Curtiss NC-4 was first to cross the Atlantic in 1919

Glenn Curtiss before World War I wanted to design and build an aircraft to cross the Atlantic—a daring goal. After the war he designed and built three identical aircraft. The NC-4 alone completed the 3,925 miles to Lisbon in 1919, and is at the U.S. Naval Air Museum. The Navy had destroyers to guide their flight. More details. It made refueling stops, while two sister craft had to land on the Atlantic but one crew rescued, while the other taxied in. It has four engines—behind the center engine is a pusher engine. To the right between the wings you can glimpse the elevator. A gray radiator is barely visible above each engine. The people suggest how large the NC-4 is.

The next goal was to cross the Atlantic non-stop for a £10,000 prize. Several tried, some disappeared, using the shortest route between Newfoundland and Ireland. The first to succeed were Capt. John Alcock and Lt. Arthur Whitten Brown in a Vickers Vimy — a favorite of air pioneers, because of its two large engines and long range.

Next a prize of $25,000 was offered for the first to fly non-stop between the U.S. and Paris. Again several failed before Charles Lindbergh flew a special Ryan aircraft the 3,600 miles to win the prize.

All of these battled severe weather at the low altitudes they flew, fought icing of wings, had to keep awake and alert for 24 hours, and had few instruments.


Copyright © 2004 John F. Yeaman