Not the First
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was not the first person to fly across the Atlantic. He was
- the 13th
- about the 27th
- somewhere between the 85th and the 92nd
- the 99th
Lindbergh made the first solo transatlantic flight in 1927, but his crossing of the Atlantic by air was not the first. That was done eight years earlier by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Albert C. Read and his crew of five in May of 1919, flying a Navy-Curtiss flying-boat NC-4 from Newfoundland to Portugal via the Azores, powered by four 400-hp Liberty engines. Although it was the only one of four to complete the trip (which at just over three weeks, was hardly non-stop), it certainly didn’t qualify for the £10,000 prize offered by the British newspaper the Daily Mail. The rules required a flight in less than 72 hours across the Atlantic by an airplane or airship in either direction between the British Isles and the United States, Canada or Newfoundland. (Newfoundland was not yet part of Canada.) The first real non-stop crossing was by RAF Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown, in a Vickers F.B.27 Vimy bomber. They took off near St. Johns, Newfoundland on June 14,1919, and landed June 15 at Clifden in Ireland, sixteen hours, and twenty-seven minutes later. Many others made the crossing, such as the LZ-126 (Luftschiff Zeppelin). The ship, called ZR-3 (for “Zeppelin Rigid”) was flown nonstop from Germany to New Jersey in October 1924 by Dr. Hugo Eckener and crew. (Lindbergh did win the $25,000 prize offered by Raymond Orteig for the first flight in an airplane from New York to France.) Depending upon how you count them (not-quite-completed crossings, etc.) and also perhaps who might be considered as essential crewmembers and who would not, Lindbergh was somewhere between the 85th and the 92nd (choice C).
- The first through sixth places go to Commander Read and his crew (Breese, Hinton, Rhoads, Rodd, and Stone) of the NC-4 in May of 1919.
- Numbers seven and eight (June, 1919): Alcock and Brown.
- Numbers nine through 42 (July, 1919): Maj. George Scott of the RAF and his crew plus several British VIPs (Angus, Browdie, Burgess, Cooke, Cross, Durrant, Edwards, Evenden, Forteath, Gent, Graham, Gray, Greenland, Harris, Luck, Maitland, Mayes, Mort, Northeast, Parker, Powell, Pritchard, Ripley, Robinson, Scull, Shotter, Smith, Thirlwall, Turner, and Watson), two U.S. observers (Lieutenant Commander Lansdowne of the Navy and Lieutenant Commander Hensley of the Army), and one stowaway (William Ballantyne) flew in the British dirigible R.34 nonstop from Scotland to New York and/or from New York to Scotland. (Ballantyne, Edwards, and Lansdowne made only the westward passage while Angus, Hensley, and Turner made only the eastward trip. All others made the round trip.)
- Numbers 43, 44, 45, and 46: In August of 1924, Lieutenants Lowell Smith, Leslie Arnold, Erik Nelson, and John Harding of the U.S. Army flew in two army Douglas World Cruisers, the Chicago and the New Orleans from England to Labrador, via Iceland and Greenland. This was part of an “around-the-world” flight that these four completed in September 1924. In April and May 1924 they had also been, together with Lieutenant Leigh P. Wade and Staff Sergeant Henry H. Ogden in the Boston, the first to cross the Pacific by air (with stops in the Aleutians).
- Numbers 47 through 78 (October of 1924): Dr. Hugo Eckener and his crew (of 27: Auer, Belser, Christ, Fischer, Fleming, Freund, Grofzinger, Kiefer, Knorr, Ladwig, Lang, Lehmann, Leichtle, Martin, Marx, Pabst, Praff, Pruss, Sammt, Scherz, von Schiller, Schwendt, Siegle, Specy, Tassler, Tielmann, and Wittemann), plus 4 U.S. military observers (Captain Steele, Commander Klein, and Lieutenant Commander Kraus of the Navy and Major Kennedy of the Army) in the dirigible LZ-126, aka ZR-3 (later christened U.S.S. Los Angeles).
- Numbers 79 through 81 (January, 1926): Major Ramón Franco of the Spanish Army and Captain Ruiz de Alda of the Spanish Navy and their mechanic Pablo Rada flew from Spain to Brazil with several stops in the Dornier Wal flying boat Plus Ultra. (Within ten years, Ramón Franco’s fame faded, thanks to his brother Francisco, the Spanish dictator.)
- Numbers 82, 83, and 84 (March of 1927) Captain Sarmento de Beires and Captain Jorge de Castilho of the Portuguese Army and their mechanic Manuel Gouveia flew from Portugal to Brazil, with several stops in the Dornier Wal flying boat Argos.
- And at the very earliest, we have number 85 (May 1927): Captain Charles A. Lindbergh of the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve, nonstop, solo, from New York to Paris in the Ryan monoplane Spirit of St. Louis.
In July 2001, 13-year old Cody Clawson was hiking with his Boy Scout troop in Yellowstone National Park, but somehow, he got separated from the group. Even though authorities enlisted help from rescue teams in Idaho and Wyoming, Cody wound up spending a cold, wet, and lonely night in a rocky canyon, wondering if he would survive. The next morning, he heard a helicopter flying over a nearby ridge, and the Bell 407 pilot spotted Cody, landed nearby, and flew him back to safety. Who was that pilot?
- Clint Eastwood
- Harrison Ford
- Cliff Robertson
- John Travolta
It was Harrison Ford, who has a home in Jackson, Wyoming. All are pilots. Eastwood also flies helicopters (but not airplanes).
What was the approximate total out-of-pocket cost to Wilbur and Orville Wright in developing their Flyer, including travel costs and materials?
In today’s US dollars, that would be about $17,000–or back then, about $850. So either A or C could be counted as being correct.