Friday, June 14, 2019

British Plane Starts Flight to Ireland -- June 14, 2019

New York Sun, 15-June-1919
100 years ago today, on 14-June-1919, Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown set out in a converted Vickers Vimy bomber to make a non-stop flight from Newfoundland to Ireland. This would be the first successful non-stop transatlantic flight.


Captain Alcock and Arthur W.
Brown Leave St. John's in Vickers-Vimy Two Motored Machine in Attempt to Cross Ocean
Plane So Heavily Laden With Fuel That It
Barely Escapes Crash Into Forest
Before Reaching Open Sea
Second Attempt By English Aviators Will
Be Followed by Third in Handley Page
Plane With Four Motors

ST. JOHN'S, N. F., June 14.-- At midnight local time, the Admiralty wireless station here had received no report concerning the Vickers-Vimy bomber piloted by Capt. John Alcock and Lieut. Arthur Whitten Brown, which hopped off for Ireland at 1:43 P. M to-day, St. John's time.

ST. JOHN'S, N. F June 14. -- Capt. John Alcock and Lieut. Arthur Whitten Brown flew out to sea to-day in a Vickers-Vimy two motored plane in the second attempt ever made to span the great Atlantic in a single flight.

Undaunted by the fact that to succeed they must fly further than man has ever flown before, and that to fail probably means death, the two men climbed eagerly into the cramped cockpit which is to be their station for almost a day and night.

With smiling faces they waved the good-by the terrific blast of their two engines would not permit to be spoken. Slowly the unwieldy plane, laden far beyond the limits of safety with gasolene, bumped forward over the rough field into the breath of a wresterly wind of thirty miles an hour. Gradually she gathered speed, a hundred yards from the starting point her wind spread wings lifted her into the air and she glided smoothly forward just over the earth.

Then it seemed to the spectators, rigid in their tense watching, that disaster was to befall the venturesome pair before they were actually launched on their daring journey. Less than half a mile ahead of them loomed a forest. The plane was but a few feet off the ground, and to the watchers this distance did not increase, although the plane was dashing at more than a mile a minute toward the threatening barrier of trees.

As it grew smaller the crash into the forest seemed to grow more certain, but somehow the airmanship of Capt. Alcock lifted his weighty craft through the thin air and he barely skimmed over the leafy tops. To some it seemed his undercarriage brushed them. Then it was that the tumultuous applause broke out to speed the voyagers.

Over Forest to Open Ocean.

Slowly, imperceptibly, the great bomber gained altitude as she passed out of sight. For some minutes after her disappearance inland the watchers waited tensely for her return. When she finally came into view to the northwest she had risen well into the air, aided by the friendly west wind that buoyed her heavy weight up. Now she was flying with the wind and adding its speed to her own. When she passed the coast line she had reached an altitude of more than 1,000 feet and was travelling at least 100 miles an hour. With engines roaring rhythmically she dashed seaward and was quickly lost from view.

The machine took off at 1:13 P. M. Greenwich time (12:13 A. M. New York time). If motors, men and plane stand the terrible strain upon them during the flight of nearly 2,000 miles she should reach Ireland by 2 or 3 P. M. Greenwich time (10 or 11 A. M. New York time). In the anxious hours and minutes following the fading of the bomber into the eastern sky word was eagerly awaited from the wireless of the fast flying plane, but none came. Several explanations of this were advanced by those who waited, one that Lieut. Brown was too busily occupied with the task of setting a course for far distant Ireland to waste time sending farewell messages at the very outset. Another was that the radio apparatus, none too reliable even when tested on the ground, had proved defective in the air to-day, as it had collapsed in a previous flight several days ago.

No Word From the Fliers.

No word came out of the Atlantic to ease the anxiety of watchers who remained near the radio station at St. John's most of the night. The great radio cracked out questions all night to ships at sea without result. The steamship Digby, which was almost a hundred miles off the coast at the time the plane took the air, arrived at port here to-night. She reported that although both crew and radio men were on the alert for any sign or signal from the Vickers plane, which should have passed within sight, their watchfulness was futile.

