ALCOCK & BROWN MEMORIAL & LANDING SITE
If you are interested in the history of aviation, you might want to visit the Alcock and Brown Memorial and Landing Site in Connemara, County Galway. This is where British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight in June 1919, a feat that changed the course of aviation history.
Alcock and Brown were both veterans of the First World War, where they served as pilots in the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force. After the war, they decided to take on the challenge of crossing the Atlantic Ocean by aeroplane, which had never been done before. They hoped to win the £10,000 prize offered by the Daily Mail newspaper for the first flight to be made in less than 72 consecutive hours.
They chose a modified Vickers Vimy bomber as their aircraft, which had a wingspan of 67 feet and a length of 43 feet. It was powered by two Rolls-Royce Eagle engines, each producing 360 horsepower. The plane was equipped with extra fuel tanks, a sextant, a compass, an airspeed indicator, and a drift indicator. It also carried some mail, making it the first transatlantic airmail flight.
The duo took off from St. John’s, Newfoundland, on June 14, 1919, at 1:45 p.m. local time. They faced many challenges during their flight, such as fog, snow, ice, engine trouble, and navigation difficulties. They had to fly at low altitudes to avoid clouds, which increased their fuel consumption and risk of collision with the ocean waves. They also had to deal with fatigue, cold, and hunger.
Despite these hardships, they managed to reach Ireland after flying for 16 hours and 12 minutes. They spotted the coast near Clifden at 8:40 a.m. local time on June 15. They tried to land on what they thought was a suitable field, but it turned out to be a bog. The plane nose-dived into the ground and came to a halt with its nose buried in the peat. Fortunately, neither of them were seriously injured.
They were greeted by a local farmer, Tom “Cork” Kenny, who asked them: “Are you flying or sailing?” They replied: “Flying.” Kenny then helped them out of the wreckage and took them to his house for breakfast. They were soon surrounded by curious locals and reporters who wanted to congratulate them and hear their story.
They were hailed as heroes by the public and the press. They received telegrams from King George V and Prime Minister David Lloyd George. They were also awarded the Daily Mail prize by Winston Churchill, who was then Secretary of State for War and Air. Furthermore, they were both knighted by King George V for their achievement.
To commemorate this historic flight, two memorials were erected near Clifden. The first one is a sculpture of an aircraft tail-fin on Errislannan Hill, about 2 km north of the landing site. It was dedicated on June 15, 1959, on the 40th anniversary of the flight. It offers a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape and the Atlantic Ocean.
The second one is a stone cairn marking the exact spot where the plane landed in Derrygimlagh Bog. It was unveiled on June 15, 1969, on the 50th anniversary of the flight. It is located about 4 km south of Clifden, along the Wild Atlantic Way scenic route. It is part of a larger site that also includes a monument to Guglielmo Marconi, who established his first transatlantic wireless station nearby in 1907.
Both memorials are free to visit and open to the public all year round. They are accessible by car or by bike from Clifden. They are also popular destinations for walkers and hikers who want to explore the natural beauty and historical significance of Connemara.
The Alcock and Brown Memorial and Landing Site are not only reminders of a remarkable achievement in aviation history, but also symbols of human courage, perseverance, and innovation. They are worth visiting for anyone who wants to learn more about this fascinating story and its impact on the world.
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