Cal Rodgers


Deafened at age 6 by scarlet fever (how severely is unknown), Calbraith Perry Rodgers was a wealthy young sportsman with little flying experience and much bravado when he accepted the challenge posed in 1910 by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who offered a $50,000 prize to the first pilot to fly from coast to coast within a 30-day period. The Armour Company (of meat-packing fame) agreed to sponsor Rodgers’ flight, in return for his promoting their new grape soda, “Vin Fiz.” A Wright EX biplane was built for Rodgers, and named the Vin Fiz. He took off from Sheepshead Bay on September 17, 1911. By the time a bruised and bandaged Rodgers and his mostly-rebuilt Vin Fiz reached the Pacific 49 days later (December 10), the offer had long since expired—but he was determined to finish the trip. He made the nation’s first transcontinental solo flight. Four months later, flying in an exhibition off Long Beach, he was killed when a gull jammed his rudder and the plane crashed into the surf—an untimely end to a brief but adventurous career.

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