The very ship that brought this news, regarded almost as ominous by many of the anxious people, brought also another man eager to stake his life in an endurance dash across the Atlantic. Lieut. C. H. Diddlecombe arrived to navigate Capt. Raynham's Martinsyde. Another who arrived was Major Fisk, manager of the Boulton and Paul Company, who came to select an aerodrome for three airplanes his company intends to try a "hop" with in the first week of August. Some new radiators for the Handley-Page machine were also on board. The installation of these may delay the giant bomber several days.

Weather Ideal for Flight.

Although the weather here was ideal for the flight, the fliers headed eastward into the fog which shrouds the Newfoundland, banks, a fog which is one of the many dreaded obstacles which will beset the Vickers plane on her day long flight. To Capt. Alcock the fog meant doubled difficulty in keeping the laden plane on an even keel and to Lieut. Brown the shutting off of land from which to reckon and from the sun by which he must steer his course.

The odds, it is generally admitted, except among the youthful optimists who themselves are here to make the great flight, are against the venturing airmen, as they were against Harry Hawker. Nevertheless Capt. Alcock and Lieut. Brown were smilingly confident that they would get across. Confidence indeed is the keynote of the venture, for each of the two flyers, confidence in the heavy plane, the straining motors, in the ability of his teammate to do his share and in himself. Should the navigation of Lieut. Brown fail, the bomber would fly aimlessly In the general direction of East, driven about by winds of unknown strength and direction.

Appeals Sent Through Fog.

As the afternoon proceeded the great wireless at Cape Race and at the other stations along the coast talked with steamships far at sea, warning them to he on the lookout for the Vickers plane. They answered that they were feeling their way along In a dense fog and could see or hear nothing.

It is probable that Capt. Alcock will endeavor to fly above the fog so that Lieut. Brown may get his bearings, but should it be too high it may be difficult to surmount It at the start of the journey. As the journey continues the plane will become lighter and will fly faster. At the start, Capt. Alcock estimated, his speed would not be better than seventy or seventy-five miles an hour plus the easterly speed of the wind. Toward the end of the journey the lightened plane will be pushed ahead at ninety-five or a hundred miles an hour. The average Capt. Alcock hopes to make is eighty-five miles an hour.

Although It It possible that the waiting world will hear no word direct from the speeding plane, radio flashes may come in from ships at sea that the voyagers have been sighted. Every vessel in the North Atlantic equipped with a radio set has been warned by, the British Air Ministry from London to be on the lookout for the voyagers.

At least two ships beside the Digby are known to be In the North Atlantic somewhere near the course of the fliers, and it is probable that there are a number more such as the little Danish tramp steamship which picked up Harry Hawker.

Ships In Path of Flight.

The ships known to be in the general line over which the Vickers bomber will fly are the cable steamship Mackay Bennett, some 250 miles from Newfoundland at work repairing ocean cables, and the steamship Sachem, about 761 miles from shore. If the wireless outfit of the Vickers-Vimy has failed the task of Lieut. Brown of keeping the plane headed direct for Ireland will be much more difficult, for he depended, as did Commander Grieve, Hawker's navigator, on radio flashes from ships encountered to give him his latitude and longitude at intervals to check up his own figures.

The difficulties of navigation in the air are many times those of the ordinary type. For speed Lieut. Brown can only reckon the revolutions of the engine. This of course varies according to the weight carried by the plane. He has no way of accurately determining how far the wind is bearing him away from his course. The use of the sextant is much more difficult upon a bobbing unsteady plane than upon the deck of a ship. Lieut. Brown has obviated this difficulty to some extent hy the use of the Byrd bubble sextant which guided the American seaplanes to the Azores.

