Little Bits of History

First Non-Stop Transatlantic Flight

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 14, 2012

John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown

June 14, 1919: John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown fly east from St. John’s Newfoundland. Alcock, 26, was the pilot while Brown, 32, was the navigator. The English pilot and Scots navigator were vying for a prize offered by The Daily Mail. The £10,000 prize was for any aviator to fly from anywhere in North America to anywhere in Great Britain or Ireland in 72 continuous hours. The pair flew a modified Vickers Vimy, a biplane of British manufacture, powered by two Rolls-Royce Eagle engines. Modifications included extra fuel storage and a cockpit change to allow the pilot and navigator to sit side by side.

The plane was built in England, shipped to Canada, and reassembled. The field to be used for takeoff had to be cleared of debris and made smooth enough for the plane to taxi. The plane was a wood frame with fabric covering powered by a total of 720 horsepower. The fuel capacity was 865 gallons which gave the men a range of about 2,400 miles. They took to the air at 1:45 PM from Lester’s Field and began their nearly 16 hour flight.

It was not an easy flight due to engine trouble as well as weather conditions. There was fog, snow, and ice to contend with. They were only able to maintain altitude by Brown continually walking out onto the wings and removing ice from the frozen engines. They were flying in an open cockpit and it would fill with snow. Their altitude for the first transatlantic flight ranged from just above sea level to about 12,000 feet. Their average speed was 115 mph. They landed in Connemara, Ireland at 8:40 PM on June 15. Landed might be a stretch, since they were once again encased in fog. The area they picked to land the plane looked like a field from the sky, but was actually a bog. They crashed more than landed, but no one was hurt.

They were awarded the £10,000 prize for making the first non-stop transatlantic flight. There were two other prize monies offered for another £3,000 ( totaling nearly half a million pounds today). Both men were knighted by King George V. Their plane was presented to the Science Museum in London. Alcock was present for the ceremony on December 15, 1919. Three days later, while flying a new Vickers plane in an air show in Paris, the plane stalled and crashed into a tree, killing the pilot. Brown went to work for Vickers. He lived to the age of 62.

All serious daring starts from within. – Eudora Welty

Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary. – Cecil Beaton

Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Everything depends on whether we have for opponents those French tricksters or those daring rascals, the English. I prefer the English. Frequently their daring can only be described as stupidity. In their eyes it may be pluck and daring. – Manfred von Richthofen

Alcock and Brown showed me the way! – Charles Lindbergh on landing in Paris

Also on this day:

Which is Witch – In 1648,the first “witch” is hanged in Salem.
Early Computing – In 1822, Charles Babbage presented a paper on computing.
Maize – In 1789, Bourbon was first produced.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on June 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    Reminds me of a friend of mine, George Allan Hancock, who said to me that he was the pilot for Amelia Earhart in the supposed first woman flight over the Atlantic Ocean. What some people will do for money!

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