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Including Some Notes on the Equipment of the "Southern Cross"


FLIGHT, JULY 4, 1930, Page 757 - 761

 Southern Cross Flight Magazine

MANY attempts at crossing the Atlantic by air have been made during the last ten years : several have succeeded and some have failed. The feat having been achieved, we personally look with disfavour upon a continuance of Atlantic flights, which cannot now serve any useful purpose, and only entail a considerable amount of risk to the flyers concerned, and much worry and anxiety to others. In Sqdn.-Ldr. Kingsford-Smith's successful crossing (from East to West (which we briefly recorded in our last issue) there are, however, certain outstanding features which— apart from it being a magnificent achievement in itself— class it rather more than a mere stunt. For one thing, the flight was very carefully organised and thought out, while the machine, land 'plane though it was and not, to our way of thinking, the type of 'bus to be used on long trans-ocean flights, was very efficiently equipped, reducing risk to a minimum. The petrol system, the various instruments, the navigation arrangements, and the wireless installation were all exceptionally well planned.


- Wireless played a very important part—in fact.^but for the wireless, as Kingsford-Smith himself admits, they would not have succeeded. From start to finish they were in constant touch with the world, and so to record the'progress of the flight we do not think we can do this better than to give the wireless messages sent out, which will be found below. We also follow these with some notes on the equipment, etc., of the Southern Cross. The Southern Cross, it will be remembered, left Prirtmarnock, near Dublin, at 4.30 a.m. on June 24, the intention being to fly direct to New York, but a landing was enforced, owing to fog and compass trouble, at Harbour Grace at 11.57 a.m., June 25 ; they were thus in the air nearly 31 £ hr. The journey to New York was completed June 26, when the Southern Cross left Harbour Grace early in the morning. Dense fog banks again hampered them, and progress was slow, and they did not land until late in the evening. However, they received a tremendous welcome, and each broadcast a short speech before being escorted to their hotel.


The wireless log 

5.11 a.m.—Splendid take 00. Flying fine now. We are up 2,000 ft. already. Battling along 105 m.p.h. Will endeavour to be on this wave-length all flight, except when occasionally going over 600 m. in order to get direction from ships. 6.15 a.m.—Now leaving Irish coast. 6.31 a.m.—All O.K., but strong headwinds. 6.35 a.m.—Passed over Costello Island, off Galway. 6.40 a.m.—Headwinds very strong, out conditions good. 655 a.m.—Just passed over a number of trawlers. Very cheerful to see other people out in this waste. Everything O.K. = Air speed, 100 fli-P-h. Revolutions 1,730 per minute Altitude, 500 ft. Air temperature, 48⁰ Estimated ground speed, 75 m.p.h. 7.21 a-m.—Just been having a look « me chart with Paddv. Seems as everything is breaking our way. Plenty of ships on the course, from Which we confirm our position by the direction-finder. 7.21 a-m — Hope to be working with steammships Albertic, Minnedosa, and Melita around midday. Getting hungry. Guess I'll have a nibble. 8 a.m.-Headwinds of fair strength. 10.15 a-m — Shooting suns and things. Icy cold outside. Bet Van and Smithy are feeling it We are wrapped up like Polar explorers, it is still pretty nippy. 11 a.m. — 53.15 N., 16.7 W. (About 500 miles west of the Irish Coast.) Average ground speed since leaving coast of 82 stutue miles per hour. This is satisfactory . All aboard O.K. Are cheerful. Air speed 100 m.p.h. 1.15 p.m. — Slightly overcast. Ocean like a mill pond. Travelling 100 m.p.h. If conditions always like this ocean flying would be easy. 3.3 p.m. — Atmospherics bad. Wind south. Fog. Going up. Pining for a smoke. 3.4 p.m. — Fading badly. Air speed 105 m.p.h. 3.15 and 3.25 p.m. — Flying blind in fog. 4 p.m.—Latitude 51-9; longitude 29 N.N.W. (990 miles off Cape Race) 4.5 p.m.—Direction finding; still in fog. 4.13 p.m.—Still in fog ; bumping  4.20 p.m.—Fog all gone. 6 p.m.—Latitude 50.40 N., longitude 34.30 W. (about 750 miles from Cape Race). Speed 80 m.p.h. Everything going fine. Wish we could get out of this beastly fog. Feels as though we are closed in. 7.15 p.m.—Latitude 50.30 N., and longitude 36.00 W. (about 680 miles from Cape Race). 8.30 p.m.—Strong west-south-west headwinds, probably reducing speed considerably. Everything else in order. The revolutions were 1,610 ; air speed 100 m.p.h. ; altitude 250 ft. 9.20 p.m.—Wind west, easing. Still I0ggy- Expect to be over Cape Race at 1 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday). 10.30 p.m.—Latitude 49.50 N., longitude 39-10 W., or nearly threequarters of the way across the Atlantic. Speed, 85 m.p.h. 10.45 p.m.—Head winds have decreased to 10 m.p.h. Everything O.K. 11.30 p.m.—Making excellent progress. Latitude 49.14 N.t longitude 40.40 W. (about 450 miles E.N.E. of St. John's). 11.32 p.m.—The whole World is a peculiar blue, and the sun laughing red gases in the great bowl of fog. Almost made the water during fog. June 25 : 12.8 a.m.—Fog, now getting quite dark inside cabin. Cheerful glow of radio valve makes cabin look cosy. To complete the effect I think I will wrap myself around another sandwich. Good-bye. 12.20 a.m.—All O.K. Eating sandwich, drinking coffee. 12.42 a.m.— Will listen for V.C.E. (Cape Race call sign). Signals very strong and now getting data. Outboard motors shrouded in blue haze, and each exhaust port has faint pink flame proceeding from it. Very uncanny. Lettering on starboard wing is embossed in gold as the last rays of sun touch it.

