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Mobility Simulator

The flight lasted from 1 through 7 January 1929, a total of 150 hours and 40 minutes. They flew a 110-mile track from Santa Monica to San Diego, California. They also flew over the New Year’s Day Rose Bowl football game. During the flight, they made 43 contacts with the tanker aircraft. Each contact lasted about 7.5 minutes, with the aircraft about 15 to 20 feet apart. Day contacts took place at an altitude between 2,000 and 3,000 feet, night contacts between 5,000 and 7,000 feet. All told, the Question Mark received 5,700 gallons offuel. In addition, the tanker crews passed oil, food, water, and other items, by means of a rope, during these contacts. Because of their weight and unreliability, neither the Question Mark nor the two refuelers were equipped with radios. The crews maintained communications via notes dropped to the ground, hand and flashlight signals, written messages displayed by ground panels, and messages written on blackboards carried on the planes. The Question Mark’s mission portended little militarily. Based on the success of this air refueling mission, the US Army Air Corps scheduled a formal demonstration in the spring of 1929 as part of an Army war-game maneuver. During the demonstration, a Keystone B-3A bomber, accompanied by a Douglas tanker, was to fly from Dayton, Ohio, on a simulated bombing mission over New York City’s harbor, and return. Refueling was to occur over Washington DC during both parts ofthe mission. However, a network ofthunderstorms between Ohio and Washington caused the aircraft to become separated. Icing conditions forced the tanker to make an emergency landing in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, where it lodged itselfin the mud. The bomber successfully pressed on to New York City and returned to Washington without the tanker’s support. With this disappointment, the US Army Department then shelved the idea of air refueling for another 12 years. Still, in its primary objective, the Question Mark was a huge success. As General Quesada reflected, “It got tremendous public attention, which is exactly what [we] had in mind. The Question Mark had no noble purpose. It wasn’t going to create an operational procedure that would plunge the Air Force into a great superior power 3 that would make it unnecessary to have an Army 01′ a Navy.