In the astronomical total of Pilot Max Conrad's 36,000 flying hours, the 58 hours and 38 minutes that began the morning of June 2 in Casablanca and ended June 4 in Los Angeles are surely the most wonderful. They define a 7,668-mile nonstop flight in a 250-hp single-engined Piper Comanche. When Conrad finally landed his small plane, he became the only man in the world who by himself had flown so far and so long without once coming down. As a solo performance the flight ranks with Lindbergh's.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S Percy Knauth was among the first to greet his friend at Los Angeles' International Airport (see above). Knauth had been in a plane which picked up Conrad's outside Van Horn, Texas, just after it had eclipsed the old distance mark. Tailing Conrad to California, Knauth was next to being in the cockpit on the last leg of the record-breaking flight.
Although only Conrad can really know the experience of his lonely voyage, Knauth knows what it is to fly with him. This week, in the first of two parts, he writes about that.
For Knauth, the articles editor of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, this is a first appearance in these pages as a writer. But before he turned editor, Knauth had already achieved a distinguished writing career. From 1937 to 1941 he was a foreign correspondent in Germany for the Chicago Tribune and then The New York Times. Joining the staff of TIME after Pearl Harbor, he covered such trouble spots as the Balkans and Middle East. As war was ending he followed Allied troops back into Germany and in 1946 analyzed her disintegration in a book which has since diminished neither in readability nor importance to historians, Germany in Defeat.
Always drawn to flying, Knauth started in earnest a year ago with flying lessons. He soon learned of Conrad, who has long been a flyer's flyer. Gathering material on him, Knauth came to know of his projected assault on the record. When, not long ago, Knauth received an invitation to join Conrad on a transatlantic ferrying trip, he jumped at the chance to observe point-blank how this great pilot does it. His account is thus, I think, as up-to-date an insight as possible into the magnificent flying that Conrad has just done.
Next spring Doubleday will publish Percy Knauth's second book. It will include this story and will be, Knauth says, "a primer, with personal bias, on the adventure of learning to fly and flying. By adventure I mean you push the throttle and you're committed from here on in. You can't stop by the side of the road and find out what's wrong. You're here, as Conrad has always been."