The Mackay Trophy is a distinguished accolade awarded each year by the United States Air Force for “the most meritorious flight of the year by an Air Force person, persons, or organization.” It was established by Clarence H. Mackay in 1911, who was at the helm of the Postal Telegraph-Commercial Cable Companies. There have been over a century-worth of winners. Yet, only one person has won it three times – John Arthur Macready.
Shift in direction
Macready was born in San Diego, California, on October 14th, 1887. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University and had his heart set on a business career. However, following the United States’ 1917 entry into the First World War, his trajectory changed.
He transferred to train as a pilot and began experimenting in the world of flight. As the war drew to a close, he became a chief test pilot for the Air Service in Dayton, Ohio.
Three in a row
Lieutenant Macready won his first Mackay Trophy in September 1921 for a series of high-altitude test flights at McCook Field, Ohio, using a turbo-supercharged Packard Lepère L USA C. II. Utilizing the first use of supplemental oxygen, the flights set a world altitude record of 40,800 feet (12,435 meters).
In October 1922, he received his second trophy following an endurance flight that lasted 35 hours, 18 minutes, and 30 seconds at Rockwell Field, California. He was joined by Lieutenant Oakley G. Kelly to pioneer the use of inflight refueling from another plane.
In May 1923, the pair conducted the first non-stop transcontinental flight when they flew a Fokker T-2 from Roosevelt Field, New York, to Rockwell Field in 26 hours, 50 minutes, 38.6 seconds, leading to Macready’s third and final trophy.
FAA General Aviation News: A DOT/FAA Flight Standards Safety Publication · Volume 17, Issue 3, shares the following about Macready’s accomplishments:
“Between 1923 and 1926 Macready made 50 flights to altitudes above 30,000 feet, including 10 flights above 35,000 feet. His final flight, on January 19, 1926, reached an official altitude of 38,704 feet, an international record. The stage was now set for a new generation of high flying aircraft, with an enclosed and eventually pressurized cockpit, which would enable scientists to penetrate the mysteries of upper space, and allow man to set foot upon the moon.”
“Macready retired from the Air Service in 1928, worked briefly for General Motors and then became the aviation director for Shell Oil in California. He returned to active military service as a colonel during World War II, and later retired for good to a ranch in Mariposa, Calif.”
A golden age
Macready passed away at the age of 91 on September 15th, 1979. He left a mark across the aviation spectrum with several awards, including a Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, and, of course, the Mackay Trophy.
These Mackay Trophy wins came at a time when air travel was going through a multitude of record settings and firsts. His achievements mark an age of true adventure during an integral period in aviation. Today marks 100 years since Macready won the second trophy. Still, his legacy remains alive a century later.
What are your thoughts about Macready’s accomplishments? What do you make of his service to aviation over the years? Let us know what you think in the comment section.
Sources: FAA General Aviation News: A DOT/FAA Flight Standards Safety Publication · Volume 17, Issue 3, Flight Standards Service, FAA, DOT, 1978; This Day in Aviation