Tag Archives: Transatlantic Flight

14–15 June 1919

Vickers Vimy with Alcock and Brown aboard, departs St. John's, Newfoundland, 14 June 1919. (CF Photo)
The Vickers Vimy with Alcock and Brown aboard, departs St. John’s, Newfoundland, 14 June 1919. (CF Photo)
John Alcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown, 14 June 1919. (Vickers PLC)
Captain John William Alcock, D.S.C, and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown, before their departure at St. John’s, Newfoundland, 14 June 1919. (Vickers PLC)

14–15 June 1919: Captain John William Alcock, D.S.C., and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown, both of the Royal Air Force, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, non-stop, aboard their twin-engine Vickers Vimy F.B.27A Mk.IV biplane bomber. This was the very first successful non-stop trans-Atlantic crossing by air.

Alcock and Brown took off from Lester’s Field, St. John’s, Newfoundland, at 16:13 GMT (2:43 p.m., NDT), 14 June 1919. They flew 1,890 miles (3,042 kilometers) to Clifden, County Galway, Ireland.

During their flight, they encountered heavy fog, icing, snow and severe turbulence. Four times Brown had to go out on the wings to clear snow and ice from the engine intakes.

The Vimy crossed the coast of Ireland at 9:25 a.m., British Summer Time (08:40 GMT), and touched down on the soft ground of Derrygimla Bog, just south of Clifden, at 9:40 a.m., BST. The airplane pitched over on its nose and was damaged, but Alcock and Brown were not hurt.

The total duration of their flight was 16 hours, 27 minutes.

Alcock and Brown's aeroplane after completing the first non-stop transatlantic flight, 1919. (Getty Images/Print Collector)
Alcock and Brown’s aeroplane after completing the first non-stop transatlantic flight, 1919. (Getty Images/Print Collector)

The following report was published in The New York Times:

Captain Alcock’s Own Narrative of His Flight From Newfoundland to Ireland

LONDON, June 16. (By telegraph from Clifden, Ireland.) We have had a terrible journey. The wonder is that we are here at all. We scarcely saw the sun or the moon or the stars. For hours we saw none of them.

     The fog was very dense, and at times we had to descend to within 300 feet of the sea. For four hours the machine was covered in a sheet of ice caused by frozen sleet; at another time the sleet was so dense that my speed indicator did not work, and for a few seconds it was very alarming.

     We looped the loop, I do believe, and did a very steep spiral. We did some very comic “stunts,” for I have had no sense of the horizon.

     The winds were favorable all the way: northwest and at times southwest. We said in Newfoundland we could do the trip in 16 hours, but we never thought we should. An hour and a half before we saw land we had no certain idea where we were, but we believed we were at Galway or thereabouts. Our delight in seeing Eashal Island and Turbot Island (5 miles west of Clifden) was great. People did not know who we were when we landed, and thought we were scouts on the lookout for the “Vimy.”

     We encountered no unforeseen conditions. We did not suffer from cold or exhaustion except when looking over the side; then the sleet chewed bits out of our faces. We drank coffee and ale and ate sandwiches and chocolate.

     The flight has shown that the Atlantic flight is practicable, but I think it should be done not with an aeroplane or seaplane, but with a flying boat. We had plenty of reserve fuel left, using only two-thirds of our supply.

     The only thing that upset me was to see the machine at the end get damaged. From above, the bog looked like a lovely field, but the machine sank into it up to the axle and fell over on to her nose.

The New York Times, 16 June 1919, Page 1, Columns 7 and 8

The “Vickers-Vimy-Rolls”

     The construction of the Trans-Atlantic “Vickers-Vimy-Rolls” was completed at the Weybridge Aeroplane Works of Messrs. Vickers, Limited.

     This aeroplane is practically similar in every respect to the Standard “Vimy” as supplied to His Majesty’s Government.

     Two standard 350 hp. Rolls-Royce engines are installed. The capacity of the petrol tanks has been increased to 865 gallons, and the lubricating oil tanks to 50 gallons, and with this quantity of fuel this aeroplane has a range of 2440 miles. The maximum speed is over 100 miles per hour. The span of the “Vickers-Vimy-Rolls” is 67 feet, and overall length is 42 feet 8 inches. The width of the planes is 10 feet 6 inches. A wireless telegraphy set capable of sending and receiving messages over long distances was carried, and the pilot and navigator wore electrically heated clothing.

