Fowler Gage Tractor - (scan - 1984)

In 1913 the Tractor (at the right in the photo) was the first plane to fly non-stop from the Pacific to the Atlantic--over Panama. The airplane on the left is a model.

In 1912, Gage-McClay began producing tractor biplane of this type. General configurations resembled similar machines produced at slightly earlier date by Benoist and others. Influence of entire family of early US tractor biplanes on later Martin designs apparent. Upper wing had span of 41 ft, lower 30 ft. 5-ft extensions available for lower surface. With extensions, aircraft said to have top speed of 60 mph. Hall-Scott 60 hp engine (with 7-ft prop) equipped with 5-gal oil sump and 25 gal fuel tank mounted beneath upper wing at center of pressure. Control system reported to be "Farman" type. Single right-hand lever provided aileron and elevator control, and foot bar controlled the rudder. "Exceptionally heavy control- wire system" employed. Gage biplanes flown by well-known aviators, all of them Wright veterans--Ray Francis, Phil O. Parmalee, Turpin, and Fowler. Fowler learned to fly summer 11 at Wright School at Dayton under instructors Turpin and Brookins. Following training, shipped Wright B to San Francisco for entry in Hearst-Armour Transcontinental Flight contest. After a number of unsuccessful tries, finally completed flight from Los Angeles to Jacksonville FL (18 Oct 11 to 8 Feb 12) but finished after, and a bit slower than, Cal Rodgers in Wright EX, "Vin Fiz." After taking delivery of his biplane Oct 12, made a number of flights in CA along with some personal appearances. Mar 13, signed contract for ocean-to-ocean flight across Panama. Party sailed for Panama 1 Apr, and by 12 Apr Fowler making flights at Panama City. 1 hr 45 min flight with cameraman-passenger, Mr. Duhem, made 27 Apr with landing in shallow waters of Christobal at 1130. Was extraordinarily dangerous flight with no open areas en route for emergency landings. Treacherous winds played over rough terrain, and possibility of sudden weather changes made flight even more dangerous. After returning to US, resumed exhibition and passenger-carrying flying in addition to appearances to narrate his Panama experience. Continued these and similar activities, which included running a flying school, and retired airplane 1915. An excellent example of pre-WWI workhorse aircraft used for everything from normal exhibition and passenger flying to special duty and long distance flying, power line inspections, and the like.

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