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14th of June 1919

A 102 years ago on this day in aviation the first transatlantic flight, a Vickers Vimy, lifted off from St John's, Newfoundland, Canada with Clifden, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland as its destination.

The take-off from St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

The goal was to win the prize for the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by aeroplane in "less than 72 consecutive hours as issued by the Daily Mail newspaper. The pilots on this flight were Captain Sir John "Jack" Alcock and Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Arthur "Teddy" Brown. Both World War one veterans.

Arthur Brown John Alcock

Several teams were competing for the price. Amongst others also a team from Handley Page who were in the final preparation of their transatlantic flight when Brown and Alcok arrived in Canada. The Vickers team quickly assembled the modified WW1 bomber aircraft and got it ready for flight while the Handley Page team was busy fine-tuning their aircraft.

They got wind under their wings, powered by two Rolls Royce Eagle 360 Hp engines, on this day 102 years ago at about 1.45 pm and set off for their Atlantic crossing. They had all sorts of trouble during their flight. From an overweight takeoff, electrical system failure, fog, snowstorm to clouds and icing. Just after midnight, more than 10 hours into the flight they managed to use their sextant and determined that they were still on course! This after dead reckoning their navigation since shortly after takeoff. At 08.40 in the morning on the 15th of June, they landed in Derrygilmlagh Bog, near Clifden in County Galway in Ireland. It appeared to be a good field for a landing from the aircraft but was actually bog. Landing in a bog caused the aircraft to nose over and come to a stop in a rather awkward position. Both men were uninjured. Brown stated that if the weather would have been better they would have continued to London. The aircraft was restored by the Vickers Company and is on display in the Science Museum in London. Both men received a Knighthood from King George a few days after landing.

The aircraft after the landing

Some figures on the crossing:

  • Altitude varied from sea level to 12.000 ft (3.700 m)

  • Take-off fuel was 865 Imp. Gallon (3900 L)

  • The total flight duration was 15 hours and 57 minutes

  • Actual crossing of the Atlantic too 14 1/2 hours

  • Distance covered 1.890 miles (3040 km)

  • Average speed 100 knots (115 mph / 185 kph)

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