“In November of 1930, the plane Richard finally settled on was the open-cockpit, two-winged Stearman that Stephens recommended for the short runways and rugged landing fields they would encounter. The lengthy search for pilot and plane was finally over.
He had the plane painted in keeping with his exuberant, free spirit. In contrast to the gold of the wings and tail, the body was painted scarlet, the motor and its cowling a shiny black, and the legend The Flying Carpet emblazoned along the sides in black on a golden stripe.
After a long wrangle over aviation fuel, Shell Oil Company finally agreed to provide it throughout the flight at wholesale prices then refund the money if Halliburton and his pilot survived the trip.
Their long and involved preparations for the air travel adventure came to fruition at the end of January, 1931. They flew their gaudily painted craft to New York City where they packed it aboard a liner bound for Europe. But the flight east was not without incident, according to Moye’s son. (I had interviewed Moye Stephens Jr. about the flight in 1999 – author).
‘They had something like five forced landings going across the United States. The plane and the power plant were purchased separately. They put oversize wheels on the plane and a larger Wright engine than the Stearman normally had. It was the same 225 horsepower model Lindbergh used in his Spirit of St. Louis. At that time it was one of the most reliable radial engines around. They had it rebuilt in Southern California. The man who worked on it knew my father and knew what he was going to do so he thought he would do him a favor. He added a liquid gasket material to the gland duct seals on the pushrod housings. What happened as a result was, when the cylinders heated up, the gasket material chemically reacted with the gland packing material. Then it would turn sticky and grab the push rods. Eventually it would hold the valves open. When about four cylinders had their valves held open, the engine would quit. After they reached New York, my Dad took the plane up to the Wright factory. It took them a day or so to analyze what was going on but once they figured it out they rectified it and that was the only problem they had with the plane.’
Soon after the sticky valve problem was fixed, the plane was crated and loaded aboard the Majestic which would take the colorful craft and its crew to England.”
Considering the fact that the plane faithfully transported Halliburton and Stephens some 33,000 plus miles through the great weather extremes, including wet and dry, encountered in jungles, deserts, extreme high and low altitudes, it was a remarkably reliable mechanical performance.
William R. Taylor.