Major General Leigh Wade was the pilot of the Douglas World cruiser "Boston" on the world's first successful global flight in 1924--three years before Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris. A native of Michigan, General Wade enlisted in the National Guard in 1916 and served along the Mexican border during the clashes with Pancho Villa. He became an aviation cadet and received his wings and commission in 1917. He was first assigned to the 17th Aero Squadron in Fort Worth, Texas, and later moved to England during World War I. By 1918, General Wade had flown all types of planes as a test and instructor pilot in France. As a test pilot, he holds the distinction of developing and performing the first outside spin maneuver.
At McCook Field on 9 December 1921, he established a world altitude record for two-engine aircraft when he flew a Martin MB-2 to a height of 25,341 feet. In 1924, he served as pilot of the "Boston" on its world flight and, in 1928, he left the Army for a civilian aircraft career. At the request of General Hap Arnold, he returned to the Air Service in 1940. Between 1941 and 1945, General Wade commanded Batista Field in Cuba and served on tours as Air Attaché in Greece and Brazil. He retired as a major general in 1955.
General Wade piloted the "Boston," one of four Douglas World-cruiser airplanes that were flown in the first around-the-world flight. The planes departed from Santa Monica, California, on 17 March 1924 and completed the flight on 23 September. During the 175-day trip, they covered 27,534 miles and logged 371 hours flying time. By the end of the journey, they had faced numerous weather challenges, including typhoons, ice, and dense fog. General Wade almost failed to complete the journey when a faulty oil pump forced his aircraft into the sea enroute to Iceland, but he completed the flight in the Boston II, a spare aircraft assigned to the mission. The world-circling mission showed the world that American aviation had come of age.