Ask most anyone these days who made the first trans-atlantic flight and you will probably be told Lindbergh. The problem is that Lindbergh did NOT accomplish the first trans-atlantic flight - John Alcock and Arthur Brown accomplished the first trans-atlantic flight back in 1919 in a modified Vickers Vimy bomber. The Daily Mail newspaper in Great Britain had offered a prize of £10,000 for anyone who could accomplish a trans-atlantic flight in under 72 hours. Considering that the first manned powered aircraft flight took place in November 1903, accomplishing this goal just 16 years later was pretty amazing.
World War I Royal Naval Air Service Pilot
John Alcock's flying career began at the age of 17, and by the age of 18 he found employment with Charles Fletcher who was an early aviator and Norman Crossland who was the founder of the Manchester (England) Aero Club, as a mechanic. By the age of 20 Alcock had his pilot's license and within 2 years was skilled enough to compete in the Hendon-Birmingham-Mancheseter air race. Soon Alcock was an experienced military pilot and instructor during World War I but found himself a prisoner of war in Turkey after being shot down during a bombing raid.
The Distinguished Flying Cross
Alcock was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions during World War I. The award stated that:
Flt. Lieut. John William Alcock, R.N.A.S. (now prisoner). For the great skill, judgement and dash displayed by him off Mourdros on the 30th September 1917 in a successful attack on three enemy seaplanes, two of which were brought down in the sea.
After the war Alcock decided to take on the challenge of attempting to make the first trans-atlantic flight directly across the Atlantic.
The First Trans-Atlantic Flight
On June 14th 1919 Alcock and Brown left St. Johns, Newfoundland at 1:45pm local time and crashed in the Derrygimla bog near Clifden, Ireland 16 hours 12 minutes later on June 15th 1919. The flight encountered many problems ranging from bad weather to aircraft icing during the 1,980 mile flight and including turbulence, instrument failure and a crash landing in Ireland. Despite accurate navigation problems the pair managed to win the £10,000 prize by successfully completing the first trans-Atlantic flight.
The Honors Are Short Lived
Alcock and Brown were knighted a few days later bu on December 18th 1919 Alcock crashed in fog flying a new Vickers airplane but died of his injuries before medical assistance could arrive. As stated many times in this blog flying is a very dangerous business, even today.
See A Vickers Vimy Bomber In Flight
In the meantime keep your wings straight and level Hersch! Please share "The First Trans-Atlantic Flight" with your friends using the buttons below. Thanks! Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7+ ps: Don't forget to sign up for updates via email for "All Things Aviation" here!