Steponas Darius and Stasys Girenas were Lithuanian pilots (USA citizens) that made a significant flight in the history of world's aviation. On 15th July, 1933, they flew over the Atlantic Ocean, covering a distance of 3,984 miles (6,411 kilometres) without any landing in 37 hours, 11 minutes. As far as the distance of non-stop flights was concerned, their result ranked second after that of R. Boardman and J. Polan, and it ranked fourth in terms of duration of being in the sky at the time. Though Darius and Girenas had no navigation equipment and flew under unfavourable weather conditions, the flight made by the airmen was one of the most precise in all aviation history at that time and it equalled Charles Lindbergh's classic flight. You can see portraits of Darius and Girenas on 10 litas note.
On June 18,1932, Darius and Girenas purchased Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker airplane,serial No. 137, registration No. Nc-688 E from Pal-Waukee Company. Since 1929, 40 units of this model were built. It was a single-engine, six-seater high-wing monoplane. The fuselage was welded chrome-moly steel tubing, fabric covered.The interior of the cabin was covered with sound-absorbing material. The fuselage had side ant top windows, doors on both sides. Wings were of wooden construction, two spars, fabric covered. Spars and ribs were made of spruce strips and plywood. The wings had two gasoline tanks of 88 gal. total capcity. Wing struts were 2/3 wood, 1/3 steel (at the wings) with aero-dynamic steel ribs, fabric covered, giving an additional 47 sq. ft. lifting surface. Tail surfaces were made of welded steel tubing; horizontal stabilizer - spruce strips and plywood, with trim-angle adjustable in the flight. Landing gear was a curved steel bar. Wheels 30x5 inches. Engine Wright J6, radial, air cooled, 9 cylinders, 300 HP. On January 20, 1933, the airplane was moved to E.M.Laird workshops, where she was rebuilt and made suitable for the transatlantic flight. New, elongated wings were built, with two additional gasoline tanks were installed in the fuselage, having 220 and 185 gal. capacity, each tank equipped with emergency dump valves; in the cabin, under the pilots seat a 25 gal. oil tank, outfitted with 12 cooling tubes, was placed; a longer, new horizontal stabilizer was built; aero-dynamic wheel pants were installed; the fuselage recieved a new fabric.A new,higher compression engine, 365 HP Wright Whirlwind J6-9E, ser. No. 12733, had a "speed ring". On March 29, 1933, rebuilding of the airplane was completed. The registration number was changed to NR-688E. The airplane was painted an orange color. On both sides of the fuselage scrolls with the names of the flight-sponsors were painted. The airplane was given a name "Lituanica" (word Lithuania in Latin).
After taking off from New York Floyd Bennet Airfield on July 15, 1933, 6:24 AM EDT, Darius and Girenas in their "Lituanica" sucesfully crossed the Atlantic only to perish on July 17, 0:36 AM (Berlin Time) in Kuhdamm village, near Soldin, Germany (now Pszczelnik, Mysliborz area, Poland). The planned route was: New York - Newfoundland - Atlantic Ocean - Ireland - London - Amsterdam - Swinemuende - Koenigsberg - Kaunas (a total of 7186 km). Due to weather conditions over Ireland, they changed the course to the north and reached Germany via Scotland and the North Sea. In 37 hours and 11 minutes, till the moment of the crash they had flown 6411 km (over 7000 km in actual flight path), only 650 km shors of their goal - Kaunas. A Lithuanian board of investigation appointed to determine the cause of the catastrophe concluded: the pilots were properly qualified to accomplish the mission; from the technical standpoint the airplane was properly outfitted; the most difficult part of the flight was executed with great precision.The catastrophe occured due to difficult weather conditions combined with engine defects.
Tags: Aviation Transport