Around the World in 80 175 Days

Back in 1924, the US Army Air Service decided it would be the first to fly airplanes around the world. They launched 4 planes with 8 pilots from Seattle to do this. The planes were named Seattle (the command plane), Chicago, Boston, and New OrleansSeattle and Boston both crashed. But the remaining planes successfully made it. Now, 94 years later, the Seattle-based Seattle World Cruiser Project is looking to complete the flight that the Seattle was unable to.

Seattle World Cruiser Project

The talented and dedicated people at Seattle World Cruiser scratch-built a slightly modernized reproduction of Seattle. This new plane is appropriately named Seattle II. The plane they replicated is a Douglas World Cruiser (DWC). The Douglas Aircraft Company modified their Douglas DT torpedo bomber for the flight. The DWC was built with a steel tube frame, aluminum skin, and wooden wings. The popular Liberty V-12 engine, a 420 horsepower engine designed in just 6 days in 1917, powered the DWC.

After the success, Douglas changed the company logo to a DWC flying around a globe. They also changed their motto to “First Around the World – First the World Around!”

Seattle World Cruiser

The prototype DWC in 1923

Seattle II – What’s it made from?

The original Seattle crashed into a mountain in Alaska while in a heavy fog. Fortunately, the crew survived. However, Maj. Frederick L. Martin, the mission commander and pilot of the Seattle, was so distraught by this that he wrote in his diary he wished he had died. With the success of the mission, his mood improved (we hope).

But either way, the crew of the Seattle II would like to avoid repeating this part of the original trip. They’ve opted to stick to the plans for the original DWC as much as possible, with a few changes.

What’s the same?

I was excited about this project from the moment I learned of it. Then I got even more excited when Seattle World Cruiser Project (SWCP) let me know that some of our metals were being used in the Seattle II! Specifically, they used some of our 4130 round tube. As I discussed in my post for National Aviation Day, 4130 steel tubing was one of the most popular structural materials for aircraft fuselages in the 1920s. Specifically, the strength, relatively low weight, and slight flexibility make it a great choice. And like the original DWC, the SWCP is using wood for the wings on the aircraft and an original Liberty V-12 engine for power.

Here’s a video of their initial test of the engine.

What’s different?

The original wooden pontoons of the DWC have also been replaced by metal pontoons that have steerable rudders on them. The skids that the original team switched to after the flight over the Pacific Ocean have also been replaced with wheels. These changes increase safety, durability, and control, while removing damage to any runways they use.

Another big change is to the fabric skin on the wings. The original skin was cotton. It would soak up moisture, rot, and cause the wing to warp during temperature changes. Furthermore, the paint used on the planes were highly flammable. The SWCP replaced these with modern, more durable, and nonflammable skin and paint.

The largest upgrades have been to the electronics. The original DWC had a crude electrical system that only powered a few simple running lights and the engine starter. The Seattle II has been upgraded with a state-of-the-art avionics package in order to comply with modern international flight laws and increase safety.

Seattle World Cruiser Project

The wreckage of the Seattle in Alaska.

When is the flight?

UPDATE: The flight was supposed to be April 6th, 2019, but bad weather and other factors pushed the day back.  As of June 19, the revised launch date is TBD.

A mural of the original “Seattle” on the side of the Old City Hall in Renton, WA which I spotted while out for lunch

You can watch Bob Dempster explain the project, along with some great behind the scenes info on the plane and historical images!

Check out the Seattle World Cruiser Project! They have heavily documented every step of their journey. If you like airplanes, history, or intense DIY, this is the project for you!

Seattle World Cruiser Project

Some of the amazing people of the SWCP in front of Seattle II