The First North Atlantic Air Crossing was made by the NC-4 four-engine hydroplane named “Liberty”, of the U.S. Navy, which was part of a squadron of three hydroplanes, the NC1 and the NC3, equipped with radio. The flight plan set by the pilot John Towers had the support of 21 buoy tenders (destroyers) from Cape Race (Newfoundland, Canada), at intervals of 50 miles, equipped with spotlights, indicating the course.
The NC-4 route began at the Rockaway Beach (New York) naval base from which it took off on May 8, 1919, but due to the breakdown of two engines it continued the trip at surface until the Naval Air Station of Chatham (Massachussets), arriving only on May 14 at Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada), unlike the other two hydroplanes. The next day it went to Trepassey Bay (Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada), and on May 16 took off to continue the route of the Atlantic, mooring at Horta bay at 13:23 GMT on May 17, skirting the northern coast of Faial island.
Completing this first stage in 15 hours and 13 minutes, at a cruising speed of 148 kilometers per hour, the NC-4 continued its epic adventure on May 20, mooring at Ponta Delgada, arriving at Lisbon on May 27 (Tejo), then Figueira da Foz (Mondego River) and Ferrol (northwest Galicia), concluding the aerial crossing in Plymouth (southwest of England) on May 31, 1919.
As for the other two hydroplanes, the NC1, when mooring northeast of the Corvo island, it was destroyed by huge waves and sank, while the NC3, at the limit of its capacity after mooring southwest of Faial, once again took off and moored about 200 miles from Ponta Delgada, badly damaged and unable to fly reaching that port after 53 hours of sea navagation aided by two engines.
The crew of NC-4 consisted of Lieutenant Commander Albert Cushing Read, lieutenants Elmer Stone and Walter Hinton, engineers James Breese and Eugene S. Rhodes, and radio operator Herbert C. Rodd. The NC-4 was the only aircraft on the squadron to end the transatlantic voyage, placing from then on the Port of Horta on the route of the commercial flights of the international hydroaviation, starting in the late 30’s of the 20th century.
Original text by Luís Menezes
English version by JABA – Translations