Alexander Loeb, an ingratiating youngster with a disarming smile and a wealth of optimism, hopes to make a non-stop solo flight from New York to Jerusalem this Summer.
If he is able to get together the money needed to finance this undertaking — and he is counting on the Jewish people of America to supply the funds — Alex will be the youngest pilot ever to attempt a transoceanic solo hop, and the first Jew.
Eighteen years old and only five feet three inches tall, this diminutive pilot has had more than his share of air experience. He boasts a commercial flying license and 450 hours at the stick.
Alex has been in this country less than five years, coming here in March, 1930, from Kolojvar, Rumania, where his mother still lives.
“And how does she feel about this suicidal plan of yours?” he was asked.
“She’s a fatalist on the subject,” the youth explained. “She believes that if it must be, it will be.”
Young Loeb came in for a good deal of publicity “and some good-natured ribbing on the part of his fellow pilots” last July, when he made a forced landing on Riverside drive in the little rebuilt plane his brother had bought him for $500.
“I had to sell that ship about a month ago,” he said Friday. “I didn’t have enough money to keep it up.”
His New York – to – Jerusalem flight he expects to make in a specially built Bellanca plane, now owned by Sol Martino, who until recently contemplated a trip to Rome in it.
“Do you think you’ll make it?” he was asked.
“I’m positive I’ll make it,” he said. “I’ll have the best equipment made. This Bellanca that I plan to get is a regular flying tank. It’s a land monoplane, but it’s built so that it would float for an indefinite period if it were forced down on the water.
“I’ll have a two-way radio, and there’s a shower arrangement over the pilot that can be set to squirt a little stream of water down his neck every fifteen minutes, in case he dozes.
“It’ll take me forty-eight hours from New York to Jerusalem” a total distance of 5,500 miles. I’m studying navigation now at the Seamen’s Institute at 25 South street, and I hope to have the best instruments available with me when I take off for Palestine.”
MAPS HIS ROUTE
To demonstrate his route. Alex drew forth from his brief-case a sheaf of papers covered with mathematical calculations, and prated enthusiastically for a few minutes on tangents, co-tangents, secants and co-secants, all trigonometric terms.
“I’ll fly first to Boston,” he explained, “then to Portland, Me., then to Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, then to Dublin, Ireland, then to Paris, and from there across Jugoslavia and the Mediterranean Sea to Jerusalem.”
The ship which he hopes to obtain has a cruising range of 8,000 miles, he said, and should easily reach Palestine without refueling.
FLIGHT TO COST $5,000
Young Loeb’s brothers and sisters all live in New York. His most enthusiastic supporter is his brother Max, who owns a beauty parlor and with whom he resides at 230 West Ninety-ninth street.
The proposed flight, Alex estimates, will cost in the neighborhood of $5,000, which he says will cover everything.
Max will finance him to the extent of $1,000. The remainder the young flier expects to obtain through the sale of “covers” at $2 each to Jews in the United States.
A “cover,” in the parlance of stamp collectors, is a stamped envelope. Alex has had special envelopes printed, with a picture of himself standing beside the plane he will fly, surmounted by crossed American and Mogen Dovid flags.
SPIRIT OF ISRAEL
These envelopes will be stamped both in New York and in Jerusalem, and will be valuable collectors’ items, in the opinion of the young pilot. They will be the first letters ever carried by direct air mail from New York to the Holy Land.
Alex will name his ship the Spirit of the Free Sons of Israel, in honor of the organization of which he is a member.
He plans to give forty per cent of the money realized from the sale of the “covers” to the Jewish National Fund. The balance will be used to pay the expenses of the flight.
BROTHER PILOTS PRAISE YOUTH
Alex appeals to those who are willing to help him to realize his ambition to communicate either with him at his home or with Harry Frankel, secretary of Hillel Lodge, Free Sons of Israel, at 2080 Amsterdam avenue, who is helping him to distribute the “covers” which will make the trip possible.
The flier, who is the youngest member of his family, is one of the pets of the aviation enthusiasts who make their headquarters at Floyd Bennett Field in Brook-
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lyn. His fellow-pilots all have a great deal of respect for his flying ability, however, and are not at all inclined to regard his proposed distance hop as the wild dream of an inexperienced youth.
NO SERIOUS MISHAP
They point out that although he has been flying since he was fifteen years old, Alex never has had a serious mishap. He is cool and level-headed, in proof of which other aviators point out that he brought his plane down safely on Riverside drive last Summer, when another person might have become rattled and have “bailed out” in a parachute, with resulting serious consequences to pedestrians.
Officers of the Free Sons of Israel were non-committal on the subject of the proposed trip. They took the attitude that they would be perfectly willing to take the credit for the undertaking if it were to turn out successful, but they would be loath to sponsor the flight before hand, for fear it would come to a tragic end and leave them open to unfavorable criticism.