered.

/>Chief Aviation Pilot Floyd Bennett in the sealskin flight suit the crew obtained in Labrador. Bennett accompanied Byrd on his 1926 flight over the North Pole. He would die just a few years later, while on a flight to rescue stranded pilots. (National Archives)

The compass problem was, of course, endemic to Arctic exploration. Magnetic compasses point to the north magnetic pole, a moving phenomenon now generally thought to be at about 77 degrees north and 101 degrees west in the Queen Elizabeth Islands — a location well to the southwest of Ellesmere Island, where the expedition was operating.

Earth inductor compasses were also in use in planes of that era, but those, too, depended upon magnetic fields. Gyro compasses of the type used aboard ships were not suitable for aircraft because of their inability to accommodate frequent changes in course.

Consequently, the only compass with any reliability in high latitudes at that time was the sun compass, based on a sundial-time relationship, but it was useless when the sun did not shine, a frequent occurrence in the Arctic.

On the first extended flight on August 8 Byrd discovered that the error in the magnetic compasses was 113 degrees. Using visual bearings of known points of land, pilots of the three planes were able to work their way westward over some of the rugged fjords of Ellesmere Island before worsening weather forced them to return to Etah.

During the next few days the weather remained foul, but a few flights were carried out. On Aug. 11 the three planes were able to fly together in an attempt to put down a base. However, only one suitable open-water landing location could be found, which was in an area southwest of Axel Heiberg.

After returning to Etah, the planes were refueled and took off again in the evening, the men still hoping to find a landing site. This time they were marginally successful, landing on the water in Hayes Sound, one of the many deep-ocean indentations in Ellesmere Island, but no advanced base was established there.

On Aug.13 there was reason for hope, but that hope soon faded.

“Good weather has at last come,” noted Byrd in his diary.

He went on, however, to record other problems:

“The NA-2 and 3 are out of commission. Bennett and I are going tonight for the blessed old navy. We must make a showing for her. Everything went wrong today. NA-1 lost cowling overboard. NA-2 went down by nose. Almost lost her. NA-3 nearly sunk by icebergs and injured lower wing on raft. Later, MacMillan wouldn’t let me go. He seems to have given up. MacMillan seems to be in great hurry to pack up and go back. Wonder what is in his mind," Byrd wrote.

NA-2 was successfully salvaged and hoisted out of the water. Her engine was replaced with a spare, but she did not fly again during the expedition.

The following day, NA-1 and NA-3 were flown to a fjord on Ellesmere Island where open water had been spotted on the earlier flight. There the pilots were able to bring their planes within 50 feet of the shore, enabling them to wade to the beach carrying a total of 200 pounds of food and 100 gallons of gasoline.

At last an advanced base had been established, and the two crews could return to Etah knowing that longer flights were possible.

The next day, August 15, both planes returned to their new base, only to discover that the ice had closed in around it, making landings impossible.

As they searched unsuccessfully for another landing site, the enlisted pilot Nold in NA-3 became separated from Byrd’s plane. Alone in the plane, the result of a decision to save space for cargo, Nold had become disoriented and flown north. NA-1‘s pilot pursued him, finally overtaking him after an hour and leading him home to Etah, where Nold observed that he had never felt as lonely in his entire life as he had during the time he was flying alone.

On the 16th the two operable planes returned to the air, exploring more of the fjords of Ellesmere Island. NA-3 developed an engine knock that prevented pilot Schur from accompanying Byrd and Bennett across the highest mountains, but he was later able to follow NA-1 back to Etah.

Byrd reported to the secretary of the Navy: “The jaggedness, irregularity, and many deep valleys presented a magnificent but awful spectacle. The air was the roughest ever experienced by us.”

/>Lt. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia on June 10, 1925. (National Archives)

At this point a diplomatic problem arose. The Canadian government’s steamer Arctic arrived at Etah, and the officials on board communicated the concern of their government, which felt its territory was being used by outsiders without permission.

MacMillan insisted that he had obtained such permission.

The diplomatic Byrd was able to defuse this potential unpleasantness more effectively than he was able to handle MacMillan and McDonald.

