On This Day in History: 1919, Completion of First Non Stop Transatlantic Flight

 In April 1913 a prize of £10,000 was offered to the Daily Mail to any aviator who could cross the Atlantic from the US or Canada, to any point in Great Britain or Ireland, in less the 72 hours. However the First World War intervened and therefore no record attempt was made until after 1918. The challenge was taken up by John Alcock, who had Arthur Whitten Brown as navigator, with a modified Vickers plane which had petrol stored where bombs had been held in the First World War.

Alcock and Brown took off from St John's Newfoundland at 1:45 PM on 14th June 1919 and the odds were against them. The plane was overloaded, the plane's generator failed less than four hours into the flight, depriving them of any heating and the intercom system and leaving them having to pass notes to each other. Around that time they also ended up in thick fog, which was dangerous because the only navigation they had available was a sextant. Twice, Alcock nearly crashed the plane into the Ocean, the second time pulling out of a spiral dive. 

At 3AM, they flew into a snowstorm, causing a build up of ice and it is rumoured that Brown had to climb onto the wings to clear the engines. However, sextant readings were able to be made and they were on course.

Finally they landed in a bog in County Galway, Ireland, at 8:40AM, after a flight of 15 hours and 57 minutes. According to Brown if the weather was good they would have continued to London, but in any case it was a remarkable achievement. Within a week, both Alcock and Brown were knighted by King George V. Alcock was killed in a flying accident that December, and Brown died as a result of an accidental overdose in 1948 


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