Thor Solberg

Last updated
Loening C-2-C Air Yacht used by Thor Solberg and Paul Oscanyon. (Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology) Loening Solberg.jpg
Loening C-2-C Air Yacht used by Thor Solberg and Paul Oscanyon. (Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology)

Thor Solberg (March 28, 1893 – February 26, 1967) was a Norwegian-born aviation pioneer who made the first successful flight from the United States of America to Norway in 1935. [1] [2] He made the journey, which started in New York City, in an open-cockpit single-engine aircraft with no landing instruments. For this reason, he was restricted to an altitude of 1,000 to 10,000 feet (300 to 3,050 m). [1] Solberg also founded the Solberg-Hunterdon Airport in New Jersey.

New Jersey U.S. state in the United States

New Jersey is a state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is a peninsula, bordered on the north and east by the state of New York; on the east, southeast, and south by the Atlantic Ocean; on the west by the Delaware River and Pennsylvania; and on the southwest by the Delaware Bay and Delaware. New Jersey is the fourth-smallest state by area but the 11th-most populous, with 9 million residents as of 2017, making it the most densely populated of the 50 U.S. states with its biggest city being Newark. New Jersey lies completely within the combined statistical areas of New York City and Philadelphia. New Jersey was the second-wealthiest U.S. state by median household income as of 2017.


Early life

Thor Simonsen Solberg was born on his family's farm (Solberg på Årebrot) at Florø in Sogn og Fjordane, Norway. [3] [4] He had ten brothers and sisters, including Halfdan and Lars Solberg. [3] [5] Solberg was interested in motors and aviation from an early age and was a "daring" motorcyclist in his youth. He was also interested in artistic picture framing in his youth. [6] [7] Solberg participated in a number of motorcycling speed events during his early years. He also rode from Oslo to Paris in 48 hours in 1923. [3]

Florø Former Municipality

Florø  is a town and the administrative centre of Flora Municipality in Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway. The town was founded by royal decree in 1860 as a ladested on the island of Florelandet, located between the Botnafjorden and Solheimsfjorden. Florø is Norway's westernmost town—west of Amsterdam, Brussels, and Nice. It is the most western town on the mainland in the Nordic countries.

Sogn og Fjordane County (fylke) of Norway

Sogn og Fjordane is a county in western Norway, bordering Møre og Romsdal, Oppland, Buskerud, and Hordaland. The county administration is in the village of Hermansverk in Leikanger municipality. The largest town in the county is Førde.

Oslo Capital of Norway

Oslo is the capital and most populous city of Norway. It constitutes both a county and a municipality. Founded in the year 1040 as Ánslo, and established as a kaupstad or trading place in 1048 by Harald Hardrada, the city was elevated to a bishopric in 1070 and a capital under Haakon V of Norway around 1300. Personal unions with Denmark from 1397 to 1523 and again from 1536 to 1814 reduced its influence. After being destroyed by a fire in 1624, during the reign of King Christian IV, a new city was built closer to Akershus Fortress and named Christiania in the king's honour. It was established as a municipality (formannskapsdistrikt) on 1 January 1838. The city functioned as a co-official capital during the 1814 to 1905 Union between Sweden and Norway. In 1877, the city's name was respelled Kristiania in accordance with an official spelling reform – a change that was taken over by the municipal authorities only in 1897. In 1925 the city, after incorporating the village retaining its former name, was renamed Oslo.

Early flying career

Solberg received his pilot's training in Germany in the years following World War I. He took a pilot's license in 1919 and became one of Norway's aviation pioneers. [6]

World War I 1914–1918 global war starting in Europe

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 resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Solberg, inspired by aviators such as Charles Lindbergh, was to be the first person to fly from Norway to the United States solo, receiving some aid and advice from Roald Amundsen. [3] [4] [6]

Charles Lindbergh American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist

Charles Augustus Lindbergh was an American aviator, military officer, author, inventor, explorer, and environmental activist, and a spokesperson for the American First Committee. At age 25 in 1927, he went from obscurity as a U.S. Air Mail pilot to instantaneous world fame by winning the Orteig Prize: making a nonstop flight from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, to Paris, France. Lindbergh covered the ​33 12-hour, 3,600-statute-mile (5,800 km) flight alone in a single-engine purpose-built Ryan monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis.

