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Ketchum, Paul M. (ed.) / The Wisconsin engineer
Volume 42, Number 6 (March 1938)

Waitkus, Felix
Trans-Atlantic flight,   pp. 103-105


Page 103


Trans-Atlantic Flight
             by LT. FELIX WAITKUS, m'40
TRANS-OCEANIC flying isn't what is used to be.
     The equipment, instruments, r a d io navigational
     methods, comfort, and reliability of the modern air-
liner is certainly a far cry from those used by the pioneers
of years ago, when free lance and military pilots under-
took their "adventures" from which some never returned.
And it is to no small part due to these trail blazers, par-
ticularly those about the time of Lindbergh's flight, that
the modern liner is in its present state of development.
Although these early pilots had little to work with in the
way of materials, engines, instruments, and technique, they
did, however, by means of their spectacular achievements,
make the public air conscious,
and as a result of this popular
interest and support, a new in-
dustry grew up, as witnessed by
the enormous increase in private
flying and air mails shortly after
these early flights.
  With this increase in flying
activity, n e w materials, new
types of instruments and equip-
ment began to appear on the
pages of aircraft catalogues. In-
vestigations and research led to
new methods of construction
and maintenance improvements
in engines and in practically all
lines of allied equipment. Air
racing, endurance flying and air
mail flying proved the sound-
ness of each technical advance.
  Then came another wave of                    LT. FELL:
ocean and long distance flying-this time with sounder
equipment, more dependable engines, more accurate in-
struments and new methods of flying and navigation. It
was during this period, 1934-1935, that the writer had the
good fortune to prepare for and make his trans-Atlantic
flight.
  With the invaluable assistance of a flight committee of
Lithuanians composed of an editor, doctor, lawyer, and
several business men, plans were made for the raising of
funds for the purchase of a plane, its equipment and up-
keep. This called for "barnstorming," organizing and
holding air shows, dances, etc., in most of the cities in the
East and Middle West, where there were found to be
enough Lithuanians present to warrant such activities. In
the meantime, it was necessary to determine types of in-
struments available for purchase, evaluating the relative
efficiencies or usefulness, and make determinations of
changes to be made on the ship for better control and
handling on the ground.
  Navigation being a very important link in ventures of
this type, all methods of navigation were studied and ana-
lyzed for their relative merits.
  There are three basic methods used in long distance
navigation. Dead reckoning, where the course is followed
by the compass and the distances traversed measured by
means of the ship's air speed indicator and clock. Al-
                         though this method is fairly ac-
curate in calm weather, it is im-
possible to determine exactly
the drift or actual g r o u n d
speed, particularly under instru-
ment flying conditions.
  Second method is astronomi-
cal navigation, by means of
which the observed azimuth and
declination of sun or stars with
the exact clock or chronometer
the observed readings are chart-
ed lines of and at the intersec-
tion of these lines is the exact
position of the plane at the time
of observation. Although this
method of "shooting the stars"
is probably the most accurate
method, its main disadvantage
                         lies in the tact that in baa
WAITKUS                  weather when the heavens are
not visible for hours at a time the sextant is useless.
  The third method is by means of a directional radio
receiver, whereby the direction of the incoming radio
waves are easily determined. By getting such bearings on
two radio stations and plotting these bearings on an agno-
nomic chart the intersection of these lines determines the
fix. The chief advantage of this method is that it is in-
dependent of visibility or roughness of the air. Although
this is an old system, one having been used for a long
time by ocean going steamers, the application of it to aero-
nautical work was new, and since there were no such radios
commercially available at the time it was necessary to have
one specially built which, incidentally, cost a little over
$900, not including installation. A combination of radio
Marchi, 1938
x,
Page 103


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