AIRCRAFT JOURNAL, Vol. IV., No. 25, Saturday, 21 June 1919, at Page 9, Column 3

After their historic flight, Captain Alcock and Lieutenant Brown were invested Knight Commanders of the Order of the British Empire by King George V in a ceremony at Windsor Castle, 21 June 1919. They also had won a prize of £10,000 offered by Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe, owner of the Daily Mail, and which was presented to them at the Savoy Hotel, 20 June, by Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for War, and the future prime minister. The pilots insisted that £2,000 go to the Vickers and Rolls-Royce mechanics who had prepared their airplane. They also received 2,000 guineas from the Ardath Tobacco Co., and £1,000 from Mr. Lawrence R. Phillips.

"Vickers 'Vimy" aircraft of Captain John Alcock and Lieut. A.W. Brown ready for trans-Atlantic flight, Lester's Field, 14 June 1919, St. John's, Nfld." (Library and Archives Canada/PA-121930)
“Vickers ‘Vimy” aircraft of Captain John Alcock and Lieut. A.W. Brown ready for trans-Atlantic flight, Lester’s Field, 14 June 1919, St. John’s, Nfld.” (Library and Archives Canada/PA-121930)

Alcock and Brown’s airplane was a Vickers F.B.27 Mk.IV Vimy, serial number C105. The Royal Air Force registration was B9952. The owner of the aircraft was the manufacturer, Vickers Limited. On 1 May 1919, it was assigned Certificate of Registration No. 18, with the civil registration G-EAAR. Contemporary photographs of the Vimy do not show any registration markings, however.

"Vickers imt, 1919. Alcock & Browns tranatlantic aircraft crossed teh Atlantic between St. John's, Newfoundland and Clifden, Ireland between 14 an 15 June, 1919. The aircraft in the Vickers factory at Weybridge." (Getty Images/Science & Society Picture Library)
“Vickers Vimy, 1919. Alcock & Browns transatlantic aircraft crossed the Atlantic between St. John’s, Newfoundland and Clifden, Ireland between 14 and 15 June, 1919. The aircraft in the Vickers factory at Weybridge.” (Getty Images/Science & Society Picture Library)

The Vickers Vimy F.B.27 (named after the World War I Battle of Vimy Ridge) was designed and built by Vickers Ltd. (Aviation Department) at Weybridge, Surrey, England. It was a twin-engine, three-bay biplane night bomber built for the Royal Air Force. The Vimy’s construction was typical of the time: a wooden framework covered with doped fabric. The engines were placed in individual nacelles, midway between the upper and lower wings. Each nacelle was supported by four vertical struts. The horizontal stabilizer/elevator were also biplane, and it had two vertical fins/rudders.

The Vimy was 43 feet, 6½ inches (13.272 meters) long with a wingspan of 67 feet, 2 inches (20.472 meters) and height of 15 feet, 8 inches (4.775 meters). The upper and lower wings had a chord of 10 feet, 6 inches (3.200 meters). The total wing area was 1,330 square feet (123.6 square meters). The vertical gap between the wings was 10 feet, 0 inches (3.048 meters) and there was no stagger. Both wings had and angle of incidence of 3½° and 3° dihedral.

The bomber weighed 6,700 pounds (3,039 kilograms) empty, and had a gross weight of 12,500 pounds (5,670 kilograms).

The Trans-Atlantic Vimy at Brooklands, August 1919. (BAE Systems)

The Vimy was powered by two water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,240.5-cubic-inch-displacement (20.3 liter) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII single overhead cam 60° V-12 engines with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.9:1. These engines were rated at 350 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 360 horsepower at 2,035 r.p.m. (five minute limit). They turned four-bladed, fixed-pitch, wooden propellers through a 1.60:1 gear reduction. The Eagle VIII used four Rolls-Royce/Claudel Hobson carburetors and four Watford magnetos with two spark plugs per cylinder. Fuel consumption at normal power at Sea Level was 23 gallons (87 liters) per hour. The engine weighed 847 pounds (384 kilograms).

Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII aircraft engine. (NASM)
Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII water-cooled V-12 aircraft engine. (NASM)

The Vimy had a maximum speed of 98 miles per hour (158 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). In standard configuration, the bomber had a range of 835 miles (1,344  kilometers). Its service ceiling was 10,500 feet (3,200 meters). Vimy C105 was modified by Vickers to carry 1,050 gallons (3,975 liters) of gasoline for the transoceanic flight.

The Vimy was repaired by Vickers and Rolls-Royce, then donated to the London Science Museum where it is displayed near Amy Johnson’s DH.60G Gipsy Moth, Jason. Its civil registration was cancelled in May 1920.

Alcock and Brown's Vickers Vimy at the Science Museum, London. © Science Museum
Alcock and Brown’s Vickers Vimy at the Science Museum, London. © Science Museum
Captain John William Alcock, D.S.C., Royal Air Force. (Museum of Science and Industry)

John William Alcock was born 6 November 1892, at Seymour Grove, Old Trafford, Stretford, a town near Manchester, England. He was the son of John Alcock, a coachman, and Mary Alice Whitelegg Alcock, a domestic servant.

He took an early interest in flying. Work as a mechanic at the Ducrocq School, Brooklands Aerodrome, Surrey, led to flight training. He was awarded pilot’s certificate No. 368 by the Royal Aero Club, 26 November 1912.

Alcock competed in various air races, winning the Easter Aeroplane Handicap at Brooklands with a Farman B, 24 March 1913. The prize for first place was 50 guineas.

John William Alcock with a Nieuport IV.G monoplane at the London-Manchester Air Race, 1912.

With the onset of World War I, Alcock entered the Royal Naval Air Service, 12 November 1914. as a Warrant Officer, Second Grade (temporary). Alcock was assigned as a flight instructor at the Naval Flying School, Eastchurch, on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England. He was commissioned a Flight Sub-Lieutenant (tempy) 29 December 1915 and was sent to a squadron based on an island in the Aegean Sea. Alcock was flying a Sopwith Camel when he shot down an enemy airplane and forced two others into the sea. For this action he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross:

13318 SUPPLEMENT to the LONDON GAZETTE, 19 DECEMBER, 1917.

Flt. Lieut. John William Acock, R.N.A.S. (now prisoner).

     For the great skill, judgement and dash displayed by him off Mudros on the 30th September, 1917, in a successful attack on three enemy seaplanes, two of which were brought down in the sea.

After Alcock returned to base, he took a Handley Page O/100 bomber on a mission against Constantinople. When one engine failed, he turned back, but then the second failed and the airplane went down in the Gulf of Xeros. He and his two crewmen then swam to the enemy-held Gallipoli shoreline. They were captured and held as prisoners of war.

While held as a prisoner, Alcock was promoted to Flight Lieutenant (tempy), R.N.A.S., 31 December 1917.

On 1 April 1918, the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service were combined to establish the Royal Air Force. Flight Lieutenant Alcock, R.N.A.S., became Captain Alcock, R.A.F.

When The War to End All Wars came to an end in November 1918, Captain Alcock was repatriated to the United Kingdom, arriving at Dover 16 December 1918. He left military service in March 1919 and joined Vickers Ltd. (Aviation Department) as a test pilot.

While flying the prototype Vickers Viking to the Paris Air Show, Captain Sir John William Alcock, K.B.E., D.S.C., was killed in an accident at Cottévard, France, 18 December 1919. His remains were interred at the Southern Cemetery, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Greater Manchester, England.

Captain Sir John William Alcock, K.B.E., D.S.C., by Sir John Lavery, R.A., 1919
Captain Arthur Whitten Brown, Royal Air Force. (Museum of Science and Industry)

Arthur Whitten Brown was born at Crosshills, Glasgow, Scotland, 23 July 1886. He was an American citizen by birth. His parents were Arthur George Brown, a mechanical engineer for Westinghouse, and Emma Whitten Brown.

(Mr. Brown had been sent by Westinghouse to find a location for an electrical equipment factory, which was eventually built in Old Trafford, John Alcock’s birthplace.)

In 1914, Brown enlisted in the British Army.

In September 1919, Sir Arthur Whitten Brown married Miss Marguerite Kathleen Kennedy, at St. Martin’s, London. They would have a son, Arthur, who would become a pilot in the Royal Air Force. He was killed in action on D-Day, 6 June 1944, in Holland.