Roald Amundsen Norwegian polar researcher, who was the first to reach the South Pole

Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer of polar regions and a key figure of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. He led the first expedition to traverse the Northwest Passage in 1906 and the first expedition to the South Pole in 1911. He led the first expedition proven to have reached the North Pole in 1926. He disappeared while taking part in a rescue mission for the airship Italia in 1928.

Solberg lived in the United States from 1925 or 1928. Upon arriving in the United States, Solberg worked at various jobs, such as proprietor of an art studio and picture framing store in Brooklyn, while planning his flight. [4] [6] Solberg flew over much of the United States in his Bellanca CH-200 Pacemaker while preparing for the flight. [3]

Brooklyn Borough in New York City and county in New York state, United States

Brooklyn is a borough of New York City coterminous with Kings County, the most populous county in the U.S. state of New York and the second-most densely populated county in the United States. It is New York City's most populous borough, with an estimated 2,504,700 residents in 2010. Named after the Dutch village of Breukelen, it borders the borough of Queens at the western end of Long Island. Brooklyn has several bridge and tunnel connections to the borough of Manhattan across the East River, and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connects it with Staten Island.

Flight to Norway

In preparation for his flight to Norway, Solberg practiced blind flying, studied his route, and created his own maps of it. He received financial and technical support from two of his brothers, Bernt Balchen, and several other people. [3]

Bernt Balchen aviation pioneer and United States Army officer (1899-1973)

Bernt Balchen was a Norwegian pioneer polar aviator, navigator, aircraft mechanical engineer and military leader. A Norwegian native, he later became a U.S. citizen, and was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross. His service in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II made use of his Arctic exploration expertise to help the Allies over Scandinavia and Northern Europe. After the war, Balchen continued to be an influential leader with the U.S. Air Force, as well as a highly regarded private consultant in projects involving the Arctic and aviation.

After managing to convince the Enna Jettick Shoe Company to fund his flight, Solberg made his first attempt to fly from the United States to Norway with Carl Petersen in a Bellanca K, named Enna Jettick, (formerly Roma from a failed US to Italy flight), on August 23, 1932, but that attempt failed. They encountered fog and snow near Newfoundland and were forced to make a crash landing. Shortly afterwards, they were rescued by nearby fishing boats. [8]

On July 18, 1935, Solberg made a second attempt with a different plane, an amphibious single-engine Loening C-2-C Air Yacht that he named Liev Eiriksson . On this flight, Paul C. Oscanyan, who had worked for Eastern Airlines, joined the flight as radio operator. [9] They departed from Floyd-Bennett Field and made four stops at locations between the United States and Norway before landing in Norway on 16 August 1935 after passing through Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Bergen. [6] [7] [8] [8] Solberg's course roughly followed the path that Leif Erikson's voyage took. [10] Upon his arrival in Norway, the King of Norway gave Solberg a gold medal. [1]

Later flying career

In 1939, Solberg founded the Solberg-Hunterdon Airport in central New Jersey. [11] In 1941, he received permission from the Readington Township Committee to operate a commercial airport. The airport was also used as a training facility during World War II where Solberg trained approximately 5,000 aviators. Solberg Airport was also used to train pilots for Pan American World Airways. [2]

Personal life, death, and legacy

Solberg was a Knight of the Order of St. Olav. [6] He was also a notable member of the Norsemen Lodge, an organization which was composed of people of Norwegian birth or descent. Additionally, he was a life member of the Explorers' Club in New York. [7]

Solberg died in Branchburg, New Jersey at the age of 73 and was buried at the churchyard in Florø. [4]


See also

Related Research Articles

General aviation civil use of aircraft excluding commercial transportation

General Aviation (GA) represents the private transport and recreational flying component of aviation, as well as the manufacturing or building process of those aircraft.

Readington Township, New Jersey Township in New Jersey, United States

Readington Township is a township located in the easternmost portion of Hunterdon County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township's population was 16,126, reflecting an increase of 323 (+2.0%) from the 15,803 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 2,403 (+17.9%) from the 13,400 counted in the 1990 Census.

1912 in aviation

This is a list of aviation-related events from 1912:

This is a list of aviation-related events from 1970:

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.

Little Norway military training camp in Canada

Little Norway, officially Flyvåpnenes Treningsleir, was a Norwegian Army Air Service/Royal Norwegian Air Force training camp in southern Ontario during the Second World War.