 2.6 a.m.—Position : Latitude 48.12 N. ; longitude 45.5 W. Distance to Cape Race 250 miles. Everybody happy : all O.K. 3.15 a.m.—Can't get into touch with Cape Race wireless station. 4 a.m.—We are within 100 miles of Cape Race and the big stiff still does not reply. 4.5 a.m.—Does not look as if we shall get a bearing just when we want it. We should be over Cape Race in another hour. 4.30 a.m.—Still trying to get bearings. Trying to wake up those guys at Cape Race. 5.5 a.m.—Sorry, old boy. Been messing about trying to get a bearing. Very dark. Flying blind. Motors ringed with flame. Still 160 miles from Cape Race. Dickens of a struggle to keep awake now. Drone makes me tired. Faint streak of approaching dawn. 5.18 a.m.—Still trying to get bearings. Very dark flying. Operator having dickens of a struggle to keep awake. 6 a.m.—All well. Weather misty with us. 6.15 a.m.—Passed Cape Race." Course being set  westwards towards Nova Scotia. 9 a.m.—Planning to land at Quidividi Field, near St. John's, or Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. 9.21 a.m. Position 47.47 N., 49.06 W. (about 751 miles east of Cape Race). 9.30 a.m. Turning back. Hope to reach Harbour Grace. 10.43 a.m. Hurray! See land at last. 10.45 a.m.—Oh boy, It looks good to see our position on the chart again. 90 miles to go to Harbour Grace. 11.30 a.m.—Perhaps you can do something to guide us. Please tell the aerodrome to send a machine up quickly.




From left to right—Mr. J. W. Stannage (Wireless) ; Capt. P. Saul (Navigator) ; Sq.-Ldr. Kingsford- Smith ; Mr. Van Dyk (2nd Pilot). Miss Mary Powell, Kingsford-Smith's fiancee, is on the extreme right.