Captain Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, K.B.E.

During World War II, Sir Arthur returned to active duty in the Royal Air Force. He instructed in navigation.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, K.B.E., died at his home in Swansea, Wales, 4 October 1948, at the age of 62 years. His ashes interred at St. Margaret Churchyard, Tylers Green, Wycombe District Buckinghamshire.

Captain Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, K.B.E., by Sir John Lavery, R.A., 1919 (Royal Air Force Museum)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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8–27 May 1919

Curtiss Aeroplne and Motor Company NC A2282, NC-4. (U.S. Navy)
Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company NC A2294, NC-4. (U.S. Navy)

27 May 1919: NC-4, designating number A2294, one of three United States Navy Curtiss NC flying boats, arrived at the harbor of Lisbon, Portugal, becoming the first airplane to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Lieutenant Commander Albert Cushing Read, United States Navy, Aircraft Commander, NC-4. (National Photograph Company Collections, Library of Congress)
Lieutenant Commander Albert Cushing Read, United States Navy, Aircraft Commander, NC-4. (National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress)

NC-4 was under the command of Lieutenant Commander Albert Cushing Read, United States Navy, who also served as navigator. The pilots were First Lieutenant Elmer Fowler Stone, United States Coast Guard, and Lieutenant (j.g.) Walter T. Hinton, U.S. Navy. Lieutenant James L. Breese, USN and Chief Machinist Mate Eugene S. Rhoads, USN, were the engineers. Ensign Herbert C. Rodd, USN, was the radio operator.

Aboard the other aircraft were several officers who would rise to high rank in the Navy: Commander John Henry Towers would later command the Pacific Fleet; Lieutenant Marc A. Mitscher commanded the Fast Carrier Task Force during World War II, and later commanded the Atlantic Fleet. Lieutenant Patrick N.L. Bellinger commanded Patrol Wing 2 at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, and would go on to command Naval Air Forces, Atlantic Fleet.

Three Curtiss flying boats, NC-1 (A2291), NC-3 (A2293) and NC-4 (A2294), under the command of Commander Towers in NC-3, departed Naval Air Station Rockaway, New York City, New York, United States of America, at 10:00 a.m., 8 May 1919, and flew to NAS Chatham, Massachusetts.

During the flight, NC-4 developed an oil leak from the center pusher engine, so it was shut down. This slowed the airplane but it was still able to continue. In mid-afternoon, however, the center tractor engine suffered a failed connecting rod. With only two engines operating, NC-4 was forced down at sea, approximately 80 miles (129 kilometers) from Chatham. The sea was calm and the flying boat taxied the remaining distance on the water. It arrived there at 7:00 a.m., 9 May.

Curtiss NC-4, 1 October 1919. (New Bedford Whaling Museum)
Curtiss NC-4, 1 October 1919. (New Bedford Whaling Museum)

At the air station, the failed engine was replaced with a 300 horsepower Liberty L12, the only spare engine available. The leaking engine was repaired.

Delayed several days by weather, NC-4 departed NAS Chatham at 9:15 a.m., 14 May, and flew to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the Canadian Maritimes, landing there  at 1:07 p.m. Continuing on to Newfoundland that day would have had them arriving after dark.

NC-4 took off from the waters of Halifax the following morning at 11:47 a.m., and arrived at Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, at 5:41 p.m., rendezvousing with the aircraft tender USS Aroostook (CM-3). NC-1 and NC-3 had arrived two days earlier.

Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, May 1919. The white-hulled ship at the center is the aircraft tender USS Aroostook (CM-3). (Library of Congress)

All three airplanes were serviced from the tender. The temporary 300 horsepower Liberty engine which had been installed on NC-4 was replaced with a correct 400 horsepower engine.

NC-4 departs Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, 16 May 1919. (U.S. Navy)
NC-4 departs Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, 16 May 1919. (U.S. Navy)

The three Curtiss flying boats took off from Trepassey Bay at 6:00 p.m. on the evening of 16 May and headed across the Atlantic Ocean to the Azores.

NC-1 and NC-3 were both forced down by rain, heavy clouds and thick fog about 200 miles short of their destination. NC-1 was damaged and unable to continue. The crew was rescued by a Greek freighter and the airplane taken in tow, but it sank several days later. NC-3 drifted for two days on surface of the Atlantic, and coming within sight of land, two engines were started and the airplane taxied into the harbor at Ponta Delgada, Ilha de São Miguel.

