The last PN-8 was converted by the Naval Aircraft Factory to the PN-9, a one-of-a-kind aircraft. It had redesigned tail surfaces and revised engine nacelles with large nose radiators. This aircraft set a world distance record for seaplanes in September 1925 when it flew from San Francisco to Hawaii under the command of Commander John Rogers.
On 27 April 1925, Aroostook arrived in Hawaiian waters, and operated with the fleet out of Pearl Harbor on exercises through the summer, at Lahaina Roads and at Nawiliwili, Kauai. Chosen as one of the plane guard ships for the west coast-to-Hawaii flight of the Navy PN-9 flying boats (PN-9 No. 1 commanded by Comdr. John Rodgers and PN-9 No. 3, commanded by Lt. A. P. Snody), Aroostook sailed for station "vice" on the morning of 29 August 1925. She reached her station late on the afternoon of the 30th.
Earlier that same day, Rodgers and Snody had taken off for Hawaii from San Pablo Bay, Calif. Less than five hours later, however, an oil leak forced Snody's PN-9 No. 3 down. All was not well on board Rodgers' place, either, as he discovered that gasoline consumption on board PN-9 No. 1 was six gallons per hour higher than had been indicated in test flights. Before the plane had flown 1,200 miles, Rodgers decided that he would have to land alongside one of the plane guards and refuel. He figured he had enough gasoline to reach Aroostook at station "vice."
Rodgers' dead reckoning navigation showed him to be a few miles north of his projected track, but radio compass bearings from Aroostook (erroneous, as it turned out) indicated that he was flying to the south of that ship. Assuming that the tender was not on her proper station, he turned PN-9 No. 1 to the north to look for her. The presence of rain squalls in the area increased Rodgers' uncertainty, the plane's gasoline ran out, and the flying boat made a forced landing at 1615 on 1 September, 25 hours and 23 minutes after having taken off from San Pablo Bay.
The flying boat's disappearance triggered an intensive search, led by Comdr. W. R. Van Auken, Aroostook's commanding officer. Langley (CV-1) also took part, her planes conducting daily searches in the adjoining waters, while submarines and patrol planes flying from the Hawaiian Islands joined in the effort to find PN-9 No. 1.
Sweeping the sky with her searchlight at night and stationing extra lookouts at all hours, Aroostook looked for the missing fliers until 7 September, when she briefly put into Pearl Harbor to take on fuel and water. She stood out the same day to resume the search, and joined Langley and the destroyers Reno (DD-303) and Farragut (DD-300). Eventually, however, the submarine R-4 (SS-81) encountered Rodgers and his intrepid crew sailing PN-9No. 1ten miles from the island of Kaui at 1600 on 10 September- some 450 miles from where the flying boat had gone down when its fuel gave out-and rescued them.
While it had to sail the last 559 miles after running out of fuel, the 1,841 miles covered by air was recognized as a new world seaplane distance record.
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