Today, the First Flight Commemorative Half Dollar Coin remembers when Lieutenant Doolittle made the first successful flight using instruments only on September 24, 1929.
Several articles from the Washington, DC newspaper, the Evening Star, during September 1929, describe the new concept of “blind flying:”
One suspects that the future chronicler will find that the most Important development of the past week was the institution of a new “faculty,” namely, that of “Blind Flying,” by Lieut. James H. Doolittle, a man already famous for aerial exploits.
For about a year Lieut. Doolittle and Prof. William Brown of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had been carrying on researches under the auspices of the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the promotion of aeronautics.
The result was seen on September 24, when Lieut. Doolittle, his cockpit covered with opaque cloth, his new instrument his only guide, took off from Mitchel Field, flew a course, and made a perfect landing.
Undoubtedly, in the words of an eminent aviator, “an achievement of inestimable value to aviation.”
Fogs be hanged, henceforth.
TEST OF FLYING INSTRUMENTS OVERCOMES MENACE OF FOG
Lieut. J. H. Doolittle Makes Successful Experiment in “Blind” Cockpit.
New Apparatus Sponsored by Guggenheim Fund for Aeronautics.
The elimination of fog as a hazard of flying seemed assured yesterday. In a demonstration flight three instruments enabled a pilot to rise, fly and land a plane with the cockpit completely covered.
Lieut. James H. Doolittle, Army racing pilot, took up a plane, directed it over a 15-mile course and landed it within a few yards of the starting point yesterday solely by instruments.
The test was made under the direction of Harry F. Guggenheim, president of the Daniel F. Guggenheim Foundation for the Promotion of Aeronautics, sponsors for the experiments.
The new instruments upon which Lieut. Doolittle relied in his canvas-covered cockpit were an artificial horizon, a visual radio receiver and a delicate barometric altimeter.
The artificial horizon is an instrument which shows the plane’s lateral and longitudinal angle to the ground when the real horizon is hidden.
The visual radio receiver consists of two vibrating reeds which indicate when the plane is headed directly for its objective and when it is over it. Deviation right or left causes one of the reeds to vibrate more rapidly than the other.
The altimeter is so sensitive it measures the altitude of a plane within a few feet of the ground, making possible safe landings on an obscured field.
Mr. Guggenheim said the instruments would soon be made available for general use, and were neither complicated nor of prohibitive cost.
AIRMEN PRACTICE DASHBOARD FLYING
Cockpit Hooded to Give Navy Men Training in Overcoming Heavy Fog.
Valuable gains in the battle to defeat the aviator’s pet bugaboo, fog, are being made by the pilots of Navy Scouting Squadron 3B, now on carrier duty at San Diego, Calif., according to reports to the Navy Department.
One plane in the squadron has been rigged for blind flying and at least one pilot is given training each afternoon. The plane is equipped with a canvas hood which may be drawn over the forward pilot’s cockpit, cutting off the view of the pilot and forcing him to fly by instruments as would be the case in a heavy fog.
“It has been found that it usually takes from 15 to 30 minutes of blind flying before a pilot will begin to understand the reading of his instruments and will trust them in preference to his sense of feeling,” it is stated in the report published in the Navy Department news letter.
“After that he usually has no difficulty in steering a steady course at a constant speed and altitude,” the report continues. “Turns can be entered without slipping or skidding or changing speed. However, most pilots have a great deal of difficulty in coming out of turns correctly and in settling down on the desired new course. In making a turn most pilots will hold the plane in the turn until they are past the desired new course. It has been found better practice to stop the turn before it is estimated that the plane is on the course desired, and then to ease onto the new course with as little rudder as possible.”
The First Flight Commemorative Half Dollar Coin shows with an image of Lieutenant James H. Doolittle, circa 1929.