8th of April 1931
Updated: Apr 8, 2021
90 years ago to date a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro sat on the ground at Pitcairn Field (Horsham Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania USA) The pilot was busy performing, what we would now call, the Pre-Flight Check.
While dressed in a heavy well-insulated flying overall the pilot sat down in the open cockpit after completing the checks, got comfortable]e on the parachute, and strapped in. Goggles and flying cap were put on. A short while later the Wright R-975 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine (330 hp / 250 kW) roared to life driving the 2 bladed fixed pitch wooden propellor. The aircraft slowly taxied to the grass runway and began its take-off roll, got airborne and began its climb. The official service ceiling, as we call it in modern-day aviation, for this aircraft is in the books at just a little over 15.000 ft. The history books don't tell us how long it took to reach that altitude. The pilot kept a close eye on the instrument panel and noticed that the controls became less effective in the thin and cold air at higher altitudes. The aircraft climbed past the 15.010 ft service ceiling and the Pitcairn PCA-2 climb continued gradually up to a record altitude of 18.415 ft!
With the radial engine at full power, the aircraft was clearly pushed to its maximum and would not climb any higher, and a gradual descent was made followed by a gentle touchdown. A new altitude record has been set for an Autogiro aircraft, 18415 ft!
The pilot of this record-breaking flight is no other than one of the most famous aviators in the first half of the 20th century, Amelia Earhart!
Amelia Earhart next to the Pitcairn PCA-2 (from www.gyroplanepassion.com)