On the 17th their bad luck continued. Gasoline on the water around Peary caught fire, and NA-3, which was tied to the ship, was cast adrift to prevent a disaster. Although the plane’s wings caught fire, the crew put out the flames with a fire extinguisher — but there was already substantial damage to the fabric. During the next several days the Navy men installed replacement wings and a new engine in the plane.

The fjord at Etah began to freeze over. It was soon clear that only a few more days remained before the expedition would have to head south.

Byrd’s biographer, Edwin P. Hoyt, asserts that Byrd and Bennett wanted to use the remaining time to try to reach the Pole in NA-1, but that the plan was vetoed by MacMillan, who cited the dreary record the planes had achieved thus far.

Published portions of Byrd’s diary, generally more candid than his diplomatically worded reports and magazine articles, do not mention this incident, although the editor of that diary, Raimund E. Goerler, indicates that “Byrd’s goal was to test aircraft in the Arctic and, if possible, make a flight over the North Pole.”

One additional major flight was attempted, however, out over the Greenland icecap. This operation turned into one of the more successful ventures of the expedition, but it, too, was not without problems.

The new engine of NA-3 threw a connecting rod shortly after takeoff from Etah. After a forced landing, NA-3 had to be towed back to Peary, where it was taken aboard and stowed for the trip home alongside NA-2. Byrd and Bennett completed their reconnaissance and then returned to the ship to stow their plane for the voyage home.

On the homeward journey, the two small ships encountered storms and ice. The last vestiges of summer had vanished from the high latitudes.

Along the way, Peary was called upon to rescue the crew of a sinking Danish naval vessel and to pull Bowdoin free after the schooner had run aground.

These delays added to the frustration of Byrd and his men, who were forced to endure MacMillan’s continual disparagement of heavier-than-air aviation in his public pronouncements.

During the journey the airmen heard news of two other Navy flights that had experienced difficulty — the crash of the dirigible Shenandoah in Ohio with the loss of 14 lives, and the forced landing of the Hawaii-bound flying boat PN-9, built by the Naval Aircraft Factory, whose crew had been forced to sail the ungainly aircraft hundreds of miles to reach their destination after the plane had run out of gas.

Billy Mitchell, the critic of naval aviation, was having a field day.

/>Lt. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd testing an air raft alongside a Lewis-Vought seaplane. Byrd commanded the Naval Air Detail of the McMillan Polar Expedition of April 1925. Plane is VE-7-SF. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

The public, however, was never allowed to regard the 1925 Arctic expedition as a failure.

In the pages of its magazine, the National Geographic Society made much of the venture’s scientific accomplishments. Byrd, always the optimist as well as the diplomat, had good things to say about MacMillan and his leadership of the expedition, and nothing but praise for the Loening aircraft and the future of Arctic flying.

When the expedition reached the States in the fall of 1925, the scientists and the Navy men went their separate ways, with no plans to work together again.

While the mishaps of the MacMillan Arctic Expedition were fresh in their minds, Byrd and Bennett began to think ahead to the next Arctic summer and the possibility of reaching the pole.

In retrospect, the aviation operations of the expedition proved beneficial in the long run in that they taught the Navy and future Arctic fliers, particularly Byrd and Bennett, several important lessons.

One was that the advanced base concept was not feasible for polar flying flights to the North Pole had to be just that, from their inception to conclusion, and not the cumulative results of several short flights made from advanced aviation bases by planes that worked their way step by step like the dog teams of the past.

Byrd and Bennett would use this lesson the following summer, when they went on to fly a ski-equipped Fokker trimotor from Spitzbergen directly to the pole and back.

As to Byrd’s claim of having flown over the pole in 1926, for many years the unavailability of his navigation charts and the condition of his disorganized and sometimes erased log entries for that flight have bothered experts.

In addition, the speed apparently made by the Fokker aircraft seemed unrealistic.

Reaching the pole required a round trip of at least 1,330 nautical miles the fliers were gone 15,172 hours in fairly calm air. This would mean that the plane flew at about 86 knots.

Yet the same plane, in her triumphant round-the-country flight in 1927, averaged only 72 knots, even after all the engines had been overhauled. In 1927 another Fokker with more powerful engines averaged 81 knots with a tailwind on a flight to Hawaii. Thus, doubts have long existed about Byrd’s ability to have reached the pole in the time he was aloft.