If a head wind should be encountered on the journey eastward the plane may exhaust Its gasolene supply before reaching Ireland, although it carries enough for 2,200 miles, which gives the voyagers a margin of 200 miles. If he finds his gasolene supply running but Capt. Alcock is able to husband it by shutting off one of the two motors. This would cut down his speed to little more than sixty or seventy miles an hour, but the gasolene consumption would be cut almost in half.

The ability of the Vickers-Vimy bomber to travel on one engine gives her a big advantage over Harry Hawker's single motored Sopwith, for engine failure with Hawker meant an instant glide into the sea, while for the Vickers plane it merely means reduced speed unless the second engine, under the strain of carrying the entire load, collapses like the first.

The Handley-Page machine, which has four motors, is theoretically the safest of the three planes for the transatlantic flight, although the weight of her four engines and their fuel supply does not permit her to carry more than enough gasolene to complete the flight.

Should Alcock's plan succeed there will be no Daily Mail prize ot $50,000 awaiting Admiral Kerr and his fellow voyagers. Their flight, however, Admiral Kerr has said, is as much for the purpose of making observations of aerial conditions over the North Atlantic as for winning the prize, so they will start the hazardous flight nevertheless.

Should the Vickers plane drop into the sea Captain Alcock and Lieut. Brown have a chance of safety, varying according to the progress they have made in the journey before being forced to descend. Unlike Harry Hawker, who carried a flimsy boat, Capt. Alcock will depend upon the buoyancy of one of his gasolene tanks for safety. Both Alcock and Brown will endeavor to cling to a tank resting on the fuselage of the plane behind the cockpit in which they sit if their plane sinks. The "'gas" In this tank will be used first. How long their plane remains afloat depends upon the amount of gasolene remaining in its many tanks. Both men wear life saving vests, which, will keep them afloat for some time.

To provide space for the huge amount of gasolene carried, 565 gallons, weighing about 5,600 pounds, was a problem which was solved only after much study. The nose of their craft is formed of a gasolene tank and behind the cockpit concealed In the fuselage are six more. The central section of the upper wing also contains gasolene in a wing shaped tank.

The fliers are cramped in their cockpit and will probably endure much suffering during their twenty-four hours of unchanging posture. They are surrounded by instruments and can hardly shift their positions.

The Sporting Side of It.

Should Alcock and Brown win out in the sporting chance they are taking, for it can only be called a sporting chance, England and the United States will unite in rejoicing, for Alcock Is a Britisher and Brown Is an American, although he was born In Scotland and is nominally a citizen of Great Britain. Brown's father and mother are Americans, and he himself, on reaching 21, selected American rather than British citizenship when he had the option of choosing. He is technically British, however, as he became a citizen of Great Britain when he entered the British army to do his bit at the outbreak of the war.

The plane Itself was built in England, as were the Rolls-Royce engines which drive it but the airplane was invented in the United States.

The airplane, engines, and men are together one of the finest combinations that aeronautics has produced. The machine, motors and men have all been tested to the utmost in the hard strain of war time flying, and all proved their merit. Whether the combination is equal to the mighty taek of spanning the great Atlantic in a single day will be decided by sundown to-morrow. Those who gathered to see them set off to-day were undecided whether the strength of men and steel could yet conquer the Atlantic, but all agreed that a gallant battle would be fought.

The start of the transatlantic flight lacked every element of the spectacular that Anglo-Saxon minds could eliminate. The final preparations were carried, out with cheerful simplicity and were absolutely devoid of ceremony or of dramatics. The mechanics, grimy-faced and anxious, whose skill and judgment may mean the success or failure of the flight and the life or death of two men, went over-their big machine inch by inch, their hands and eyes testing and re-testing, until even their critical minds could not conceive of a defect.

The value of the mechanics' careful scrutiny was shown when they detected a defective petrol feed pipe leading to the starboard engine just before the two men climbed aboard the bomber. A slight discoloration of the wing was enough to warn the experts of the tiny leak, which might have opened sufficiently during flying conditions to waste gallons of fuel or stop the motor entirely.

