Aviation History

The Transatlantic Flight of Alcock and Brown

In the early 20th century, the Daily Mail newspaper offered numerous prizes for achievements in aviation. One of them was a £10,000 prize for the first transatlantic flight.

In 1919, several teams arrived in Newfoundland to prepare planes and crews for such a crossing.

Admiral Mark Kerr was working on the Handley Page V/1500, the Allies’ largest aircraft during World War I.

John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown had little flying experience, but they rushed to transport a Vickers Vimy to Newfoundland.

In Newfoundland, the Vickers Vimy had to be assembled in a field because there were no hangars large enough to house the plane. Source: Wikipedia

The Vimy was a night bomber that was never used during the war. Alcock and Brown replaced its bombs with fuel tanks and reassembled the plane in only 14 days.

While Admiral Kerr was waiting for a new radiator for his Handley Page, Alcock and Brown took off on their flight to Ireland.

Several times, flight instruments stopped working properly. Brown had to climb onto the wings six times to chip ice of the plane.

On June 15, 1919, the two men landed the Vimy in a bog near Clifden, Ireland. At first, people didn’t believe that they had flown across the Atlantic Ocean.

Before takeoff, Brown had removed the front wheel from the Vimy to reduce drag. Without that wheel, the plane ploughed its nose into the bog upon landing. Source: Wikimedia

Alcock and Brown were celebrated across England and knighted by King George V.

Their success inspired people around the world, not just aviators.

A memorial outside of Heathrow Airport in London, England commemorates the historic achievement of Alcock and Brown. Source: Wikimedia

In France, Raymond Orteig decided to create the Orteig Prize for the first flight from New York to Paris, or vice versa. It was the prize that Charles Lindbergh would win for his solo transatlantic flight in 1927.

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Rob V.
Rob V. founded Century-of-Flight.net in October of 2019. He holds commercial single and multi-engine instrument ratings, and is a licensed CFI / CFII for both single and multi-engine aircraft. Rob currently has 1,500+ hours of flight logged, 1,000 of which is dual-given as an instructor. Learn more about him in his full bio here.

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