NC-3 off Punta Delgada, Azores, 19 May 1919. (U.S. navy)
NC-3 off Ponta Delgada, Ilha de São Miguel, Azores, 19 May 1919. (U.S. navy)

NC-4 deviated from its planned course and landed at Horta, on Faial Island, at 1:23 p.m., 17 May. Weather kept NC-4 at Horta for the next few days, until at 8:45 a.m. on the 20th, it took off and flew to Ponta Delgado, landing there just two hours later.

NC-4 departing Ponta del Gada, Azores for Lisbon, Portugal. (National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress)
NC-4 departing Ponta Delgada, Ilha de São Miguel, Azores, for Lisbon, Portugal, 27 May 1919. (National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress)

Again, NC-4 was forced to remain in harbor waiting for favorable weather. On 27 May, it was good enough to resume the journey, and the crew once again took off, this time enroute to Lisbon, Portugal.

At 8:01 p.m., 27 May 1919, NC-4 touched down on the Tagus Estuary, Lisbon, Portugal, and became the very first airplane to complete a flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

Curtiss NC-4 at Lisbon, Portugal, 27 May 1919.
Curtiss NC-4 at Lisbon, Portugal, 27 May 1919.
The flight crew of NC-4. Left to right: Chief Machinist Mate Eugene S. Rhoads, USN; Lieutenant James L. Breese, USN; Lieutenant (j.g.) Walter T. Hinton, USN; Lieutenant Elmer F. Stone, USCG; Lieutenant Commander Albert Cushing Read, USN. Ensign Herbert C. Rodd is not in this photograph. (U.S. Navy)
The flight crew of NC-4 at Lisbon, Portugal, 28 May 1919. Left to right: Chief Machinist Mate Eugene S. Rhoads, USN; Lieutenant James L. Breese, USN; Lieutenant (j.g.) Walter T. Hinton, USN; First Lieutenant Elmer Fowler Stone, USCG; Lieutenant Commander Albert Cushing Read, USN. Ensign Herbert C. Rodd, USN, is not in this photograph. (U.S. Navy)

NC-4 was the fourth of ten NC flying boats designed and built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, Garden City, New York. It was a 3-bay biplane with a boat hull, powered by four engines installed in three nacelles between the upper and lower wings.

There were variations between the individual aircraft. NC-4’s hull was built by Herreschoff Manufacturing Company, at Bristol, Rhode Island. The hull was constructed of two layers of spruce planking with a layer of muslin and marine glue between. It was 45 feet (13.7 meters) long with a beam of 10 feet (3.0 meters and depth of 9 feet (2.7 meters).

The Curtiss NC-4 was 68 feet, 3 inches (20.803 meters) long with an upper wingspan of 126 feet, 0 inches (38.405 meters) and lower span of 96 feet, 0 inches (29.261 meters). The upper wing and the center section of the lower had no dihedral, while the lower wings’ outer panels had 3° dihedral. Their vertical gap varied from 13 feet, 6½ inches (4.128 meters), inboard, to 12 feet, 0 inches (3.658 meters). The chord was 12 feet, 0 inches (3.658 meters), and the lower wing was very slightly staggered behind the upper. The total wing area was 2,380 square feet (221.1 square meters). The biplane-configured horizontal stabilizers had an upper span of 37 feet, 11 inches (11.252  meters), no dihedral, and the vertical gap was 9 feet, 3 inches (2.819 meters). Their total surface area was 330 square feet (30.7 square meters). The overall height of the flying boat was 24 feet, 5 inches (7.442 meters).

The empty weight of NC-4 is 15,874 pounds (7,200 kilograms) and it has a gross weight of 26,386 pounds (11,968 kilograms).

This Ford-built Liberty 12 Model A at the National Air and Space Museum was one of four engines powering NC-4 during its transatlantic flight in 1919. (NASM)
This water-cooled, 1,649.3-cubic-inch (27.028 liter) Ford-built Liberty 12 Model A single-overhead-camshaft V-12 engine at the National Air and Space Museum was one of four engines powering NC-4 during its transatlantic flight in May 1919. (NASM)

Originally built with three engines, flight testing led to the addition of a fourth. These were water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Liberty L-12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engines with a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor (left-hand pusher), direct-drive engine. The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms). Two were mounted in a center nacelle with one in tractor and one in pusher configuration. Two more were in individual nacelles in tractor configuration. The engines drove four-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propellers.

