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Pilot recalls historic flight
This story originally appeared in the Yuma Sun in 2009.
- Click here to see how the 'City of Yuma' made history and its long road back to Yuma
Sixty years ago when Yuma was still a dusty little desert town, pilots Woody Jongeward and Bob Woodhouse decided they were going to defeat the world record for an endurance flight.
The purpose of the record-setting flight, sponsored by the Yuma Jaycees, was to draw attention to how good the flying weather was in Yuma and to persuade government officials to reopen a local air base.
They would sit inside of a little Aeronca Sedan airplane with a 115-horsepower engine for over 1,124 hours and never touch the ground. The only company the men would get would be during their brief refueling runs over the Yuma airport and through their radio.
All in all, the two men would stay alone and aloft for 90,000 miles — almost four times around the globe.
Woodhouse, who was 26 at the time, worked at the Griffen Buick dealership and was married to Berta Woodhouse.
Jongeward, who was 31 at the time, owned anan electrical repair business with his brother, Howard, and was married to Betty Jongeward.
In 2009, Jongeward talked to the Yuma Sun about his time with Woodhouse.
The airplane had been modified to hold more fuel, and that meant even less space for the men to use. Even so, Jongeward said being cooped up in the little airplane wasn’t too bad.
“We were so busy there really wasn’t time to get bored. We did four-hour shifts and when we weren’t flying, we were sleeping.”
The two men were separated from their wives during the ordeal, but the two women would ride in the refueling car to say hello and exchange love letters every day. Sometimes the men on the refueling crews would even lift up the ladies so they could give their husbands quick kisses.
Jongeward said in their off-time, they liked to have a little fun by throwing random stuff off the plane and trying to hit targets.
“There wasn’t a lot of extra time, but in the morning we would take an extra oil can and try to bomb the ducks on the river. We found using full oil cans was better because they were easier to throw. We threw anything we could at targets.”
Many businesses in the community of 15,000 pulled together to meet the needs of the two pilots, including making sure they were fed.
“The Valley Cafe catered for us,” Jongeward said. “Our doctor put us on a strict diet and we weren’t allowed to drink water, so we drank juices instead.”
Jongeward said even though the two men were stuck together in such close proximity for a very lengthy period, they still got along.
“We were friends all the way through. We remained friends for years.”
After the record was beaten, and the plane touched down, Jongeward said, the inactivity associated with being stuck in the plane caught up to him.
“My legs were a little weak, but I wasn’t sick. After that, I took my wife to Salt Lake City on vacation. We drove.”