- Journal of SD History
John A. Macready (1887-1979)
John A. Macready was born in San Diego on October 14, 1887. He graduated from Stanford University in 1912 with a degree in Economics. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Service in 1917 and earned his pilot's wings at Rockwell Field, San Diego. While he was a flight instructor at the Army Pilot School at Brooks Field, Texas, he authored a book, "The All Thru System of Flying Instructions," a basic manual for student pilots in the early years of U.S. military aviation.
During the post-war years, while assigned to the Air Service Experimental Test Center at McCook Field, Ohio, he was to become one of the new elite group of engineering test pilots -- and the only pilot in history to win the Mackay trophy three times for his outstanding achievements in aviation.
His first Mackay award in 1921 was for his high altitude test flights and establishing a world record altitude of 40,800 feet. These flights significantly advanced knowledge of high altitude physiology and aided in the development of turbo-supercharged engines which permitted both military and civil aircraft of later years to operate in the stratosphere.
In May, 1922, Lt. Macready and his associate, Lt. Oakley Kelley, received the Mackay trophy for establishment of a world flight endurance record of 35 hours, 18 minutes in the skies over Rockwell Field on North Island. Because of this endurance flight, experiments which produced the first air to air refueling were initiated.
The first nonstop flight across the U.S. was made by Lts. John A. Macready and Oakley G. Kelly in a Fokker T-2 airplane. Taking off from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, on May 2, 1923, the heavily loaded T-2 flew westward through both fair and foul weather (much of it at night) without the benefit of any navigational aids other than a magnetic compass and some railroad maps. Almost 27 hours later, the single-engine T-2 landed at San Diego, California, having flown a distance of 2,520 miles. For their successful nonstop flight across the U.S., Macready and Kelly were awarded the Mackay Trophy for 1923.
Other Macready firsts were the first night parachute jump (1924), first demonstration of successful crop dusting (1921). At one time he was the holder of the world's altitude, endurance and distance records; in 1923 he and Capt. Stevens made the first photographic expedition (aerial) across the United States.
After resigning from the air service in 1926, Macready continued to promote aviation by participating in exhibition and racing events. He took a job as head of the Aviation Department for the Shell Oil Company, retiring in 1933. During World War II, he was recalled to active duty, commanded several Army Air Force groups, and served in North Africa with the 12th Air Force. He retired from active duty in 1948 and died on September 15, 1979.
John Macready remains today the only three-time recipient of the prestigious Mackay Trophy.
Photo courtesy of John Macready's daughter, Sally Wallace.