First Delivery

by Charles Lester Morris


After a moment, he walked back. "Les," he said, "how are you going to get the ship over to the gas pump?" I looked at the row of airplanes deployed between our craft and the pump and sensed his suggestion.

"Well," I said, "if you will ask them to have someone hold the wings of the other ships, I'll fly over."

The clear space around the pump was about seventy-five feet square, and a quick jump was all that was necessary. His happiness flourished in the ejaculations of the bystanders.

I took off alone for Springfield, because we thought it best to have the ship as light as possible. It was the longest flight of the trip-ninety-two miles airline. Furthermore, the day had become quite warm, and we were not at all sure of what was going on inside the transmission.

The miles slipped by uneventfully, and in due course the Springfield Airport was below me. A small training ship had just landed as I came over the edge of the field, and he began to taxi toward the hangar at the far end, unaware of my presence. I kept just behind him about five feet above the ground as he bounced slowly along. When he reached the ramp, he turned to line up with the other ships, then suddenly slammed on the brakes and stopped dead in his tracks. The pilot said afterwards, "When I saw you, I didn't know whether to open the door and bail out right there, or to give her the gun and try to take off over the wires!"

End Of Epochal Flight The end of an epochal flight. Left to right. E. Walsh, A. Plenefisch, I. Sikorsky, Orville Wright, R. Alex, L. Morris and B. Labensky.

Before landing, I hovered a while, facing the incredulous group that emerged from the administration building. Then one young fellow signaled me very tentatively to move over slightly to the left. I obliged. With more confidence, he signaled me to the right, and once more I obeyed. With recklessness born of success, he signaled for me to go straight up in the air-and when I actually did so, he threw up his hands and quit! "That's the biggest damn lie I ever saw!" he said.

While I waited for Mr. Sikorsky and the others, an Army airplane from Wright Field circled the port. In it was Lieutenant Colonel Gregory, who deserves a great deal of credit along with our group for the creation of this craft. Hard work, ridicule, high hopes, and bitter disappointments had been his lot for years while he and his associates tried to bring into being just such a ship. Now, at long last, the proof of their courage and foresight was here.

Gregory and I impatiently awaited the arrival of the ground party. When they finally showed up, the side cowlings that had been removed from around the gear case, to give better cooling on the trip, were quickly buttoned on for the dress parade to Wright Field. Gregory phoned that we would be in at three-forty, the engine was started, and Mr. Sikorsky took his seat again beside me.

Off we hopped with Gregory not far behind in the Army airplane and Labensky just behind him in another ship hurriedly chartered at the airport.

In fifteen minutes Patterson Field was below us, and as we looked over the top of a low hill, Wright Field came into view.

"There it is!" shouted Mr. Sikorsky. His face twitched just a little' and we exchanged another warm handclasp.

A couple of minutes later and we were circling the buildings. I couldn't resist the temptation to zoom low over the ramp once, just to show that we had arrived. Then we circled back and hovered in the space that had been cleared for us a few feet in front of the operations office. Mr. Sikorsky waved joyfully to the sizable welcoming group that had gathered.

We landed on a red-topped gasoline pit surrounded by airplanes of every description from the mammoth B-19 bomber to the tiny little private airplanes that were being considered for various military missions, and Mr. Sikorsky stepped out, proud and happy at the successful completion of an epochal mission.

XR-4 Lt. Col. H. F. Gregory congratulates Mr. Sikorsky on the successful completion of the XR-4’s delivery flight, while Mr. Orville Wright smiles his approval.

Recapitulation of facts regarding the XR-4 delivery flight: Five days elapsed time; 761 airline miles; 16 separate flights; 16 hours, 10 minutes actual flying time; four states covered; first helicopter delivery flight completed; unofficial American airline-distance record repeatedly established and exceeded, finally to remain at ninety-two airline miles; first interstate helicopter flights (unofficial); first interstate helicopter passenger flights (also unofficial); World Endurance Record for helicopters exceeded with a flight of 1 hour, 50 minutes (most regretfully unofficial).


Additional reading 'R-4 SHOWS THE WAY' ARCHIVESS NEWS MARCH 2000


last update SEPTEMBER 22, 2012