Wednesday 2 July 2003
Pix of the Day: Bomber Pioneers Worldwide Flight
CREDITS: © James L. Stanfield/www.NationalGeographic.com
NGS original feature articles (left to right):    
The Wright Brothers were the first to fly in 1903 in the Wright Flyer 3. The 1911 Wright Flyer B was a production aircraft, but still looked like a Rube Goldberg contraption (in Britain Goldberg's equivalent is W. Heath Robinson). From 1914-18 during the years of World War II there was intense activity to develop military aircraft, and one such model was the Vickers Vimy, a bomber that never saw operational duty in the war, although named after the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge. It is probable that the war prevented many attempts at trans-Atlantic flight, which would have resulted in the deaths of many flyers because the 'planes of 1913 were just not up to the task. Within sixteen years of the first powered flight by a manned heavier than air machine the Vimy opened up the world of intercontinental flight. Alcock & Brown flew the Atlantic in a modified Vimy, landing bumpily but safely in an Irish bog at Clifden, Connemara (the site of the Marconi trans-Atlantic wireless transmission station), on 15 June 1919 after approximately 16 hours flying time.
The pair won the £10,000 offered by Alfred, Lord Northcliffe and his 'Daily Mail Prize' for the first non stop trans-Atlantic flight, but insisted that £2,000 of their winnings should be shared with the mechanics who prepared the aircraft for their 'wing and a prayer' attempt. Back home in Britain the airmen were fêted by the media and the public, and knighted for their achievement by King George V. The flight eclipsed the achievement of the crossing made in May of the same year by a Glenn Curtiss built seaplane, manned by Read, Stone, Hinton, Rodd, Howard, and Breeze. On 17 December of the same year John W. Alcock (1892-1919) died in a plane crash near Rouen, France, aged 27 years. Eight years later in 1927 Charles A. Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the Spirit of St. Louis, which was the first solo flight, albeit the more widely known. Arthur Whitten-Brown (1886-1948) lived until after the end of World War II, reportedly without ever flying again.
An original 1911 Wright Flyer B is in the care of the Franklin Institute, (also home to the most important collection of Wright Brothers artifacts) and the Alcock & Brown Vimy is in the care of the Science Museum. We have already covered one replica of the Wright Brothers Flyer, and today we examine a Vickers Vimy replica. The always excellent National Geographic Society (NGS) web site feature Picture of the Day contains some images from their front page story in their May 1995 issue, which covered the Vimy replica Australian flight. Click on the thumbnails to view the full size pictures on the NGS web site. Click the text links to go to the individual NGS feature for each picture. The Vimy Project plans to recreate the first direct flight crossing the Atlantic. If successful the team will have completed the Vimy Triple Crown, recreating the two flights of 1919, the Atlantic and Australian flights (recreated in 1994), and the 1920 Cape Town flight (recreated in 1999).
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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)