Last time on “City Full of History”, we followed John Champe in his attempt to infiltrate British New York and kidnap the treacherous Benedict Arnold. This week we soar with the ‘Bremen’, the first airplane to cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop from East to West! Come along as we follow the intrepid aviators of the ‘Bremen’ through 1928 New York City!
The history of transatlantic flight is at once both fascinating and tragic, reflecting the pace of early advancements in aviation. The Atlantic Ocean was first crossed non-stop by John Alcock and Arthur Brown in 1919, a mere 16 years after the Wright Brothers first took flight at Kitty Hawk. Others would follow Alcock and Brown’s exploit; Richard Byrd, Clarence Chamberlin, and of course, Charles Lindbergh. While all of these aviators had crossed the Atlantic they had all done it by crossing from west to east, and there was a reason for that: it was easier.
The prevailing winds over the North Atlantic blow from west to east. So if you’re flying from North America to Europe you will be carried along by the wind and have an easier time of it. Coming the other way, you’ll be fighting the wind. Which is why, for almost a year after Lindbergh won the Orteig Prize, no one had been able to do it non-stop in an airplane. Then came the ‘Bremen’, crewed by Captain Hermann Koehl, Major James Fitzmaurice, and Baron Guenther von Huenefeld. Less than a decade before the flight of the ‘Bremen’, the Irish Fitzmaurice had fought on the opposite side of World War I from the Germans Koehl and von Huenefeld. Ten years later these three men would cross an ocean to prove not only the possibility of transatlantic flight, but also, as Fitzmaurice wrote “the great progress that has been made in transforming aviation from a war weapon into a peace force.”
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