Bernt Balchen, who later flew with Byrd on transatlantic and South Polar flights, joined Floyd Bennett on the round-the-country tour of the Fokker and led Bennett through the arithmetic of the speed and distance relationships of the North Pole flight. When Balchen suggested that the plane must have turned around short of the pole, Bennett did not disagree, shrugging it off with the reply, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter now.’

But it did matter the Byrd family forced the publisher who had printed Balchen’s book containing that conversation to sanitize the passage in a subsequent edition. The issue of the North Pole flight remained unresolved, and it eventually resulted in an irreparable rift between Byrd and Balchen.

/>Lt. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd (center), with Army Maj. Gen. Charles P. Summerall (left) and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore D. Robinson (right) after Byrd's return from the North Pole, June 23, 1926. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

Another lesson of the 1925 flights was that multi-engine aircraft were a necessity for Arctic work, and that conventional amphibian aircraft with wheels were useless.

It is impossible to say whether another amphibian model would have done any better on the expedition than the Loenings. Loening aircraft went on to have a good record with the U.S. Navy (which used them for aerial surveying in Alaska and Latin America), the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Marine Corps and particularly the U.S. Army, which employed several of the amphibians in a long and successful flight to the southern tip of South America the following year.

Finally, it should have been clear that split command relationships created insurmountable problems on the expedition.

A military operation that depended on support ships of a philanthropic agency for transport, decisions by a civilian director for permission to fly and a private donor for access to radio transmissions ceases to be a military operation.

It is virtually a miracle that the expedition did not disintegrate into a messy public quarrel between Byrd and his rivals MacMillan and McDonald that could have hurt the future of Arctic aviation.

That future still seemed promising in 1925. Perhaps one could even conclude that the failures of the 1925 Arctic expedition in concept, equipment and leadership helped assure trouble-free flying for Byrd and Bennett in 1926, regardless of whether their flight actually reached the exact coordinates of the North Pole.

First to fly over the North Pole

On May 9, 1926, Lt. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd and Chief Aviation Pilot Floyd Bennett won the race to fly over the North Pole, a daring expedition that earned them rare peacetime Medals of Honor.

This article originally appeared in the March 2001 issue of Aviation History, a sister publication of Navy Times. For more great articles subscribe to Aviation History magazine today!

The Surprisingly Cool History of Ice

Until two centuries ago, ice was just an unfortunate side effect of winter. But in the early 1800s, one man saw dollar signs in frozen ponds. Frederic Tudor not only introduced the world to cold glasses of water on hot summer days, he created a thirst people never realized they had.

In 1805, two wealthy brothers from Boston were at a family picnic, enjoying the rare luxuries of cold beverages and ice cream. They joked about how their chilled refreshments would be the envy of all the colonists sweating in the West Indies. It was a passing remark, but it stuck with one of the brothers. His name was Frederic Tudor, and 30 years later, he would ship nearly 12,000 tons of ice halfway around the globe to become the "Ice King."


Nothing in Tudor's early years indicated that he would invent an industry. He had the pedigree to attend Harvard but dropped out of school at the age of 13. After loafing for a few years, he retired to his family's country estate to hunt, fish, and play at farming. When his brother, William, quipped that they should harvest ice from the estate's pond and sell it in the West Indies, Frederic took the notion seriously. After all, he had little else to do.

Frederic convinced William to join him in a scheme to ship ice from New England to the Caribbean. Tudor reasoned that once people tried it, they'd never want to live without it. During the next six months, the brothers pooled their money and laid out plans to ship their product to the French island of Martinique, where they hoped to create a monopoly on ice.

No one believed the idea would work. In fact, no ship in Boston would agree to transport the unusual cargo, so Frederic spent nearly $5000 (a big chunk of the seed money) buying a ship of his own. On February 10, 1806, the Boston Gazette

reported, "No joke. A vessel with a cargo of 80 tons of ice has cleared out from this port for Martinique. We hope this will not prove to be a slippery speculation."

It did. Although the ice arrived in Martinique in perfect condition, no one wanted to buy it. Tudor desperately explained how the cold blocks of ice could be used in the stifling Caribbean heat, but islanders weren't convinced.

After an inauspicious start, William pulled out of the partnership. The following winter, Frederic was on his own. Remarkably, he drummed up enough money to send another shipment of ice to the Indies. But when a trade embargo left much of the Caribbean off-limits for two years, Frederic was left twiddling his thumbs. Meanwhile, the Tudor family fortune had dwindled in a shady real estate deal in South Boston.