NC-4 had a maximum speed of 85 miles per hour (137 kilometers per hour), a service ceiling of 4,500 feet (1,372 meters) and range of 1,470 miles (2,366 kilometers).

NC-4 was restored by the Smithsonian Institution during the early 1960s and remains a part of its collection, though it is on long term loan to the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, Florida.

Curtiss NC-4 (Smithsonian Institution)
Curtiss NC A2294, NC-4.(Smithsonian Institution)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 May 1927

The Spirit of St. Louis arrives at Le Bourget Aerodrome, 21 May 1927. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

After a flight of 33 hours, 30 minutes, 30 seconds, from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, United States of America, Charles A. Lindbergh lands his Spirit of St. Louis at Le Bourget Aerodrome, Paris, France, at 10:22 p.m. (20:22 G.M.T.), 21 May 1927. He is the first pilot to fly solo, non-stop, across the Atlantic Ocean.

“I circle. Yes, it’s definitely an airport. . . It must be Le Bourget. . . I shift fuel valves to the center wing-tank, sweep my flashlight over the instrument board in a final check, fasten my safety belt, and nose the Spirit of St. Louis down into a gradually descending spiral. . .

“I straighten out my wings and let the throttled engine drag me on beyond the leeward border. Now the steep bank into the wind, and the dive toward the ground. But how strange it is, this descent. I’m wide awake, but the feel of my plane has not returned. . . My movements are mechanical, uncoordinated, as though I were coming down at the end of my first solo. . .

“It’s only a hundred yards to the hangars now — solid forms emerging from the night. I’m too high — too fast. Drop wing — left rudder — sideslip — — — Careful — mustn’t get anywhere near the stall — — — I’ve never landed the Spirit of St. Louis at night before. . . Below the hangar roofs now — — — straighten out — — — A short burst of the engine — — — Over the lighted area — — — Sod coming up to meet me. . . Still too fast — — — Tail too high — — — The wheels touch gently — off again — No, I’ll keep contact — Ease the stick forward — — — Back on the ground — Off — Back — the tail skid too — — — Not a bad landing. . . .”

The Spirit of St. Louis, by Charles A. Lindbergh, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953, Pages 489–492.

Lindbergh established a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance in a Straight Line Without Landing of 5,809 kilometers (3,310 miles). ¹

Over 100,000 people have come to Le Bourget to greet Lindbergh. He has flown the Spirit of St. Louis into history.

Crowds approach Charles Lindbergh an dteh Spirit of St. Louis at Le Bourget, shortly after landing, 21 May 1927.(Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images)
Crowds mob Spirit of St. Louis at Le Bourget Aerodrome, shortly after Charles A. Lindbergh’s  arrival from New York, 21 May 1927. The crowd soon swelled to over 100,000 people. (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images)

¹ FAI Record File Number 14842

Great Circle route from the location of the former Roosevelt Field to Le Bourget, Paris: 3,145 nautical miles (3,619 statute miles/5,825 kilometers). (Great Circle Mapper)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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20–21 May 1932

Amelia Earhart at Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, 20 May 1932. Photographer: Ernest Maunder. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada (PA-057854).
Amelia Earhart at Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, 20 May 1932. Photographer: Ernest Maunder. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada (PA-057854).

20 May 1932: At 7:12 p.m., local, aviatrix Amelia Earhart departed Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, on a solo transoceanic flight. Her airplane was a modified single-engine Lockheed Model 5B Vega, registration NR7952.

Her plan was to fly all the way to Paris, but after her altimeter had failed, encountering adverse weather, including heavy icing and fog, a fuel leak, and a damaged exhaust manifold, Earhart landed in a field at Culmore, Northern Ireland. The distance flown was 2,026 miles (3,260.5 kilometers). Her elapsed time was 14 hours, 56 minutes.

A lone, astonished farmer saw her land.

Amelia cut the switches, climbed out of the plane, and, as the man approached the plane, called out, “Where am I?”

Danny McCallion replied obligingly and with excruciating accuracy. “In Gallegher’s pasture.”