The History of the " Southern Cross " and its Equipment

The Southern Cross is a three-engined Fokker aeroplane of the type F.VIlB-3m, equipped with Wright Whirlwind J5 engines, of 225 h.p. each. Strictly speaking, the machine consists of two Fokkers, namely, a Fokker F.VIIA and a F.VIlB-3m. The wing originally belonged to the first three engined Fokker, to be fitted with the socalled large wing of 728 sq. ft. (67-6 m.2), which was supplied to Sir George Wilkins, the Arctic explorer, in 1925, as also was the F.VIIA, equipped with a 400-h.p. Liberty engine, to which the fuselage of the Southern Cross belonged. Both of the explorer's machines were damaged in Alaska, and part of one was used to repair the other. In 1927 the three-engined aeroplane, which  already had many flying hours to its credit was sold by Sir George to 'Kingsford-Smith. The three Wright Whirlwind J5 engines (fitted with Scintilla magnetos) which are now in the machine, were then installed. Three attempts were first made to improve on the duration record. Each attempt meant about 50 flying-hours. In 1928 Kingsford-Smith, accompanied by George Pont, succeeded in remaining in the air for 50 hours and 4 minutes. Although this was the first time a three-engined aeroplane had flown so long at a stretch without being refuelled, this feat was not officially regarded as a record, seeing no distinction is made in regard to duration records between single or multiple-engined machines. When taking off for this attempt the machine, which was built for a total weight of 9.0001b. (4,100 kg ) weighed no less than 15,807 1b. (7,176 kg.), or, in other words the machine was overloaded to the extent of 75 per cent. On May 31, 1928, the Southern Cross took off from Oakland Field near San Francisco, for the world famous flight across the Pacific, a flight never accomplished by anyone else before or since. The crossing was made in three stages, viz. : San Francisco- Honolulu, 2,408 miles (3,875 km.) in 27 hr. 27 min. ; Honolulu-Suva (Fiji Islands), 3,144 miles (5,060 km.) in 34 hr. 33 min. ; and Suva-Brisbane, 1,795 miles (2,888 km.) in 21 hr. 35 min. The total distance of 9,263 miles (11,823 km.) was accordingly covered in 83 hr. 35 min., which means an average speed of 88 miles (142 km.) per hour. Considering the fact that it was impossible to steer a direct course owing to the bad weather, and the total distance was consequently 10-15 per cent, more, the average speed may be regarded as most favourable. The crew for the Transpacific flight consisted of C. E. Kingsford- Smith, first pilot ; C. T. P. Ulm, second pilot; H. Lyon, jun., navigator, and J. Warner, wireless operator. After this flight, Kingsford-Smith and Ulm, this time accompanied by Litchfield as navigator, and McWilliams as wireless operator, left Melbourne on August 11 and flew non-stop to Perth, a distance of 2,000 miles (3,220 km.), which was covered in 23 hr. 24 min. The return journey to Sydney, 2,500 miles (4,000 km.) was likewise flown non-stop. Later, with the same crew, the Southern Cross flew over the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand, a distance of 1,425 miles (2,290 km.). This was the first aeroplane to fly across this unbroken stretch of water. With the wind in their favour the airmen accomplished the flight in 14 hr., i.e., with an average speed of 102 miles (164 km.). The return journey was completed in 22 hr. On March 30, 1929, the Southern Cross left Sydney with the same crew in an attempt to improve on the record of 15 days for the flight from Australia-England set up by Bert Hinkler.


The Pilots' Cockpit and Instruments.

The fuel distributing system in the pilots' cockpit.

The Wireless Equipment in the Navigator's cabin.

Another section of the Navigator's cabin, showing the Longines Chronometer (extreme right).


After having covered about 2,240 miles (3 600 km.}, the airmen were forced owing to lack of fuel, to make a landing in the bush. It was not until they had spent 12 days of untold privation that they were discovered and rescued. Five days later they returned in stages to Sydney. On June 25 they again took off from Sydney and arrived in London on July 10. They had flown from Australia (coast) to England in 12 days 23 hours, thereby setting up a new record. On July 19, 1929, the Southern Cross was flown over to the Fokker works at Amsterdam, where it was thoroughly overhauled, and prepared for the Trans-Atlantic flight. Titanine dope was used on the machine for this flight. As soon as the aeroplane was ready, Kingsford- Smith, who, with Ulm, had meanwhile founded the Australian National Airways, came to Amsterdam. In the meantime the engines, which had already run for about 600 hours each, were overhauled by " Doc " Maidment, an expert from the Wright works, so that it was possible to commence the series of test flights shortly after Kingsford-Smith's arrival. Nothing now remained for Kingsford- Smith to do but select a crew and wait for a favourable moment to undertake the "hop" across the Atlantic. For second pilot he chose Van Dyk, a K.L.M. pilot ; for navigator, Capt. Saul ; and for wireless operator Mr. Stannage, a New Zealander.