Despite financial woes, Frederic persisted, and his ice business finally turned a profit in 1810. But a series of circumstances—including war, weather, and relatives needing bailouts—kept him from staying in the black for too long. Between 1809 and 1813, he landed in debtors's prison three times and spent the rest of the time hiding from the sheriff.


Perhaps it was his Yankee entrepreneurial spirit, or perhaps monomania, but Tudor was obsessed with the idea that ice would make him rich. During the next decade, he developed clever new techniques to convince people that they actually needed ice, including a "first one's free" pitch. While living in a South Carolina boarding house in 1819, Tudor made a habit of bringing a cooler of chilled beverages to the dinner table. His fellow boarders always scoffed at the sight, but after a sip or two, they'd inevitably fall in love with his ice. Tudor traveled around the country and convinced barkeeps to offer chilled drinks at the same price as regular drinks—to see which would become more popular. He also taught restaurants how to make ice cream, and reached out to doctors and hospitals to convince them that ice was the perfect way to cool feverish patients. The truth is that people never knew they needed ice until Tudor made them try it. Once they did, they couldn't live without it.

By 1821, Tudor's business was strengthening. He'd created real demand for his product in Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans, and even Havana, but he still needed to refine his operation. Enter Nathaniel Wyeth, an innovator who became Tudor's foreman in 1826. Using a horse-drawn plow to cut the ice into large grids, Wyeth invented a much faster harvesting method. He also put an assembly process into place. Laborers sawed the blocks apart and plunked them into canals to float them downstream. Then a conveyor belt would hoist the blocks from the water and carry them up to icehouses, where they'd be stacked up to 80 feet high.

Still, only one-tenth of the ice harvested made it to sale. What's worse, the whole operation was incredibly unsafe. In addition to those towering stacks of ice, numb hands, sharp instruments, and frigid waters made the process dangerous. The 300-pound blocks of ice could slide easily, knocking down men and breaking their limbs. Ice harvesters often developed "ice man's knees," which were bruised and bloodied from days of shoving solid ice.

Despite these drawbacks, Wyeth's ingenious methods were a major improvement on prior harvesting practices. With the inventor by his side, Tudor asserted his long-fomenting monopoly and became known as the "Ice King." Tudor's reputation solidified in 1833 when he shipped 180 tons of ice halfway across the world to British colonists in Calcutta. The venture was so successful that it reopened trade routes between India and Boston.

Back at home, Tudor continued to dominate the scene. By 1847, nearly 52,000 tons of ice traveled by ship or train to 28 cities across the United States. Nearly half the ice came from Boston, and most of it was Tudor's. He also maintained ice-harvesting rights to key ponds throughout Massachusetts. Even Henry David Thoreau watched Tudor's workers harvest Walden Pond and waxed philosophic about the scene in his diary: "The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges."


Frederic Tudor died in 1864, finally rich again. By that time, everyone with access to a frozen body of water was in on the action. Ice boomtowns sprouted along the Kennebec River in Maine, where farmers found year-round employment. The 1860s became the peak competitive period of American ice harvesting, and Tudor's company prospered. Even during the Civil War, when the South was cut off from ice supplies in the North, the ice industry continued to grow in New England and in the Midwest.

As American society grew more accustomed to fresh meats, milk, and fruit, the ice industry expanded into one of the most powerful industries in the nation. At the turn of the 20th century, nearly every family, grocer, and barkeep in America had an icebox. But ironically, America's dependence on ice created the very technology that would lead to the decline of the ice empire—electric freezers and refrigerators. During the early 1900s, these appliances became more reliable, and by 1940, five million units had been sold. With freezers allowing people to make ice at home, there was little need to ship massive quantities across the country.

Today, the ice industry pulls in $2.5 billion a year, but it's nowhere near as dominant as it used to be. Most of the business is from pre-packaged, direct-to-consumer ice (the stuff you buy for your beer cooler). Still, that doesn't mean we shouldn't be grateful. The next time you put your lips to a slushie, or an iced tea, or a chilled martini, or a cold beer on a hot day, take a moment to thank the crazy Yankee who had the vision to turn water into money.