Vin Fiz Revisited

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 f you have your pilot's license, then it's a good bet you are wondering what it would be like to retrace the route of the Vin Fiz across America. Several pilots, such as Henry Kisor, have done just that. Many more have dreamed it. We almost got our chance  when Boston Science Communications approached us and asked if we would build a Vin Fiz look-alike and fly it across America for a television documentary. In the end, we had to give up the dream because neither of our two organizations could find funding.

But while we were putting on dog-and-pony shows to drum up support, we did an enormous amount of research and initial flight planning. We studied old railroad maps which Cal Rodgers used for navigation and marked the tracks he must have followed. We transferred these routes to current aviation sectional charts and looked for airports near the locations of Rodgers' landings. Finally, we plotted courses between these airports, following Rodgers' initial route as closely as possible while avoiding restricted areas, high terrain, and dense air traffic. It was a tremendous amount or work and seems a shame that it should go for naught.

So – because the dream of following the Vin Fiz across America is common among pilots who appreciate the romantic history of aviation, we thought we'd publish our flight planning for you brave, plucky individuals intent on flying the first transcontinental air route, or a portion of that route. Feel free to use them as references, but remember that these sectionals are no longer current. You cannot use them for navigation. You'll have to plan your own flight on current charts. And there are other considerations:

  • Legend – Blue indicates the reconstructed route of Cal Rodgers and his Vin Fiz in 1911; red indicates our flight plans. Circles indicate departure and arrival points. Note that Cal rarely traveled in anything approaching a straight line.
  • Private airports – Because our aircraft was to be low and slow, we planned landings at small public-use airports. In a very few cases, when there were no public airports nearby, we chose private airports. These are clearly indicated on the sectionals and you will have to call ahead to get permission to land.
  • MOAs – We tried to avoid military operations areas, but there a few MOAs that have to be crossed. Watch out for these, look up the active times, and know the altitudes you must avoid to safely fly in these air spaces.
  • Controlled airspace – Our flight plans avoid controlled airspaces around busy commercial airports, but where it is unavoidable, we opt to fly over busy airports, letting air traffic control guide us through the airspace.
  • Flying direct – In this age of GPS navigation, you may wonder why we have taken pains to follow Victor airways and VOR vectors across America. Aside from the fact that the VOR system is a great backup for global positioning and Victor airways avoid obstructions, the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company is, first and foremost, an educational institution. We had planned to webcast our flights to schools, demonstrating aviation science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as we flew. VOR navigation is a great way to teach radial geometry and trigonometry without the kids ever suspecting they're getting a massive dose of math. However, if you prefer GPS to VOR and you're not a teacher, fly direct.
  • Legs – While the stops are roughly the same, the legs in our flight plans are not the same as the legs in the original flight of the Vin Fiz. If you want to adjust our flight plans to fly the same legs as Cal Rodgers, consult the Vin Fiz Logbook.

One more thing – Since you are obviously a romantic soul and understand the value of grand gestures, you're going to need a bottle of Vin Fiz to strap to your airplane. Fortunately, you can still purchase a bottle or two at

Leg 1 — Sheepshead Bay, NY to Middletown, NY.
Leg 2 — Middletown, NY to Binghamton, NY via Hancock, NY, Carbondale, PA, Throop, PA, Scranton, PA, and Great Bend, NY.
Leg 3 — Binghamton, NY to Elmira, NY.
Leg 4 — Elmira, NY to Olean, NY via Hornell, NY.
Leg 5 — Olean, NY to Meadville, PA via Salamanca, NY.
Leg 6 — Meadville, PA to Kent, OH  via Warren, OH.
Leg 7 — Kent, OH to Mansfield, OH.
Leg 8 — Mansfield, OH to Marion, OH.
Leg 9 — Marion, OH to Huntington, IN via Bobo, IN and Geneva, IN.
Leg 10 — Huntington, IN to Adine, IN.
Leg 11 — Adine, IN to Lockport, IL via Hammond, IN and Chicago, IL.
Leg 12 — Lockport, IL to Peoria, IL via Streator, IL.
Leg 13 — Peoria, IL to Springfield, IL via Middletown, IL.
Leg 14 — Springfield, IL to Nebo, IL.
Leg 15 — Nebo, IL to Thompson, MO.
Leg 16 — Thompson, MO to Marshall, MO.
Leg 17 — Mashall, MO to Kansas City, KS via Blue Springs, MO.
Leg 18 — Kansas City, MO to Moran, Mo.
Leg 19 — Moran, MO to Vinita, OK via Russel Creek, OK.
Leg 20 — Vinita, OK to Muskogee, OK.
Leg 21 — Muskogee, OK to McAlester, OK via Northtown, OK.
Leg 22 — McAlester, OK to Durant, OK.
Leg 23 — Durant, OK to Dallas, TX via Pottsboro, TX, Bonita, TX, Gainesboro, TX, and Fort Worth, TX.
Leg 24 — Dallas, TX to Waco, TX.
Leg 25 — Waco, TX to Austin, TX via Granger, TX.
Leg 26 — Austen, TX to San Antonio, TX via Kyle, TX and Marcos, TX.
Leg 27 — San Antonio, TX to Sabinal, TX via Lacoste, TX.
Leg 28 — Sabinal, TX to Del Rio, TX via Uvalde, TX and Spofford, TX.
Leg 29 — Del Rio, TX to Sanderson, TX via Dryden, TX.
Leg 30 — Sanderson, TX to Marfa, TX via Alpine, TX.
Leg 31 — Marfa, TX to Sierra Blanca, TX.
Leg 32 — Sierra Blanca, TX to El Paso, TX via Fort Hancock, TX.
Leg 33 — El Paso, TX to Lordsburg, NM via Deming, NM.
Leg 34 — Lordsburg, NM to Wilcox, AZ.
Leg 35 — Wilcox, Az to Tuscon, AZ.
Leg 36 — Tuscon, AZ to Phoenix, AZ via Maricopa, AZ.
Leg 37 — Phoenix, AZ to Yuma, AZ via Stoval, AZ. Note: Rodgers flew over but did not stop in Yuma. We opted to schedule a stop in Yuma because the Dateland Airport is an abandoned military field with no reliable services that we could find.
Leg 38 — Yuma, AZ to Imperial Junction, CA.
Leg 39 — Imperial Junction, CA to Banning, CA.
Leg 40 — Banning, CA to Long Beach, CA via Beaumont, CA, Pomona, CA, Pasedena, CA, and Compton, CA.

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 Eddie Rickenbacker



A History of the Airplane/The Tale of the Vin Fiz/Retracing Cal Rodger's Steps
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