|The NC-4 after her return to the United States in 1919|
|Manufacturer||Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company|
|First flight||30 April 1919|
|Owners and operators||U.S. Navy|
|Preserved at||National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida|
The NC-4 was a Curtiss NC flying boat that was the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, albeit not non-stop. The NC designation was derived from the collaborative efforts of the Navy (N) and Curtiss (C). The NC series flying boats were designed to meet wartime needs, and after the end of World War I they were sent overseas to validate the design concept.
The Curtiss NC was a flying boat built by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company and used by the United States Navy from 1918 through the early 1920s. Ten of these aircraft were built, the most famous of which is the NC-4, the first airplane to make a transatlantic flight. The NC-4 is preserved in the National Museum of Naval Aviation, at NAS Pensacola, Florida.
A flying boat is a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water, that usually has no type of landing gear to allow operation on land. It differs from a floatplane as it uses a purpose-designed fuselage which can float, granting the aircraft buoyancy. Flying boats may be stabilized by under-wing floats or by wing-like projections from the fuselage. Flying boats were some of the largest aircraft of the first half of the 20th century, exceeded in size only by bombers developed during World War II. Their advantage lay in using water instead of expensive land-based runways, making them the basis for international airlines in the interwar period. They were also commonly used for maritime patrol and air-sea rescue.
An airplane or aeroplane is a powered, fixed-wing aircraft that is propelled forward by thrust from a jet engine, propeller or rocket engine. Airplanes come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and wing configurations. The broad spectrum of uses for airplanes includes recreation, transportation of goods and people, military, and research. Worldwide, commercial aviation transports more than four billion passengers annually on airliners and transports more than 200 billion tonne-kilometres of cargo annually, which is less than 1% of the world's cargo movement. Most airplanes are flown by a pilot on board the aircraft, but some are designed to be remotely or computer-controlled.
The aircraft was designed by Glenn Curtiss and his team, and manufactured by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, with the hull built by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Corporation in Bristol, Rhode Island.
Glenn Hammond Curtiss was an American aviation and motorcycling pioneer, and a founder of the U.S. aircraft industry. He began his career as a bicycle racer and builder before moving on to motorcycles. As early as 1904, he began to manufacture engines for airships. In 1908, Curtiss joined the Aerial Experiment Association, a pioneering research group, founded by Alexander Graham Bell at Beinn Bhreagh, Nova Scotia, to build flying machines.
Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company was an American aircraft manufacturer formed in 1916 by Glenn Hammond Curtiss. After significant commercial success in the 'teens and 20s, it merged with the Wright Aeronautical in 1929 to form Curtiss-Wright Corporation.
Bristol is a town in Bristol County, Rhode Island, as well as the county seat. It is a deep-water seaport named after Bristol, England.
In May 1919, a crew of United States Navy aviators flew the NC-4 from New York State to Lisbon, Portugal, over the course of 19 days. This included time for stops of numerous repairs and for crewmen's rest, with stops along the way in Massachusetts, Nova Scotia (on the mainland), Newfoundland, and twice in the Azores Islands. Then its flight from the Azores to Lisbon completed the first transatlantic flight between North America and Europe, and two more flights from Lisbon to northwestern Spain to Plymouth, England, completed the first flight between North America and Great Britain. This accomplishment was somewhat eclipsed in the minds of the public by the first nonstop transatlantic flight, made by the Royal Air Force pilots John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown two weeks later.
Massachusetts, officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, New Hampshire and Vermont to the north, and New York to the west. The state is named after the Massachusett tribe, which once inhabited the east side of the area, and is one of the original thirteen states. The capital of Massachusetts is Boston, which is also the most populous city in New England. Over 80% of Massachusetts's population lives in the Greater Boston metropolitan area, a region influential upon American history, academia, and industry. Originally dependent on agriculture, fishing and trade, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the 20th century, Massachusetts's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. Modern Massachusetts is a global leader in biotechnology, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade.
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime Provinces, and one of the four provinces that form Atlantic Canada. Its provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the second-smallest of Canada's ten provinces, with an area of 55,284 square kilometres (21,300 sq mi), including Cape Breton and another 3,800 coastal islands. As of 2016, the population was 923,598. Nova Scotia is Canada's second-most-densely populated province, after Prince Edward Island, with 17.4 inhabitants per square kilometre (45/sq mi).
