The Case of the Missing Vin Fiz Replica

Gerrie Schipske

Dec. 10 will mark the 107th anniversary of the landing of the first transcontinental flight in Long Beach – in the water off Seaside and Linden. This historic flight was important to aviation history and to the history of the City of Long Beach.

Cal Rodgers could have ended his historic flight in his Wright Brothers plane in Pasadena but instead he was encouraged (and paid $5,000) by the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce to end his flight in Long Beach. He set out from Pasadena and promptly crashed near Compton. His plane was taken to the Sun Parlor on the Pine Avenue Pier where it was repaired. Rodgers was taken to Hotel Maryland in Pasadena to recuperate.

On Dec. 10, Rodgers set out from Compton. He strapped the crutches he was using because of his broken ankles on the side of the plane, took off and was greeted over the water by local aviators. He landed on the sand and then pushed his plane into the water so that he could honestly say he touched the Pacific Ocean.

The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum features a replica of the Vin Fiz – the name of his plane which in fact was an advertisement for the grape drink, Vin Fiz. The official exhibit stated that Rodgers landed in the Pacific Ocean. I personally asked the curator to change it so that it reflected he landed in Long Beach.

Seven years ago (2011), Long Beach celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the Vin Fiz landing in Long Beach. There were workshops and movies and a first issue stamp of the occasion was printed. A wonderful website concerning the historical flight was developed by the Long Beach Airport.

To add to the festivities, JetBlue painted one its planes with the insignia “Vin Fiz” and landed it at the Long Beach Airport. Jet Blue also donated $10,000 to have a scale model replica of the Viz Fiz made so it could be displayed in the Arena in the Long Beach Convention Center, which is the closest location to the site where the original landed in 1911. A plaque was also mounted in the hallway that connected the Arena and the Convention Center. The replica was hung from the ceiling and could be seen easily in the hallway or from the reception area of the International City Theater.

The replica hung there until about a year ago and then disappeared. When the city manager was asked what happened, he replied “someone broke it when things were moved during the redesign of the arena.” West assured that it would be repaired and re-hung in the same spot.

At this moment, it is still not there.



Hi there, I too notice the disappearance of the Vin Fiz and called the office of Charles Beirne (I believe that's the spelling) the convention center general manager. When his secretary asked me what my call was regarding I told her I wanted to know the fate of the Vin Fiz. She had no idea what I was talking about. When I explained the Vin Fiz was the model hanging above the center’s promenade her response was, “Oh, that thing.” I was informed Mr. Beirne was out of the office and left a message for him to please call me. He never did. About twenty calls it became apparent I was not a problem that was going to go away. Then the lying started. I was told the Vin Fiz was being refitted. Another dozen of so calls on my part followed. Finally, around the first of September that the Vin Fiz was schedule to returned at the end of November. My calls stopped, until the last week of October that is. When I rang Mr. Beirne’s office I assured preparations were under way for the remounting. Needless to say, that was not the case. Frankly I wouldn’t believe anything Mr. Beirne’s office tells you. I quite sure don't intend to return the Vin Fiz, or “that thing” to the center and never did.

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