For fifteen minutes the two engines were permitted to run to warm themselves up to the proper temperature for the great strain they were to undergo in lifting the weighty plane oft the ground.

Alcock and Brown sat together on the ground during this tryout exchanging bits of wit and humor with P. M. Muller, the Vickers manager. and other-friends. Their ears were turned to catch the slightest intimation by an off note in the great roar of the engines, but outwardly they seemed without a care in the world. They are both constitutionally men of action and found the waiting during the erection and testing ot the Vickers plane in Newfoundland exceedingly irksome.

Later the motors were stopped for a time and the two men ate a light luncheon. By that time the camera men were busy, and every bite was photographed, much to the amusement of the two.

As the time drew near for the start Capt. Alcock shook hands with Mr. Muller and said cheerfully:

"See you In London."

He added that the people waiting at St. John's would hear from the plane by radio before they went to bed.

Then both men, their lithe bodies looking clumsy in their thick, unwieldy flying clothes, clambered briskly Into their cockpit.

For another fifteen minutes the engines roared whllt the fliers listened and the plane shuddered under the blast of her own propellers, held back by chocks under her wheels. Then, sharply, Alcock raised one hand, the mechanics pulled the chocks from under the wheels and the plane taxied off.

Both Gifted Naturally and by
Experience for Trip.

The Vickers-Vimy transatlantic attempt will be a success if the engines and the structure of the plane prove as reliable during the flight as the men guiding the big bomber have shown themselves in the past. Both men have war records and rendered much valiant service before finally being brought down as prisoners during aerial exploits almost as hazardous as their present attempt to span the ocean.

Capt. John Alcock, leader of the expedition, was one of the comparatively few Britons who could fly before the outbreak of the war. His knowledge of aviation made him exceedingly valuable as an instructor, when Britain, unprepared, set out In 1914 to build up an air service to repel the raids of Zeppelins and big German biplanes. Capt. Alcock, who was born in Manchester in 1892, took out his first flying license in 1912. His principal pre-war exploit was the winning of second place in a great sporting event, the flight from London to Manchester and return, which awoke many Englishmen to the realization that flying was a fact and not a theory.

Lieut. Arthur Whitten Brown, who fulfills the triple duty of navigator, wireless man and relief pilot on the Vickers craft is almost the physical opposite of his companion, although both were quick thinking and quick acting, traits picked up, or at least strengthened, by their experience in the war. Lieut. Brown, who is thirty-two is quiet, thinly built and sharp of features, his companion is dark and his eyes gray. He resembles his chief in that he, too is of a cheerful disposition. Indeed, all the flyers who intend to dare the Atlantic may be described as constitutionally optimistic, for the spanning of the ocean by airplane is at present distinctly a job for an optimist.

Lieut. Brown's interest in aviation, it is said, was first from an engineering standpoint, when he was connected with the British Westinghouse Company, which is now associated with Vickers, Ltd. This Is the great British manufacturing concern, the aviation department of which built the big bomber in which they fly, and which entered the machine in the London Daily Mail contest. When the war began. Lieut Brown joined the university and public school training corps. After some training he became attached to a Manchester regiment and went Into France with this outfit In 1915. Later he was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, where he served as an observer.

In November. 1915. Lieut. Brown set out in a squadron on a long distance reconnaissance far behind the German lines. The carburetor of the plane went wrong in the air and the plane was compelled to glide to the ground. Brown was too busy destroying important military papers to brace himself when the plane landed on rough ground, and the crash landing jammed him so tightly into a comer of the cockpit that he had to be cut out. His thigh and one leg were broken and he was badly cut.

After treatment in German hospitals he was transferred to a German prison camp and eventually was sent to Switzerland. In 1917 he reached England. For the remainder of the war he was occupied in technical work for the Air Ministry.

Lieut. Brown, despite his comparative youth, has a reputation aa an engineer In England, he is a member of several engineering organizations and is a keen follower of the latest improvements in both gasolene motors and airplanes.

