Back in 2001 my friend Henry, who pretty much has his finger on the pulse of aviation in the Seattle area, introduced me to Bob Demptster, a gentleman who, like most of us, has dreams. Big dreams. The difference between many of us and Bob is that he follows through with his dreams. When I first met him he had his dream, an office, an overwhelming interest in a 1924 around-the-world flight, and a lot of nifty coffee mugs, one of which he was kind enough to give me.
Before I continue, let's talk a little about that round-the-world flight. In 1924, not quite 21 years after the Wright brothers made the first powered flight, eight men set out in four state-of-the-art (for the time) airplanes on a trip around the world. Named for four cities in the United States: Seattle, Boston, Chicago, and New Orleans, the airplanes had a top speed of just over one hundred miles an hour. Their normal cruise speed was right around 90 miles per hour, and it took them almost six months to complete the round-the-world trip. Of the original airplanes, the Chicago and New Orleans completed the trip relatively unscathed. The Seattle (the namesake of Bob's airplane) was lost in an accident in Alaska; after surviving the accident, the crew, Major Frederick Martin and Sergeant Alva Harvey spent several days walking back to civilization. The original Boston was lost after being damaged during a water landing. Unfortunately, as the airplane was being hoisted onto a ship the boom broke, dropping the airplane and damaging it beyond repair. To complete the trip the prototype--which wasn't supposed to be involved in the flight-- was named "Boston II" and was pressed into service to finish the last legs of the journey. The New Orleans is now on display in a museum in Santa Monica, California, and the Chicago is in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. Unfortunately, the Boston II was scrapped at Kelly Field in San Antonio, TX in 1932. To put this trip in perspective, it was followed by the news media as closely as the Lindbergh flight three years later or the moon landings 45 years later. These guys were rock stars who made Maverick and Iceman look like pansies!
Back to Bob and his dream...
On a recent trip to Seattle, Henry and I stopped by Boeing Field and found Bob at his hangar. He was nice enough to show me how his dream has progressed since he gave me that mug all those years ago:
And here's Bob, the man with the dream who built this airplane from scratch! In building this replica he has tried to be as true to the original as possible--to the point of finding Liberty engines, the original power plant for the Douglas World Cruisers. You'll notice Bob has even painted the names of the original crew, Major Frederick Martin and Sergeant Alva Harvey, on the cockpits. He's made changes in the design where safety or legality dictate. For example, the fabrics and coatings of the day were highly flammable, so Bob has used more modern--and safer--materials for the coverings of the fuselage and wings. Another tip of his hat to the modern era was the installation of wheel brakes, something the original airplanes did not have.
If you would like to learn more about this project you can visit the Seattle World Cruiser Association's website at www.seattleworldcruiser.org.
Oh, and don't think the dream stops with a flying replica. No sir! Bob intends to follow the path the original airplanes did nearly 90 years ago and fly this airplane around the world! He knows how to get around the world since he's already done it once, in a Piper Super Cub. If I was a betting man, my money would be on him.