This successful daring flight by Howard Hughes with a crew of three that began on July 14, 1938 was sponsored by the New York World's Fair 1939 and set a the record for flying around the world in 3 days, 19 hours and 17 minutes. This feat made Hughes a national hero and changed the way we travel forever. It was Hughes intention to show that transcontinental air travel was possible using a normal crew of aviator's to circumvent the globe safely and without incident. This was not a feat of courage; it was a triumph of technology.
Hughes warned America of its need to develop our aviation and aircraft manufacturing capability to increase technical jobs in this country and to be prepared to face the rise of tyranny looming throughout Europe
Hughes shaved four hours off Charles Lindbergh's New York to Paris flight. Lindbergh had but three simple instruments whereas Hughes had every conceivable piece of instrumentation available at the time, some of which he designed. Hughes and the crew had constant communication with Ham operators throughout the world for navigation purposes. All of the used compartment space inside the Lockheed L-14 was filled with ping-pong balls to give the aircraft more buoyancy should they have had to ditch at sea.
Mechanical preparation for the flight and the flight planning itself were carried out by Glenn “Ode” Odekirk who was scheduled to fly as co-pilot on the historic trip. Two days prior to take off out of New York some engine problems developed and Ode had to work 48 hours straight through and was too exhausted to make the flight. Ode said; "that damn Ed Lund got to go instead of me".
Hughes and crew were greeted by throngs of spectators in every city when they landed for fuel. When they return to New York City for their final stop over 100,000 cheering fans greeted these heroes as they landed. Hughes was asked if there were any critical or dangerous incidents that occurred on the global trip. Hughes simply replied; only the crowds, only the crowds.
A huge ticker tape parade was held in his honor. The same honor as given to Lindbergh or any other national hero who accomplishes a feat that changes the way we think and live. There was also a big New York City style banquet that evening for him. Hughes never sought accolades nor did like crowds. He was a no-show and ran off to Connecticut and spent the weekend with Kathryn Hepburn.
During this time period Hughes began acquiring passenger aircraft and financial interest in airline companies that eventually evolved into the mega Trans World Airline (TWA). Hughes disappeared for about a six-month period and flew as a co-pilot, loading baggage, under the pseudonym of Charles W. Howard to learn the front line portion of the airline business.
Hughes’ around the world flight’ and his constant endeavor to make passenger airline travel faster, safer and more comfortable without a doubt earned him his title.
“The Father of Commercial Aviation”
Around the World Flight 1938 In His Own Words
Hughes: I did not design the first automatic pilot by a long way so that is not correct
And I wouldn't say the first integrated radio navigation system or the first inclusive instrument panel. . . I think you can say that the radio equipment - which I did not design personally but was designed under my supervision, while my round the world flight was the first, well, I don't think you could even say first - I should say it was the best long-range radio communication system ever designed for an airplane and the entire navigation system both radio and celestial was certainly by far the most efficient ever installed or used up to that time and the navigation carried out on the flight was by far the most accurate of that performed in any long distance flight up to that time. The navigation throughout that flight around the world was so accurate that the plane was never more than a few miles off of the desired course
Utley: It was six miles
Hughes: It was amazingly accurate, and the combination radio and celestial equipment and dead reckoning systems and the entire system and procedure of navigation was amazingly effective and efficient but I don't think it's right to say it was actually the first of anything on here. . .