A Short History of Voyages Around the World
Part 2: Taking to the Air
With the 20th Century came the airplane and another vehicle for around-the-world trips.
In 1924, an American group finished the first around-the-world airplane flight in 175 days. They stopped along the way, of course, and their total in-air time was 371 hours, 11 minutes.
The first pilot to fly by himself around the world was American Wiley Post, who did it in 7 days in 1933. Post's plane had an automatic pilot, giving him the chance to get some sleep. Post had also taken part in a two-man around-the-world flight two years earlier. During this flight, Post and navigator Harold Gatty had made the trip in 8 days; and during that time, both went for 106 hours (more than four days) without sleep.
The first nonstop plane flight around the world was made, again by Americans, in 1949. Captain James Gallagher and a crew of 14 did it in 94 hours and 1 minute, or just less than four days.
Gallagher and crew had to refuel, though, four times. The first nonstop, non-refueling flight around the world came in 1986. Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager flew the Voyager all the way around the world, in 9 days, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds. They flew from and to California's Edwards Air Force Base.
The first woman to fly alone around the world was American Geraldine Mock, in 1964. She did it in 29 days. Mock was following in the footsteps of legendary pilot Amelia Earhart, who had tried to fly around the world in 1937.
But what about airships? Well, a German crew flew their airship Graf Zeppelin around the world in 21 days in 1929.
As for balloons. In 1999, the Breitling, piloted by Bertrand Piccard from Switzerland and Brian Jones from Great Britain, made it all the way around the world, in 21 days. This was a year after Steve Fossett made his first solo attempt.
Just because airplanes and balloons were available didn't mean that people didn't stop to go around the world by water. The latest was two Americans sailing around the world in a trawler, a very low-powered boat, in 2001. It took them 16 days.
Steve Fossett is the first to go around the world by himself in a balloon. What frontiers of exploration are left? We'll see.
Graphics courtesy of ArtToday