A statue of the British pilots who completed the first non-stop Transatlantic flight, from Canada to Clifden in Galway, is being moved from Heathrow Airport to Ireland for special centenary celebrations of the aviation feat.
Sir John Alcock and Sir Arthur Whitten-Brown completed the first flight across the Atlantic in 1919.
The Royal Navy aviation pilots flew in a two-man Vickers Vimy biplane from St John’s in Newfoundland, Canada but went off course and took it upon themselves to perform a crash landing at Derrigimlagh Bog, Clifden in Connemara, Co Galway.
In doing so, the pilots achieved the first non-stop transatlantic flight with a duration of 16 hours and 28 minutes, landing about 25 miles north of their target destination.
This June, The Alcock and Brown 100 Festival will see a full reenactment of the 1919 landing during the festival in Galway.
Brian Hughes, of Abbeyglen Castle Hotel in Clifden, Co. Galway, said that there are a number of special commemoration events taking place in the area.
The original Alcock and Brown statue located at Heathrow Airport is being moved back to Clifden temporarily for 8 weeks.
“We are bringing the two pilots back to Clifden after 100 years in the form of a statue…this is definitely a monumental event which will surely turn heads even in the UK in the shadow of Brexit,” Hughes said.
Other events include Ireland’s central bank minting a centenary coin; An Post commissioning a special stamp; Waterford Crystal making a replica of the original plane; The Air Corp doing a fly over in Clifden on the 15th of June; along with many more activities.
In 1913, The Daily Mail newspaper had put up a £10,000 prize for “the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland to any point in Great Britain or Ireland in 72 continuous hours”.
The competition was suspended after the outbreak of war in 1914 but resumed after the Armistice in November 1918.
Alcock, who died tragically in an air crash within six months of his feat, and Whitten Brown, both of whom had been prisoners during the war, took up the challenge.
They were presented with their prize by the then Secretary of State for Air Winston Churchill.
Fifty years ago, in May 1969, the Daily Mail launched ‘The Great Transatlantic Air Race’ to commemorate the flight.
This week, participants of that 1969 transatlantic air race will be meeting up at Brooklands Museum in Surrey, which has close ties to both events. Here they will celebrate the historic achievements from both 50 – and 100 – years ago.