Newfoundland is a large Canadian island off the east coast of the North American mainland, and the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It has 29 percent of the province's land area. The island is separated from the Labrador Peninsula by the Strait of Belle Isle and from Cape Breton Island by the Cabot Strait. It blocks the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, creating the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary. Newfoundland's nearest neighbour is the French overseas community of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.
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The transatlantic capability of the NC-4 was the result of developments in aviation that began before World War I. In 1908, Glenn Curtiss had experimented unsuccessfully with floats on the airframe of an early June Bug craft, but his first successful takeoff from water was not carried out until 1911, with an A-1 airplane fitted with a central pontoon. In January 1912, he first flew his first hulled "hydro-aeroplane", which led to an introduction with the retired English naval officer John Cyril Porte who was looking for a partner to produce an aircraft with him to attempt win the prize of the newspaper the Daily Mail for the first transatlantic flight between the British Isles and North America – not necessarily nonstop, but using just one airplane. (e.g. changing airplanes in Iceland or the Azores was not allowed.)
A transatlantic flight is the flight of an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, Africa, or the Middle East to North America, Central America, or South America, or vice versa. Such flights have been made by fixed-wing aircraft, airships, balloons, and other aircraft.
Aviation, or air transport, refers to the activities surrounding mechanical flight and the aircraft industry. Aircraft includes fixed-wing and rotary-wing types, morphable wings, wing-less lifting bodies, as well as lighter-than-air craft such as balloons and airships.
World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.
Emmitt Clayton Bedell, a chief designer for Curtiss, improved the hull by incorporating the Bedell Step, the innovative hydroplane "step" in the hull allowed for breaking clear of the water at takeoff. Porte and Curtiss were joined by Lt. John H. Towers of the U.S. Navy as a test pilot. The 1914 America flying boat produced by Porte and Curtiss was a larger aircraft with two engines and two pusher propellers. The members of the team hoped to claim the prize for a transatlantic flight,however their ambitions were curtailed on 4 August 1914 with the outbreak of World War I in Europe.
A hydroplane is a fast motorboat, where the hull shape is such that at speed, the weight of the boat is supported by planing forces, rather than simple buoyancy.
Takeoff is the phase of flight in which an aerospace vehicle goes from the ground to flying in the air.
The Curtiss Model H was a family of classes of early long-range flying boats, the first two of which were developed directly on commission in the United States in response to the ₤10,000 prize challenge issued in 1913 by the London newspaper, the Daily Mail, for the first non-stop aerial crossing of the Atlantic. As the first aircraft having transatlantic range and cargo-carrying capacity, it became the grandfather development leading to early international commercial air travel, and by extension, to the modern world of commercial aviation. The last widely produced class, the Model H-12, was retrospectively designated Model 6 by Curtiss' company in the 1930s, and various classes have variants with suffixed letters indicating differences.
Development continued in the U.S. and Porte now back in the Royal Navy's flight arm the RNAS, commissioned more flying boats to be built by the Curtiss Company. These could be used for long-range antisubmarine warfare patrols. Porte modified these aircraft, and he developed them into his own set of Felixstowe flying boats with more powerful engines, longer ranges, better hulls and better handling characteristics. He shared this design with the Curtiss Company, which built these improved models under license, selling them to the U.S. Government.
The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.
The Felixstowe F.2 was a 1917 British flying boat class designed and developed by Lieutenant Commander John Cyril Porte RN at the naval air station, Felixstowe during the First World War adapting a larger version of his superior Felixstowe F.1 hull design married with the larger Curtiss H-12 flying boat. The Felixstowe hull had superior water contacting attributes and became a key base technology in most seaplane designs thereafter.
This culminated in a set of four identical aircraft, the NC-1, NC-2, NC-3 and the NC-4, the U.S. Navy's first series of four medium-sized Curtiss NC floatplanes made for the Navy by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. The NC-4 made its first test flight on 30 April 1919.
World War I had ended in November 1918, before the completion of the four Curtiss NCs. Then in 1919, with several of the new floatplanes in its possession, the officers in charge of the U.S. Navy decided to demonstrate the capability of the seaplanes with a transatlantic flight. However it was necessary to schedule refueling and repair stops that were also for crewmen's meals and sleep and rest breaks — since these Curtiss NCs were quite slow in flight. For example, the flight between Newfoundland and the Azores required many hours of night flight because it could not be completed in one day.