Technical Details

The following are the specifications of the Southern Cross as it was when it last left the Fokker works :—Span. 7 ft. 2 in. (21 • 71 m ) • Length, 47 ft. 10 in. (14-60 m.) ; height' !2 ft. 9 in. (3-90 m.) ; wing area, 728 sq. ft. (67-6 sq. m.) ; wheel track, 14 ft. 1 in. (4-30 m.) ; weight empty, including complete equipment, 6,281 lb." (2,850 kg.) ; crew (4), 661 lb. (300 kg.) ; fuel, 7,855 lb (3,564 kg.) ; oil, 551 1b. (250 kg.) Total 15,348 1b. (6,964 kg.). The wing loading is, therefore, 21 Ib./sq. ft. (103 kg./sq. m.) and the power loading 23 1b./h.p. (10-3 kg./h.p.).


The fuel is contained in 4 tanks, in the wing, one tank under the pilots' cockpit, and one tank in the fuselage. The four wing tanks and the tank under the cockpit each have a capacity of 83-3 Imp. gallons, but with a pump only 81 Imp. gallons can be drawn from the last-mentioned. The main tank, in the fuselage, has a capacity of 666 Imperial gallons. The total available quantity is, therefore, 1,080 Imp. gallons. With an average fuel consumption of about 29 Imp. gallons per hour, this quantity accordingly represents a maximum of 37 flying hours. At a cruising speed of 100 m.p.h. (160 km,/hr.), which has been measured over four courses of 3J miles (6 km.) each, the range of action in a calm amounts to 3,679 miles (5,920 km). Against a head wind with an average speed of 12 miles (20 km.) per hour the range of action is, therefore, practically 3,230 miles (5,200 km.). The distance from Dublin to New York, measured on the Great Circle (the shortest line from one given point on the globe to another) is 3,175 miles (5,108 km.). If an allowance of 10 per cent, is made for deviation from the true course, the range of action of the Southern Cross was just sufficient to fly from Dublin to New York. The fuel tank in the fuselage is fitted with a special dump valve, designed by Mr. Fokker. By means of the valve, which is operated by the second pilot, and which has an opening of 8 in. diameter, the main tank can be emptied in 50 seconds. If, when taking off, the first pilot deems the machine too heavy under the circumstances (unfavorable weather or the bad condition of the aerodrome) to carry itself into the air, he can signal to the second pilot to dump what fuel is necessary to reduce the total weight to a suitable figure, so that the machine can be lightened at instant notice. This safety dump valve may also be used in the event of one of the engines failing when the machine is still too heavily


A general view of the Navigator's and Wireless Operator's cabin.


laden to continue flying on two engines. In such a case fuel is dumped until the desired weight is arrived at, and then the airmen either return to the starting point or fly on to their goal, whichever happens to be easier. If the worst comes to the worst, and the machine is forced to alight on water for some reason or other, the airmen can entirely empty their tank and close the valve. The buoyancy of the machine is

then increased by 3,000 litres or three metric tons. Owing to the buoyancy of the wing on top. of

this, it would be possible for the machine to remain afloat for some considerable time. Should the sea be rough, the possibility is, of course, reduced, but the airmen will always stand a chance provided the seas are not too high. The oil (Vacuum) is carried in three tanks to the rear of the engines. These tanks have a capacity of 17-6 Imp. gallons each. The engines are gravity fed from the wing tanks, but the fuel in the main tank and in the reservoir under the cockpit must first be pumped into the wing tanks before it can be used. For this purpose a hand pump is used,  the handle, which is installed between the two seats in the cockpit, being operated by the second pilot.


