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February 2010 Newsletter

by John M. White |

Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan
Douglas Corrigan finally fulfilled a lifetime dream when he landed at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, Dublin, Ireland on July 18, 1938. He had been airborne for 28 hours and 13 minutes. For more than two years, he had unsuccessfully petitioned the Bureau of Air Commerce for permission to fly non-stop from New York to Ireland in his modified Curtis Robin OX-5 monoplane. Convinced the Robin was unfit for the flight, the Bureau repeatedly denied his applications.


Born January 22, 1907, in Galveston, Texas, Corrigan was the oldest of three children. After frequent moves, his construction engineer father and schoolteacher mother divorced and shared custody of Douglas, Harry and Evelyn. The three children eventually settled in Los Angeles with their mother where his interest in aviation was sparked on October 18, 1925, when he saw passengers boarding a Curtis JN-4 Jenny for scenic rides at a local airfield. The following week, he paid for his own flight; a week after that, he began taking flying lessons. He soloed on March 25, 1926 at the same airfield where B.P. Mahoney and T.C. Ryan operated a small airline.Corrigan soon landed a job in the men's aircraft factory in San Diego. Shortly after he was hired, a new customer named Charles Lindbergh approached them to design and build a plane. Corrigan assembled the wing and installed the gas tanks and instrument panel of the Spirit of St. Louis. Inspired by Lindbergh's May 1927 flight, Corrigan set his sights on making his own transatlantic flight someday. He chose his father's home country of Ireland as his destination. Corrigan earned his transport pilot license in 1929 and a year later started a passenger airline on the East Coast with friend Steve Reich. Despite the success of the business, Corrigan decided to return to California in 1933. He bought the Robin to make the trip, and while supporting himself as an aircraft mechanic, began modifying the Robin for transatlantic flight. He made his first application for the New York to Ireland flight in 1935. Although officials felt the Robin was unsafe for over-water flight, they did approve it for domestic cross-country flight. In 1937, after several modifications to the airplane and repeated denials of his applications, Corrigan set out on a trans-continental journey from San Diego to New York. Possibly he intended to leave for Ireland at this time, but mechanical problems delayed his arrival in New York and the weather over the Atlantic was no longer suitable; he returned to California. A year later, he set out again. Enroute to New York, the Robin, now named “Sunshine,” developed a fuel leak. He declined to fix it, fearing that it would take too long and further delay his trip. He took off from Bennett Field under instructions to depart to the east rather than flying over the airport administration building to the west. Corrigan never made the turn westbound after takeoff. About 10 hours into the flight, he discovered that fuel was accumulating in the cockpit. He punched a hole in the floor with a screwdriver to divert the fuel away from the hot exhaust pipe where it could explode. Corrigan increased his speed from its most efficient 85 miles per hour in hopes of shortening his time aloft. He later claimed that he noticed his navigational “error” 26 hours into the trip; with no radio and a 20-year-old compass, he followed the wrong end of the needle. The entire flight from New York to Ireland took 28 hours and 13 minutes. He never admitted to intentionally making the transatlantic flight. “That's my story,” he insisted. Sunshine was reputedly in highly questionable condition for such a journey, being patched together with baling wire and barely enough window space to see where to land. Aviation officials wasted no time in suspending Corrigan's license for 14 days—a rather mild punishment given the extent of his transgression. Upon arrival in New York via the steamship Manhattan, Corrigan was welcomed with a ticker-tape parade that was more populated than the one celebrating Lindbergh's flight. He later expressed disappointment, however, that his hero never acknowledged his accomplishment. After writing his autobiography, That's My Story, and starring as himself in The Flying Irishman, Corrigan tested bombers for the government and flew in the Ferry Command during World War II. He ran for the U.S. Senate as a Prohibition Party representative, and flew for a California airline for several years. He retired to an orange grove in Santa Ana, California, in 1950, with his wife Elizabeth and their three children where he lived until his death on December 9, 1995.
Great Poems "Thanks for a Flying Profession"
It's a wonder to me, why I'm allowed to fly On man-made wings, and cruise the sky In a machine that sings with a whispered roar.
It's a wonder to me, why I'm allowed to see An earth laid bare quite clean beneath While I haunt the lair of towering clouds, And sights that delight and astound me.
It's a wonder to me, why I'm allowed to work In a place that reminds me that I'm quite small When compared to all that exists Above and below and around me.
Thank you God, for a job I love And a task in life that sets me free From ground-bound strife While I travel the airway most suited to me.


by Captain Pat Borderick, Eastern Airlines
What's New

A $50 Billion Dollar Argument

Airbus, the European Aeronautic Defense and Space company, complained on January 12th 2010 that the latest specifications for the USAF contract was not a tanker modernization program, but rather a tanker replacement program. Airbus, along with its American partner Northrup Grumman, believes that the Pentagon's list of 373 mandatory features for the new tankers gives equal weight to all of them, which means there is no evaluation of any increased capabilities beyond these baseline requirements. Any aircraft which exceeds these requirements, for example longer range or larger size, would not add any value to the competition and then pits them against Boeing for the tanker aircraft. In 2008 the USAF chose the Northrup Grumman/Airbus proposal with A330 aircraft which were larger and had better range than the Boeing 767 proposal, but Boeing protested saying that the A330 aircraft would have significantly higher operating costs. Further, Boeing has argued that Airbus should be disqualified from bidding because it had received billions of dollars of illegal subsidies for a number of aircraft in the past. While this battle rages on, however, the rest of the world aspires to compete with Airbus and Boeing. Among those countries are China, Japan, Brazil and Russia who are all trying to find a way to compete with Airbus and Boeing for the large aircraft world market. Meanwhile, the USAF continues to operate its fleet of 50+ year old tanker aircraft.
Photo of the Month

Adventurer and Aviator Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan



John M. White, Editor

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