The U.S. Navy's transatlantic flight expedition began on 8 May 1919. The NC-4 started out in the company of two other Curtiss NCs, the NC-1 and the NC-3 (with the NC-2 having been cannibalized for spare parts to repair the NC-1 before this group of planes had even left New York City). The three aircraft left from Naval Air Station Rockaway,with intermediate stops at the Chatham Naval Air Station, Massachusetts, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, before flying on to Trepassey, Newfoundland, on 15 May. Eight U.S. Navy warships were stationed along the northern East Coast of the United States and Atlantic Canada to help the Curtiss NCs in navigation and to rescue their crewmen in case of any emergency.
The "base ship", or the flagship for all of the Navy ships that had been assigned to support the flight of the Curtiss NCs, was the former minelayer USS Aroostook, which the Navy had converted into a seaplane tender just before the flight of the Curtiss NCs. With a displacement of just over 3,000 tons, Aroostook was larger than the Navy's destroyers that had been assigned to support the transatlantic flight in 1919. Before the Curtiss NCs took off from New York City, Aroostook had been sent to Trepassey, Newfoundland, to await their arrival there, and then provide refueling, relubrication, and maintenance work on the NC-1, NC-3 and NC-4. Next, she steamed across the Atlantic meet the group when they arrived in England.
On 16 May, the three Curtiss NCs departed on the longest leg of their journey, from Newfoundland to the Azores Islands in the mid-Atlantic. Twenty-two more Navy ships, mostly destroyers, were stationed at about 50-mile (80 km) spacings along this route. These "station ships" were brightly illuminated during the nighttime. Their sailors blazed their searchlights into the sky, and they also fired bright star shells into the sky to help the aviators to stay on their planned flight path.
After flying all through the night and most of the next day, the NC-4 reached the town of Horta on Faial Island in the Azores on the following afternoon, having flown about 1,200 miles (1,900 km). It had taken the crewmen 15 hours, 18 minutes, to fly this leg. The NCs encountered thick fog banks along the route. Both the NC-1 and the NC-3 were forced to land on the open Atlantic Ocean because the poor visibility and loss of a visual horizon made flying extremely dangerous. NC-1 was damaged landing in the rough seas and could not become airborne again. NC-3 had mechanical problems.
The crewmen of the NC-1, including future Admiral Marc Mitscher, were rescued by the Greek cargo ship SS Ionia. This ship took the NC-1 in tow, but it sank three days later and was lost in deep water.
The pilots of the NC-3, including future Admiral Jack Towers, taxied their floatplane some 200 nautical mile s (370 km; 230 mi) to reach the Azores, where it was taken in tow by a U.S. Navy ship.
Three days after arriving in the Azores, on 20 May, the NC-4 took off again bound for Lisbon, but it suffered mechanical problems, and its pilots had to land again at Ponta Delgada, São Miguel Island, Azores, having flown only about 150 miles (240 km). After several days of delays for spare parts and repairs, the NC-4 took off again on 27 May. Once again there were station ships of the Navy to help with navigation, especially at night. There were 13 warships arranged along the route between the Azores and Lisbon. The NC-4 had no more serious problems, and it landed in Lisbon harbor after a flight of nine hours, 43 minutes. Thus, the NC-4 become the first aircraft of any kind to fly across the Atlantic Ocean – or any of the other oceans. By flying from Massachusetts and Halifax to Lisbon, the NC-4 also flew from mainland-to-mainland of North America and Europe. Note: the seaplanes were hauled ashore for maintenance work on their engines.
The part of this flight just from Newfoundland to Lisbon had taken a total time 10 days and 22 hours, but with the actual flight time totaling just 26 hours and 46 minutes.
The "NC-4" later flew on to England, arriving in Plymouth on 31 May to great fanfare,having taken 23 days for the flight from Newfoundland to Great Britain. For the final flight legs – from Lisbon to Ferrol, Spain, and then from Ferrol to Plymouth – 10 more U.S. Navy warships were stationed along the route. A total of 53 U.S. Navy ships had been stationed along the route from New York City to Plymouth.
Most of the flight route taken by the NC-4 was indicated on the map of the North Atlantic published by Flight magazine on 29 May 1919, while the NC-4 was still on the mainland of Portugal.
