September 14, 2008

The First Flight Across the Atlantic!

Here’s a bit of forgotten history: Eight years before Lindberg’s solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Franklin D. Roosevelt while serving as assistant Secretary of the Navy persuaded the Navy to fly an aeroplane from the Eastern Seaboard across the Atlantic. The Navy built four planes, the NC-1, NC-2, NC-3, and NC-4 for the mission, and stretched a fleet of naval ships every fifty miles all the way across to England. The ships were to aided in navigation, provided weather and stand by for rescue. Four planes set out, one made it. It was a primitive era for flight: 60-70mph navigating by sight, compass and new prototype aerial instruments. To cross the ocean at low altitude meant big waves and dangerous fog. The NC-2 never made it off the coast of North America. NC-1 and NC-3 were disabled by rough seas near the Azores, embarking on adventures of their own. While the one remaining NC-4 meandered out of contact lost in the fog. The mission had seemed to flop when through the fog the NC-4 sighted the high volcanic landscape of the Azores, the group of Portuguese islands in the mid Atlantic. The NC-4 landed safely in Horta, on the Island of Fial. From there they flew to Portugal, Spain and then to Plymouth England! They flew Across the Atlantic. It wasn’t solo and it wasn’t continuous but it was a first for the times. In Horta I found a propeller from the NC-3 hanging on the wall of a museum. It was there as a memento, from a failed attempt to cross the Atlantic by plane. The rest of the story went untold. It looks as though along the trail I am the only one who talks about the first transatlantic flight. As Morning Glory and I sailed across the bay in Ferrol, Spain, public television in America flashed a clip of the story on TV. But in 1919 the streets were parading as these guys approached. They went on a victory tour after the flight and it lasted for days. My Great Grandfather Jim Breese was on that party tour, because he was the Co-pilot and Engineer of the NC-4. But it seems like the party began before the crossing because before the planes set out from Rockway, NY, Breese and his ‘boyhood friend’ Roosevelt, rigged an extra seat on the NC-3 and went for a fifteen minute ride.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

My name is Barbara, I have just read your blog and agree that the first trans Atlantic flight has been washed over by history.
Your great grandfather James Breese married my great aunt Florence Welch in 1948.

Looking forward to sharing some family history.

I can be reached at