9:44pm, June 22, 1924. Three minutes before dusk and still no sign of Pilot Russell Maughan. 50,000 people waited at Crissy Field outside of San Francisco for the first ever dawn to dusk transcontinental crossing of the United States.
What nobody had known was that thunderstorms and heavy rain had caused poor take off conditions on the grass field at his latest fuel stop in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Maughan wasn’t able to fill his Curtiss PW-8 to the brim with the necessary fuel to make it to the next leg.
This caused him to make a detour to North Platte, Nebraska to top off the tanks, jepardizing his ability to land in Crissy Field before nightfall.
9:45pm, still no sign of the aircraft.
Strong headwinds were the main problem after this detour and he didn’t land in the Boonneville Salt Flats for the final fuel stop until 6:30PM. Pulling out his E6B he calculated that it would still be possible to arrive in San Francisco before 9:47PM, the start of dusk.
Using the revolving light found on Alcatraz Island, he was able to find Crissy Field after a difficult navigation in the low light conditions over Nevada and eastern California.
9:46PM.Aafter 20 hours and 48 minutes en route (including fuel stops) his wheels touched down on the clay soil of Crissy Field in front of the relieved crowd. After exiting the aircraft, he presented the Mayor of San Francsico that days edition of the New York Times he had brought with him from Long Island, NY.
Today the airport is long gone, but remnants of it’s history abound.
The park offers one of the best views of the city, and the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Runners, cyclers, families, and bar-b-ques all dot the grassland on a sunny day.
I decided to run the 5k along the shoreline yesterday while doing some research about the old airfield.