History: May 6th — 92nd anniversary of the first transatlantic flight


Most people know that Charles Lindbergh piloted the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in May 1927. He became an American hero. But fewer are aware that the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic made its historic journey eight years earlier.

That plane that accomplished the first transatlantic crossing on May 6, 1919, was the U.S. Navy’s NC-4. It was a four-engined flying boat originally built for antisubmarine patrols. The NC-4 was successful in its transatlantic route from Newfoundland to the Azores and on to Lisbon. The flight took 15 hours.

I got the heads up from the a release by the U.S. Census Bureau and then did a bit more digging.

The photo at the top of this post is from MIT’s library. After the flight, the school started an aeronautical engineering program that was supported by the officer responsible for the first transatlantic flight. MIT’s archives also have the original letter detailing him to the school on temporary duty from the Navy.

Jerome C. Hunsaker was an officer in the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Construction and Repair when he designed the NC-4, the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. The NC-4 left Rockaway Beach, New York, on May 8, 1919, with two companion NC planes, to attempt a trans-Atlantic crossing. The companion planes were damaged en route and did not finish. After landing for repairs in Chatham, Massachusetts, with stops in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the Azores, the NC-4 flew into Lisbon, Portugal, on May 27, 1919, accomplishing the first trans-Atlantic crossing. The NC aircraft were a joint effort of a U.S. Navy design team (N) and Curtiss Engineering (C). To celebrate the crossing, the Curtiss company held a dinner at which honorees were presented with a special commemorative medal.

Here is the link for information about the letter that allowed the MIT aeronautical program to start and photos of the commemorative medals celebrating the first transatlantic crossing.