Emilio Carranza is the 22-year-old aviator who, in the early hours of June 12, 1928, fell short of tying the second longest nonstop flight record on a goodwill journey from Mexico City to Washington, DC. Dangerous weather conditions forced him to land in Moorestown, North Carolina, where he spent 10 hours at his landing site before setting off again for the nation’s capital, where he would be honored by everyone from the media to the president.
As an ambassador for Mexico who attempted a flight previously completed only by the American pilot Charles Lindbergh, Carranza was a hero in the eyes of both his country and the U.S. in attempting to complete his journey in severe weather conditions through which he managed to successfully maneuver except for the final 300 miles of his journey.
Carranza landed at Bolling Field, then part of a 10-year-old army base in Washington, at 5:15 p.m. and was inundated with dignitaries and representatives from the world press. In his 2001 account of the goodwill mission, Carranza’s second cousin, Ismael, describes the scene, starting with “military bands blaring out Mexican music as well as American tunes. Two regiments of the U.S. Cavalry lined up as they saluted the Mexican aviation hero. Capt. Carranza was escorted by the Mexican Ambassador to the Mexican Embassy where he received the first congratulatory wire from the newspaper Excelsior,” the sponsor of the goodwill journey.
That message included the announcement that the Mexico-Excelsior, the plane flown by Carranza on the mission and paid for by donations from Mexican citizens, now belonged to its pilot in the hopes that it would help him in future accomplishments.
But such endeavors were placed aside for a moment as Carranza received a personal invitation from President Calvin Coolidge for dinner at the White House, another invite from the Secretary of State for an evening of dining and a reception hosted by the Mexican Embassy.
All eyes were on Carranza as he assumed his role as ambassador with poise, but he was quick to remind his hosts of what he considered his true purpose, announcing his plan to fly from New York to Mexico City on his return flight. Today, many accounts either overlook or ignore the fact that such a flight promised to increase his travel distance by 200 miles over the journey to Washington and guarantee an unshared second place standing for longest nonstop flight.
Such an announcement never seemed to threaten his friendship with Lindbergh, however. In fact, shortly after Carranza’s June 17 arrival in New York, where he received the key to the city, met with his father, who worked at the Mexican Consulate, and inspected West Point, the two aviators set out in separate planes for a visit to Detroit.
According to an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune last year, “on June 30, when Carranza, piloting Lindbergh’s Ryan monoplane, saw Lindbergh make a forced landing in an Ohio corn field due to a fuel tank malfunction, Carranza dropped down, picked up Lindbergh, and they flew on to Detroit together.”
It’s apparent that, despite side trips such as the Detroit trek and his attendance at various functions during his stay in New York, Carranza was focused on his return flight to Mexico. His cousin reports that he consulted with his brother, who served as his chief mechanic, and even contacted the Wright Company, which supplied the engine for the Mexico-Excelsior, in preparation for his journey home. He decided on July 3 as his departure date, expecting to arrive in Mexico City the next day.
But the same factors that had plagued his flight in the southern states on his arrival in the U.S. now threatened to delay his departure from New York. The weather, it seemed, would control Carranza’s destiny.
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