Kit No. 72-424
Decals: Four versions depicting each of the Round-the-World Cruisers from the 1924 journey
Comments: Great kit of early aviation milestone; optional conventional landing gear or floats; instructions have excellent exploded drawings/rigging diagrams to assist construction; raised panel lines.
The Douglas World Cruiser was a modification of the Douglas DT-2, a bomber developed for the U.S. Army Air Service in 1922. In 1923, when the Army was searching for a plane with the ruggedness and range capable of a round-the-world flight, it approached the Douglas Aircraft Company, seeking an example not of the DT-2, but the Davis-Douglas Cloudster. Douglas examined the Army’s specifications, particularly the requirement for interchangeable wheeled landing gear or pontoons for water landings, and realized that a DT-2 modified for greater fuel capacity would fit the bill. The Army needed five aircraft, one for testing and training, and four for the round-the-world flight. Realizing what success in the venture would mean for the company’s future, Douglas agreed to provide the five aircraft for free, and promised the Army delivery within 45 days.
Of the four aircraft that took off from Seattle on April 4, 1924 — the Boston, the Chicago, the New Orleans, and the Seattle — only two ultimately completed the round-the-world journey of 23,942 nautical miles: the Chicago, and the New Orleans. After experiencing engine difficulties early in the flight, the Seattle crashed into a mountain in Alaska on April 30. The crew, Major Frederick L. Martin and Staff Sergeant Alva L. Harvey, survived and made their way through the wilderness to safety.
The other three aircraft continued on through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, relying on a carefully planned logistics system, including pre-positioned spare engines, to keep the aircraft flying. The Boston was forced down while crossing the Atlantic and damaged beyond repair during recovery by the U.S. Navy cruiser USS Richmond. The remaining two aircraft continued across the Atlantic back to the United States, where they were joined by the test aircraft, now christened Boston II. The aircraft returned to their Seattle starting point on September 28, 1924 –175 days after their initial take-off.
The success of the round-the-world flight covered the Douglas Aircraft Company in glory and assured its reputation — and its future — with a slew of government contracts in years to come, establishing Douglas as one of the world’s premiere aircraft manufacturers and leading it to adopt the motto “First Around the World – First the World Around.” Douglas’ logo was later changed to commemorate the first aerial circumnavigation.
The Douglas World Cruiser is molded in grey plastic and consists of 63 injected molded parts. Two of them are clear plastic for the windshields and must be carefully folded as explained in the instructions. Small bits must be added to the windshields to represent the frames, so it’s a plus if the modeler has a little scratch-building skill. I highlight this early on, as the clear parts are small and attached to the instructions with a red sticker, which may be overlooked or mistaken for unnecessary material and discarded.
There is reasonable detail in the cockpit, which includes individual seats and control columns, and decals for the instrument panels. The molding contains striations in the wings, rudder and tail surfaces to represent fabric-covered ribs. There is also a choice between fitting the plane with pontoons or conventional landing gear.
This is a great kit representing a unique achievement in international aviation. Williams Brothers kit is the only injection molded example of the World Cruiser, and although it is a 30-year-old mold, the unique subject makes it a kit of great interest even today. Finally, the kit leaves open the possibility of greater detailing. Highly recommended.