The Sound of Wings by Mary S. Lovell, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1989, Chapter Fifteen at Page 183.

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega 5B, NR7952, at Culmore, North Ireland after her solo transatlantic flight, 21 May 1932. (National Library of Ireland)

Though she didn’t make it all the way to Paris, she was the first woman—and only the second person, after Charles A. Lindbergh—to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Lindbergh’s flight was on the same date, five years earlier.

Great Circle route between Harbour Grace Airport, Newfoundland, and Londonderry Airport, near Culmore, Northern Ireland. 1,754 nautical miles (2,019 statute miles/3,249 kilometers). (Great Circle Mapper)

In an unusual move, Amelia Earhart, a civilian, was awarded the United States military’s Distinguished Flying Cross by Patrick J. Hurley, Secretary of War, 18 July 1932.

Amelia Earhart’s Distinguished Flying Cross certificate signed by Patrick J. Hurley, Secretary of War.

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company in December 1928, the Vega is a single-engine high-wing monoplane designed to carry a pilot and up to seven passengers. The fuselage was molded laminated plywood monocoque construction and the wing was cantilevered wood. The Vega 5B is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters).

Earhart’s Vega, serial number 22, was certified by the Department of Commerce, 17 September 1931, with its empty weight increased 220 pounds (99.8 kilograms) to 2,695 pounds (1,222.4 kilograms) and maximum gross weight of 4,375 pounds (1984.5 kilograms).

Aircraft Registration Certificate, Lockheed Vega, serial number 22, NC7952, 1928.

NR7952 was modified at the Fokker Aircraft Corporation of America factory in Teterboro, New Jersey, to increase the fuel capacity to 420 gallons (1,589.9 liters). While it was there, Earhart’s mechanic, Eddie Gorski, replaced the original Pratt & Whitney Wasp B engine with a new Wasp C, an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) nine cylinder radial engine with a compression ration of 5.25:1. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58 octane gasoline.¹ It was a direct-drive engine, and turned a two-bladed Hamilton Standard controllable-pitch propeller. The Wasp C was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) in diameter and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

The standard Vega 5 had a cruising speed of 165 miles per hour (265.5 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 185 miles per hour (297.7 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). Range with standard fuel tanks was 725 miles (1,166.8 kilometers).

Amelia Earhart disappeared in 1937 while attempting to fly around the world. Her Lockheed Model 5B Vega, NR7952, is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega 5b, NR7952, at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.
Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Model 5B Vega, NR7952, at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

¹ The Pratt & Whitney Wasp C was also used by the U.S. Army and Navy, designated R-1340-7. It was rated at 450 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m. at Sea Level.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 May 1927

Charles A. Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

20 May 1927, 7:51:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (11:51:30 G.M.T.): In his effort to advance the Art and Science of Aviation, to win the $25,000 Orteig Prize, to fly from New York to Paris, 25-year-old aviator Charles A. Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, United States of America, and heads north-eastward over the Atlantic Ocean on his solo, record-breaking flight to Paris, France, and into History.

The Spirit of St. Louis is pushed into position for takeoff at Roosevelt Field, 20 May 1927. (Underwood and Underwood. National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution)
The Spirit of St. Louis is pushed into position for takeoff at Roosevelt Field, 20 May 1927. (Underwood and Underwood, National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution)
Lindbergh taxis away from the crowd of spectators.

“I buckle my safety belt, pull goggles down over my eyes, turn to the men at the blocks, and nod.”

The Spirit of St. Louis, by Charles A. Lindbergh, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953, at Page 185.

Spirit of St. Louis begins its takeoff run at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, 20 May 1927.

As he circles to gain altitude after takeoff, Lindbergh scans his instruments.

“On the instrument board in front of me, the earth-inductor compass needle leans steeply to the right. I bank cautiously northward until it rises to the center line — 65 degrees — the compass heading for the first 100-mile segment of my great-circle route to France and Paris. It’s 7:54 a.m. Eastern daylight time.”

— The Spirit of St. Louis, by Charles A. Lindbergh, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953, at Page 189.

Great Circle route from the location of the former Roosevelt Field to Le Bourget, Paris: 3,145 nautical miles (3,619 statute miles/5,825 kilometers). (Great Circle Mapper)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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