Dateline Seattle: April 6, 1924

His 32nd birthday—and what a present for Donald Douglas.

The Douglas World Cruisers, now the four of them assembled at Sandy Point, in Washington State, floated at their moorings on April 4, with fog conspiring to ground them for the day.

The crowd dispersed, only to return the next morning. Would this be it? April 5? But no, that morning, Major F.L. Martin—the flight’s commander—broke the prop on ship number one, the Seattle.

The morning of the 6th held promise, and the promise held as the quartet departed at long last, to the cheers of the crowd.

Donald Douglas and Lt. Eirk Nelson share a candid moment on departure day. [Credit: Douglas/”Sky Master”]

An image of Douglas and Nelson shows the easy stance between them—they’d struck up a friendship during Nelson’s months of duty in stationed in California preparing the ships for the flight. Douglas’ face remains gaunt, perhaps from the illness he’d just come through, or from the stress and worry ahead of the biggest moment of his professional life to that point.

Bets went against the four airplanes making it around the world—or even making it through Alaska. But they launched for Prince Rupert, British Columbia, under the escort of a gaggle of well-wishing aircraft. They would only follow along for a few miles… and then the Cruisers were on their own.