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A History of Aeronautics by Marsh and Vivian

Piloted by Captain John Alcock


Meanwhile, H. G. Hawker, pilot of the Sopwith biplane, together with Commander Mackenzie Grieve, R.N., his navigator, found the weather sufficiently auspicious to set out at 6.48 p.m. On Sunday, May 18th, in the hope of completing the trip by the direct route before N.C.4 could reach Plymouth. They set out from Mount Pearl aerodrome, St John's, Newfoundland, and vanished into space, being given up as lost, as Hamel was lost immediately before the War in attempting to fly the North Sea. There was a week of dead silence regarding their fate, but on the following Sunday morning there was world-wide relief at the news that the plucky attempt had not ended in disaster, but both aviators had been picked up by the steamer Mary at 9.30 a.m. on the morning of the 19th, while still about 750 miles short of the conclusion of their journey. Engine failure brought them down, and they planed down to the sea close to the Mary to be picked up; as the vessel was not fitted with wireless, the news of their rescue could not be communicated until land was reached. An equivalent of half the L10,000 prize offered by the Daily Mail for the non-stop flight was presented by the paper in recognition of the very gallant attempt, and the King conferred the Air Force Cross on both pilot and navigator.

Raynham, pilot of the Martinsyde competing machine, had the bad luck to crash his craft twice in attempting to start before he got outside the boundary of the aerodrome. The Handley-Page machine was withdrawn from the competition, and, attempting to fly to America, was crashed on the way.

The first non-stop crossing was made on June 14th-15th in 16 hours 27 minutes, the speed being just over 117 miles per hour. The machine was a Vickers-Vimy bomber, engined with two Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII's, piloted by Captain John Alcock, D.S.C., with Lieut. Arthur Whitten-Brown as navigator. The journey was reported to be very rough, so much so at times that Captain Alcock stated that they were flying upside down, and for the greater part of the time they were out of sight of the sea. Both pilot and navigator had the honour of knighthood conferred on them at the conclusion of the journey.

Meanwhile, commercial flying opened on May 8th (the official date was May 1st) with a joy-ride service from Hounslow of Avro training machines. The enterprise caught on remarkably, and the company extended their activities to coastal resorts for the holiday season--at Blackpool alone they took up 10,000 passengers before the service was two months old. Hendon, beginning passenger flights on the same date, went in for exhibition and passenger flying, and on June 21st the aerial Derby was won by Captain Gathergood on an Airco 4R machine with a Napier 450 horse-power 'Lion' engine; incidentally the speed of 129.3 miles per hour was officially recognised as constituting the world's record for speed within a closed circuit. On July 17th a Fiat B.R. biplane with a 700 horse-power engine landed at Kenley aerodrome after having made a non-stop flight of 1,100 miles. The maximum speed of this machine was 160 miles per hour, and it was claimed to be the fastest machine in existence. On August 25th a daily service between London and Paris was inaugurated by the Aircraft Manufacturing Company, Limited, who ran a machine each way each day, starting at 12.30 and due to arrive at 2.45 p.m. The Handley-Page Company began a similar service in September of 1919, but ran it on alternate days with machines capable of accommodating ten passengers. The single fare in each case was fixed at 15 guineas and the parcel rate at 7s. 6d. per pound.


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