In addition to his accomplishments in this line he is said to be thoroughly familiar with radio operation, and a good navigator. It was because of his knowledge of navigation that he appreciated the merit of the Byrd bubble sextant, Invented by Lieut-Commander R. E. Byrd, U. 8. N., and used in the navy transatlantic flight. Lieut. Brown got one of these instruments from the American Navy. which is eager to assist the British fliers. He expects it will be of great aid In making accurate observations in the pitching, tossing airplane.

New York Sun, 15-June-1919

Like Hawker's Sopwith Is
Land Machine but Has
Two Engines.
"Will Fly at 90 Miles -- Crew's
Safety Lies Only in

Both the Vickers-Vimy and the Handley-Page machines were constructed in England during the war with a single object in view, to rain bombs upon Berlin with the frequency and terrific definition that the Germans had hoped to reach in their Zeppelin raids on the British capital.

Their outstanding characteristics as bombing planes, great cruising range, heavy weight carrying capacity, reliability and swift speed, made them almost ideal machines for the transatlantic flight, toward which the eyes of British flying men turned when the necessity tor bombing Berlin was past.

The Vickers-Vimy, although over shadowed by the huge Handley-Page in turn dwarfs the little Sopwith in which Harry Hawker set out to blaze the North Atlantic trail. The Vickers-Vimy wing spread Is 67 feet, while that of the Sopwith was 46 feet 6 inches. The plane, like the Australian's, is a land machine. Capt. Alcock and Lieut. Brown are taking the same chance as did Hawker, with the exception that in their case they have two engines to rely upon and will not drop their landing carriage and wheels as he did. On the other hand, they will carry no collapsible boat.

Capt. Alcock and Lieut. Brown sit side by side in the rounded nose of the machine, with an instrument board containing all the oil, gasolene, air and engine speed and altitude gauges in front of them. Their cockpit Is just in front of the wings. On either side of them, mounted between the wings are the two Rolls-Royce engines, with their spinning, invisible, four-bladed propellers in front of them acting as tractors.

Both upper and lower plane are of the same length, unlike the American seaplanes, whose great upper wing is about thirty feet longer than the lower. Both wings are fitted with ailerons, making it possible to bank the plane sharply and rapidly. The gap between them is ten feet. From the nose in which pilot and navigator sit to the rudder behind the length of the plane is 42 feet 8 inches. Its height is 15 feet 3 Inches. The wing area is 1,330 square feet.

Equipped as a bomber, with a crew of three men, a bomb load of 1,148 pounds, 470 gallons of gasolene and other military material such as a machine gun, ammunition, etc., the machine weighed 12,300 pounds and could fly at 100 miles an hour. The weight of the armament and bombs is now used for the great gasolene supply necessary. Both the gunner's cockpit, behind the wings, and the bomb rack have been replaced by great tanks.

The plane now carries 367 gallons of gasolene, which should give it a range of about 2,450 miles, nearly SOO miles more than is necessary for the "hop." This distance can be covered only if the plane travels at its cruising speed; that is, the speed at which its engines burn the least amount of fuel a mile. In the Vimy-Vickers this cruising speed is ninety miles an hour. The maximum speed of the plane is a few miles over 100.

Even with one engine out of commission the Vimy-Vickerrs could "limp" along at seventy miles an hour. Captain Alcock has firmly expressed the opinion that his plane would finish the flight even if one engine failed many miles from land. In any event, he could stay in the air long enough to call by wireless for aid and to hunt for a ship near which to land if motor trouble hit the plane midway in the journey.

Great strain is taken off the pilot in the long journey by the fact that the machine Is exceedingly stable. Its inherent stability is such, it is said, that being fitted with a compensating mechanism, it can be flown upward, downward or on the level without a hand on the "stick." In other words, the plane will fly Itself, although the pilot cannot, of course, relax his mental as well as his physical exertions. As both Alcock and Brown are skilled pilots they can spell each other at the controls, however.