The feat of making the first transatlantic flight was somewhat eclipsed shortly afterward by the first nonstop transatlantic flight of some kind by John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown in a Vickers Vimy biplane, when they flew from Newfoundland to Ireland nonstop on 14–15 June 1919, in 16 hours and 27 minutes. Consequently, Alcock and Brown won a prize of £10,000 offered by the newspaper, Daily Mail , which had been first announced in 1913, and then renewed in 1918, to "the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States, Canada, or Newfoundland to any point in Great Britain or Ireland, in 72 consecutive hours."The conditions also stipulated that "only one aircraft may be used for each attempt." Hence, there was no possibility of changing to a fresh aircraft in Iceland, Greenland, the Azores, and beyond.
Alcock and Brown also made their flight nonstop, even though this was not specified in the rules given by the Daily Mail. Conceivably, any aviators could have made stops on Iceland, Greenland, or the Azores along the way for refueling, as long as they completed the entire flight within 72 hours. The rule that "only one aircraft may be used" eliminated the possibility of having fresh aircraft, with their fuel tanks already topped off, and new oil in their crankcase(s), waiting for the pilot or pilots to change from one exhausted airplane to a fresh one.
The Curtiss NCs were never entered into the above competition – because the U.S. Navy never planned for their flight to be completed in fewer than 72 hours.
The crewmen of the NC-4 were Albert Cushing Read, the commander and navigator; Walter Hinton and Elmer Fowler Stone (Coast Guard Aviator #1), the two pilots; James L. Breese and Eugene S. Rhoads,the two flight engineers; and Herbert C. Rodd, the radio operator. Earlier, E.H. Howard had been chosen to go as one of the flight engineers, but on 2 May, Howard lost a hand in misjudging his distance from a whirling propeller. Consequently, he was replaced by Rhoads in the crew.
After arriving at Plymouth, England, the crewmen of the NC-4, who had been reunited with the crewmen of the less-successful NC-1 and NC-3, went by train to London, and there they received a tumultuous welcome. Next, they visited Paris, France, to be lionized again.
The NC-4 was dismantled in Plymouth, and then loaded onto USS Aroostook, the base ship for the Curtiss NC's transatlantic flight, for the return journey to the United States. Aroostook arriving in New York Harbor on 2 July 1919.
Following the return of all three of the aircrews on board the ocean liner USS Zeppelin, a goodwill tour of the East Coast of the United States and the Gulf Coast of the Southern States was carried out by the aircrew.
On 9 February 1929, Congress passed Public Law 70-714 (45 Stat. 1157), awarding Congressional Gold Medals to Lt. Commander John H. Towers for "conceiving, organizing, and commanding the first trans-Atlantic flight", and the six men of the flight crew "for their extraordinary achievement in making the first successful trans-Atlantic flight, in the United States naval flying boat NC-4, in May 1919."The Navy created a military decoration known as the NC-4 Medal .
It is very rare that a Congressional Gold Medal in miniature form be authorized for wear on a naval or military uniform.
The NC-4 is property of the Smithsonian Institution, since it was given to that institution by the Navy after its return home. However, this aircraft was too large to be housed in either the older Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building in Washington, D.C., or in its successor, the 1976-completed National Air and Space Museum main building, also in Washington. A smaller model of the NC-4 is kept in the Milestones of Flight Gallery in the National Air and Space Museum, a place of honor, along with the original Wright Flyer of 1903; Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis of 1927; Chuck Yeager's Glamorous Glennis X-1 rocket plane of 1947, and an X-15 rocket aircraft. As of 1974, the reassembled NC-4 is on loan from the Smithsonian to the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.
Data from Curtiss Aircraft 1907–1947
Frederick Ellsworth Bigelow (1873–1929), famous for the "Our Director March", wrote a march called "The NC4" dedicated to the men of the NC4.
A seaplane is a powered fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off and landing (alighting) on water. Seaplanes that can also take off and land on airfields are in a subclass called amphibious aircraft. Seaplanes and amphibians are usually divided into two categories based on their technological characteristics: floatplanes and flying boats; the latter are generally far larger and can carry far more. These aircraft were sometimes called hydroplanes, but currently this term applies instead to motor-powered watercraft that use the technique of hydrodynamic lift to skim the surface of water when running at speed.
