In what is the 100th year since British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made history by piloting the first transatlantic flight, crossing from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Clifden, Ireland, Aviation History Newfoundland and Labrador (AHNL) has formally announced the celebrations that are being organized to celebrate the centennial next month in St. John’s.
For those not fully aware of the accomplishment, let’s go back to 1913. In April of that year, the London-based newspaper The Daily Mail offered a prize of £10,000 to “…the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland to any point in Great Britain or Ireland in 72 continuous hours.” The First World War caused the suspension of the contest, but it was re-initiated after the war ended.
So it was, that on June 14, 1919, pilot Alcock and navigator Brown, both RAF veterans and former POWs from the First World War, formed one of several teams that assembled in St. John’s to take up the challenge. However, Alcock and Brown were first off in their modified Vickers Vimy, which was powered by two 360-hp Rolls Royce Eagle engines. Less than 16 hours later, after flying through rain and snow, and spiralling down uncontrollably in fog, Alcock piloted the unheated, open-cockpit Vickers to a crash-landing in a bog near Clifden in Ireland’s County Galway.
Celebrations to mark the historic flight include a five-day festival in downtown St. John’s beginning June 12, a Garden Party on June 13, an Aviators’ Ball on June 14 and, later in the fall of 2019, the unveiling of a sculpture.
“What we are really celebrating is the spirit of adventure, innovation and the drive to succeed that in this instance, marked the beginning of the commercial aviation industry. An industry with many firsts involving Newfoundland and Labrador. Firsts that can continue to inspire if we choose to look at them through the right lens,” said COPA Eastern Vice-Chair and AHNL co-founder and co-chair Bill Mahoney.
Photo courtesy of the AHNL collection
Click here to be taken to the organizers’ website.