Despite the size of the machine the controls are so arranged and balanced that it takes very little exertion to fly the machine. The amount necessary varies, of course, according to the smoothness or bumpiness of the air.

Behind the cockpit in which Capt. Alcock and Lieut. Brown will fly through the night on their hazardous trip, stretches the fuselage or framework of the machine In which the gasolene tanks are housed. They are below the level of the engines, so that the gasolene is raised to a tank concealed in the upper wing by pumps driven by tiny little windmills which whir violently in the great air blast of the big propellers. From the upper wing the gasolene flows downward by gravity feed to the two engines.

The motors are Rolls-Royce products, as are those of all the other British contestants. They are of 350 horsepower each and are generally believed to be the most reliable British airplane motor at the present time. They spin the great four-bladed propellers at the rate of 1,080 revolutions per minute. The diameter of the four-bladed propellers Is ten feet, two inches. More than twice the amount of gasolene carried by Hawker, who had only 330 gallons, will be fed to these two motors during the journey.

The engines are built with a streamline casing fitted about them so that they offer the least possible resistance to the great rush of the plane through the air. The radiators, just behind the propellers, are octagonal.

The great bomber had its trial flight in Newfoundland June 9. At that time Capt. Alcock said his plane made 112 miles an hour, although this, of course, was not with the full load with which he will head eastward.

The Byrd bubble sextant, an instrument invented by Lieut.-Commander R. K. Byrd. U. S. N., will be used by Lieut. Brown in laying the course of the big bomber. This sextant was used to guide the NC-4 to Europe. In addition to his duties as navigator, Lieut. Brown will act as operator of the wireless set aboard the biplane. This apparatus, which has a range of 250 miles, will be used by Lieut. Brown to talk to ships to get such data as location, wind direction, etc. It may save the lives of the daring pair if it becomes necessary to send out the S. O. S.. which means their brave attempt is ending in failure and disaster.

Crowd to View Big British

Roosevelt Flying Field, adjoining Camp Mills, at Mineola, was selected yesterday as the landing spot for the big British dirigible, R-34, which is scheduled soon to undertake a transatlantic flight from England. Roosevelt field was selected after numerous other landing places along the Atlantic coast had been inspected by the British officers.

Work on the field will begin immediately, so that everything will be in readiness to receive the dirigible, which, it is understood, will start the cross ocean air jaunt just as soon as arrangements for her reception here are completed. All that needs to be done at Roosevelt Field Is to sink a series of anchors to hold the dirigible once she lands. Everything else is waiting for her, since gas and all other supplies are easily obtainable at the big Mineola flying field.

Among the other advantages which prompted the inspecting British officers to settle upon Roosevelt Field was the fact that she can be viewed In the air there by as many thousands of persons as want to get a took at her, and the field Is big enough also to let all the thousands who want to inspect her after she is tied to her anchors. The R-34 is 534 feet long and carries three boats below the gas bag.

Cut by Congress May Force
Schemes Abandonment.
Special Despatch to The Sun.

Washington, June 14. -- Secretary of the Navy Daniels announced to-day that plans for a flight across the Pacific were under consideration. Details have not yet been taken up, but the general idea is to follow up the pioneer work so successfully begun by the NC-4 under Lieutenant-Commander Read.

Mr. Daniels pointed out, however, that the plan could not be carried out if the Naval Affairs Committee insisted on maintaining its stand that the naval aviation appropriation should be cut to $15,000,000.

"Such a meagre appropriation will mean that We cannot fly across the Pacific this year or next year." said Mr. Daniels. "It will mean that we will stand still instead of progressing. Coming after our greatest of achievements in crossing the Atlantic Ocean through the air, that action of the committee in cutting off aviation with barely enough to permit it to stand still, let alone progress, is particularly distressing and discouraging to the aviation men who have plans for even bigger things in their minds."

Great Britain, Mr. Daniels pointed out, was making an appropriation of $300,000,000 for her joint army and navy air service. France and Italy also were taking steps to develop air machines on a large scale.

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