Speaking of World Air Records
Local Rancher Still Holds One.
If it's world air records your're interested in, a gentlemen who calls himself "Wormy Walt" has been holding one since 1931
After business hours, "Wormy Walt" is Walter E. Lees and he operates a worm ranch just north of Turlock. But he hasn't been digging worms all his life.
Together with Frederic A Brossy, Lees holds the international record for non-refueling endurance in a Class C airplane --- 84 hours, 32 minutes, 38 1/4 seconds.
Brossy and Lees, who were test pilots for the Packard Motor Car company at the time, established the mark in a Bellanca monoplane with a single Packard diesel engine. That was May 25-28, 1931 over the beach at Jacksonville, Florida. But a great deal of preparation came before that.
As a matter of fact, the boys had made two previous attempts before they succeeded in taking the world's record away from the French. And to make things even tougher, the French bettered their own record between Brossy and Lees' first and second tries so that it stood at 76 hours.
On the first try, their engine developed an oil leak and they were forced to land after 40 hours. The second time, a severe storm developed after they had been aloft 74 hours, and they made what proved to be a wise decision. They landed. The storm mounted in fury, and it soon became apparent --- even to their dismayed publicity agent --- that they could not have ridden out the storm.
"That was a tough decision to make at the time, though," Lees said. "Here we had been aloft over three days and were within just two hours of matching the existing record."
But Lees said, he and his partner were both confident that they could crack the record on their third try. Lees said an engineer had convinced him that a good share of attempted endurance flights had failed because they tried to carry too heavy a load of fuel.
"When you're loaded to the hilt with fuel," Lees said, "it takes more to stay in the air and it's harder on your engine."