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15 JUNE 1919, one hundred years ago, Captain John Alcock and pilot Aurthur Whitten Brown flew across the Atlantic, the frst Nonstop Transatlantic Flight with the help of a sextant, whisky and coffee in 1919 just eight years before Charles Lindbergh’s flight.
The journey, by Alcock and Brown, both military pilots and prisoners of war during World War I was a 16 hour flight, in a rudimentary airplane in fog, clouds and snow with no stars in sight and the their only means of navigation was a sextant, which is an instrument that measured celestial objects in relation to the horizon, hence almost impossible for Brown to determine the plane’s location.
On that historic flight, the 1st Transatlantic Flight John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown transported a mailbag with several items of mail, effectively transporting the first transatlantic airmail to Britain.
A decade later, Charles Lindbergh made history with with his own transatlantic flight.
Former RAF fliers John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown pioneering aviators in the primitive Vickers Vimy twin-engined biplane, a converted WWI bomber, on their nonstop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland on June 14, 1919 in an open cockpit, frozen, blinded by the weather and uncertain of their exact location almost losing control and once plunging toward the sea, then again ,their engine stopped working, choked by ice, sixteeen hours later having survived on sandwiches, coffee and whisky, singing and worrying about whether the punishing weather would destroy their fuel tanks, Alcock and Brown’s plane crashed on Derrygimla bog at Clifden, West of Ireland when they realized they were over land, nosedived the plane into a bog in Ireland. Though the two were dazed, from the crash, they were elated as they had just made history, won prize money, which was presented by British aviation secretary Winston Churchill, and were knighted by George V.
Sadly, died a few months later in 1919 when the plane he was piloting, another Vickers aircraft, crashed in France. Brown, who had navigated the flight went on to fly during World War II, for the British Home Guard and Royal Air Force and died a few years after his son, Arthur Brown, was killed in a plane crash.
What Alcock and Brown managed with that first non stop trans Atlantic flight, managed to open doors to previously unimagined transatlantic journeys, as 100 years later, we know that commercial airlines carry on average, approximately 4.3 billion passengers on scheduled flights a year. More news to follow. Sibusiso Ngwenya source-History.
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photo-Alcock and Brown’s plane crashed on Derrygimla bog at Clifden, West of Ireland. Topical press Agency