The Instrument Board in the Cockpit

The following instruments (see first illustration on p. 758, from top to bottom) are installed in the cockpit for the use of the pilots. A bank and turn indicator before the second pilot (top right hand). This instrument is specially intended for blind flying, and comprises a speedometer, a gyroscopic bank and turn indicator and a transversal inclinometer. Below this, in the centre, is an aperiodic compass. Then follow, side by side, the revolution indicators for the three engines, and an altimeter ; whilst the next row is made up of a clock, a voltameter for the earth inductor compass— in order to steer the course set by the navigator, the pilot must see that the needle is exactly central—a speedometer, and a small signalling lamp with press button as a means of communication between the cockpit and the observers' compartment. Further, there is a gyroscopic bank and turn indicator for the first pilot, and also an oil gauge. On the left-hand side of the instrument board there is a longitudinal inclinometer (the oblong instrument), and next to this a rate of climb indicator, and a fuel gauge for the reservoir under the cockpit. Lower down there are three knobs for the priming leads of the engines. The instrument at the bottom of the photo is an oil thermometer. The oil thermometers and gauges for the outboard engines are installed in their respective power eggs. Then follow the handles for gas and altitude gas, and below these the switches for the lighting installation. The separate bank and turn indicator is actuated by a Venturi tube, the combined flight controller and the speedometers by means of a pitot tube, which is fitted with an electric element connected with the electric mains, and this element is placed under current when the tube becomes affected by snow or ice. To the rear of the pilots is the fuel distributing system (see second illustration, on p. 7*58). The gauge glasses for indicating the level of the fuel are mounted on the wing spar. The fairly large sized tube seen in the photo is connected with the main fuel tank, and is intended to let air into this reservoir quickly when the safety dump valve is used. The crank handle immediately under the spar is for adjusting the stabiliser during flight. The arrow " High-Low" shows which direction it must be turned. On the left-hand side of the photo will be seen a triangular hole through which the top of the main tank is visible. Through this hole the pilots communicate with the other two members of the crew, in the navigators' compartment, by means of a stick with a clip at the end. Written messages are placed in the clip and passed from one compartment to the other.


The Navigator's Compartment

A general view of the navigator's compartment is shown above. In the forward part is the main tank, on which is mounted a speedometer, a voltameter for the earth inductor compass to show the navigator whether the pilot is keeping strictly to the course set, and an altimeter. At the corners are small lamps for illuminating the instrument board, in the centre a switch ; and, lower down, on the left, a signalling lamp. Under this instrument board is a collapsible chart table, on which are to be seen a sextant, parallel rulers, and a drift indicator. In the roof of the compartment is a trap-door,, which may be slid open when the navigator wishes to make observations with his sextant. He measures the drift of the machine by affixing the drift indicator to a bracket, made for the purpose, on the outside of the fuselage. At the top right-hand side, attached to one of the tubes in the wall of the fuselage, is the course-setting indicator of the earth inductor compass, with which the navigator sets the course which the pilot is to follow. On the left is installed the complete wireless set. This may, however, be seen to better advantage in the illustration on p. 759. It will be observed that all the wireless instruments are suspended in shock absorber cord. At the top is the Marconi transmitter for wave lengths of 600-800 m. This outfit, which has an energy of 80 watts, is intended for communicating with ships that work on such wave lengths. The installation underneath is the receiving set for all wavelengths ranging from 20- 2,400 m. The lower box contains a Heinz and Kaufman short-wave transmitter for wave-lengths of 33-1-33-5 m., and has an energy of 50 watts. The box with the spare parts for the wireless installation is on the floor, and next to it will be seen the reel with the short-wave transmitting aerial. The aerial for long wave transmission and reception is on the starboard side, on the floor, opposite the short-wave aerial, but is not visible in the photo. Mounted on the supports of the wireless installation are the aerial switches ; the one top left being for long waves, the one on the right for short waves. On the right, under the receiving set, will be seen the manipulating key, and immediately under this a transformer. The batteries for the receiving set are at the bottom. In the foreground of the photo will be seen the master compass. At the top right-hand side are several switches and a press button for the signalling lamp. About half way between the cabin and the tail skid hangs the generator of the earth inductor compass, which is driven by a small wind-mill located on the top of the fuselage.


At the bottom right-hand side of the lower illustration on p. 759 is the Longines chronometer, an instrument on which much depends in navigation, and which must consequently keep good time. To overcome the effects of vibration the chronometer is suspended on shock absorber cord.  On Tune 30 the Southern Cross flew from New York to Boiling Field, Washington, the crew later lunching with

President Hoover at the White House. In the evening, after a visit to congress, they returned to New York. In conclusion, it may be added that Sq. Ldr. Kingsford Smith intends to fly—possibly non-stop—to California, and thus complete a round-the-world flight. After this he proposes to attempt a record solo flight from England to Australia in a light 'plane.