Transatlantic crossings are passages of passengers and cargo across the Atlantic Ocean between Europe or Africa and the Americas. The majority of passenger traffic is across the North Atlantic between Western Europe and North America. Centuries after the dwindling of sporadic Viking trade with Markland, a regular and lasting transatlantic trade route was established in 1566 with the Spanish West Indies fleets, following the Voyages of Christopher Columbus.
British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight in June 1919. They flew a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. The Secretary of State for Air, Winston Churchill, presented them with the Daily Mail prize for the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by aeroplane in "less than 72 consecutive hours". A small amount of mail was carried on the flight, making it the first transatlantic airmail flight. The two aviators were awarded the honour of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) a week later by King George V at Windsor Castle.
This is a list of aviation-related events from 1927:
This is a list of aviation-related events from 1919:
Captain Sir John William "Jack" Alcock was a Royal Navy and later Royal Air Force officer who, with navigator Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown, piloted the first non-stop transatlantic flight from St. John's, Newfoundland to Clifden, Connemara, Ireland. He died in a flying accident in France in 1919.
Walter T. Hinton was a United States aviator.
Albert Cushing Read, Sr. was an aviator and Rear Admiral in the United States Navy. He made the first transatlantic flight in the NC-4 Curtiss flying boat.
Elmer "Archie" Fowler Stone was a United States naval aviator and a commander in the United States Coast Guard.
John Henry Towers was a United States Navy admiral and pioneer naval aviator. He made important contributions to the technical and organizational development of naval aviation from its beginnings, eventually serving as Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics (1939–1942). He commanded carrier task forces during World War II, and retired in December 1947. He and Marc Mitscher were the only early Naval Aviation pioneers to survive the hazards of early flight to remain with naval aviation throughout their careers. He was the first naval aviator to achieve flag rank and was the most senior advocate for naval aviation during a time when the Navy was dominated by battleship admirals. Towers spent his last years supporting aeronautical research and advising the aviation industry.
The NC-4 Medal is a military decoration that was authorized by the United States Congress in 1929 to commemorate the 1919 trans-Atlantic crossing by the members of the NC-4 mission. Originally awarded as a non-wearable table medal, in 1935 a wearable version of the medal was subsequently authorized. A commemorative medal, the NC-4 Medal was a one-time award, and does not currently appear on U.S. Navy award precedence charts.
USS Aroostook (ID-1256/CM-3/AK-44) was the Eastern Steamship Company's Bunker Hill converted for planting the World War I North Sea Mine Barrage. Bunker Hill was built in 1907 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for passenger service between Boston and New York City. Bunker Hill and her sister ship Massachusetts were among the eight ships acquired by the U.S. Navy in November 1917. The two coastal passenger steamers were converted to minelayers at the Boston Navy Yard.
Holden Chester Richardson, was a decorated officer in the United States Navy with the rank of captain. He is most noted as a pioneer in United States naval aviation.
The first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic was made by the Portuguese naval aviators Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral in 1922, to mark the centennial of Brazil's independence. Coutinho and Cabral flew in stages from Lisbon, Portugal, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, using three different Fairey III biplanes, and covered a distance of 8,383 kilometres (5,209 mi) between March 30 and June 17. Although the North Atlantic had already been traversed in a non-stop flight by John Alcock and Arthur Brown in 1919, Coutinho and Cabral's flight remains notable as a milestone in transatlantic aviation, and for its use of new technologies such as the artificial horizon.
Aviation in the Azores is part of the greater history of aviation in Portugal, and involves the historical use of the archipelago of the Azores by North American, South American and European pioneers of aviation. The Azores is strategically located in the centre of the North Atlantic Ocean between the continents of North America and Europe, and has played a historical role in trans-Atlantic navigation. The three primary airfields of the Azores are:
David Hugh McCulloch was an early American aviator who worked with Glenn Curtiss from 1912. Curtiss, was a contemporary and competitor to the Wright Bros, Wilbur and Orville, who had made the first flights at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Curtiss won the worlds first air race at Reims in France in August 1909, and was now becoming the driving force in American aviation. McCulloch's early work with Curtiss consisted of demonstrating, training and selling Curtiss planes and participating in early developments of flight. He trained the First Yale Unit, and in two consecutive days in 1917, he and several of his pupils from the First Yale Unit made flights that convinced the Navy to bring aircraft aboard ships. Later, McCulloch was co-pilot with Holden C. Richardson and flight commander John Henry Towers of the NC-3, the leader of the three Navy flying boats making the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
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