Compass Airlines (North America) American regional airline

Compass Airlines, LLC, is a regional airline headquartered in Delta Air Lines Building C at Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport in Fort Snelling, Hennepin County, Minnesota; prior to December 16, 2009, it was headquartered in unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia, United States, east of the Chantilly CDP. The airline launched inaugural service with a single Bombardier CRJ200LR aircraft under the Northwest Airlink brand between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Washington, D.C. on May 2, 2007. On August 21, 2007, it began flying two Embraer 175 76-passenger aircraft, and expanded to 36 aircraft by December 2008.

Florø Airport airport in Flora, Norway

Florø Airport is a regional airport serving Florø in Flora, Norway. It is situated on the southern shore of the island of Florelandet, adjacent to the town center. Owned and operated by the state-owned Avinor, it features a 1,264-meter (4,147 ft) runway aligned 07/25. The airport had 201,686 passengers in 2014, making it the busiest regional airport in the country.

Sogndal Airport, Haukåsen airport in Sogndal Municipality, Norway

Sogndal Airport, Haukåsen is a regional airport serving Sogndal, Norway. It is situated at Haukåsen, 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) from Kaupanger and 20 kilometers (12 mi) from Sogndalsfjøra. It serves the Sogn district. The airport consists of a 1,180-meter (3,870 ft) runway aligned 06/24. Services are provided by Widerøe on public service obligation with the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The airport is owned and operated by the state-owned Avinor and served 70,244 passengers in 2014.

Tønsberg Airport, Jarlsberg airport in Sem, Norway

Tønsberg Airport, Jarlsberg is a general aviation airport located at Sem in Tønsberg, Norway. It consists of a 799-by-18-meter asphalted runway and a 900-meter (3,000 ft) taxiway. Jarlsberg is used for a variety of activities, including glider pilots, light and microlight aircraft, radio-controlled aircraft, parachuting and the annual air show Wings & Wheels. The airport is owned by Thor Solberg Aviation and operated by Jarlsberg Luftsportssenter.

Fjellfly was a Norwegian airline which operated between 1954 and 1972. The airline was based at Skien Airport, Geiteryggen and diverse range of general aviation activities and a limited scheduled services. Major undertakings included deliveries of the newspaper Dagbladet, flying tourists into mountainous areas such as Hardangervidda and crop dusted forest areas. A scheduled service was introduced from Skien to Oslo Airport, Fornebu in 1963, and extended to Sandefjord Airport, Torp and Hamar Airport, Stafsberg four years later. At its peak in 1965, the airline had a fleet of fourteen aircraft.

Ørsta–Volda Airport, Hovden airport in Norway

Ørsta–Volda Airport, Hovden is a regional airport situated at Hovden (Hovdebygda), in Ørsta, Norway, midway between the towns of Ørsta and Volda. The airport features a 1,070-meter (3,510 ft) asphalt runway aligned 06/24. Services are provided by Widerøe using their de Havilland Canada Dash 8 as a public service obligation. Owned and operated by the state-owned Avinor, the airport handled 121,021 passengers in 2014.

Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker

The Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker was a six-seat utility aircraft, built primarily in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. It was a development of the Bellanca CH-200, fitted with a more powerful engine and, like the CH-200, soon became renowned for its long-distance endurance.

Solberg–Hunterdon Airport airport in New Jersey, United States of America

Solberg–Hunterdon Airport, also known as Solberg Airport is located in Readington Township, New Jersey, United States.

Loening C-2

The Loening C-2 Air Yacht was an amphibious airliner produced in the United States at the end of the 1920s, developed from the OL observation aircraft the firm was producing for the US military. It was a two-bay biplane of unconventional design, with a tall, narrow fuselage that nearly filled the interplane gap. The pilot sat in an open cockpit at the top of the fuselage, with the engine mounted in front of them. Underneath the fuselage was a long "shoehorn"-style float, that extended forward underneath the engine and propeller. Four to six passengers could be accommodated in a fully enclosed cabin within the fuselage. The main units of the undercarriage retracted into wells in the sides of the fuselage. Stabilising floats were fitted against the undersides of the lower wing.

Readington Village, New Jersey Unincorporated community in New Jersey, United States

Readington Village is an unincorporated community located within Readington Township in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, United States, that is centered on the converging of Readington Road, Hillcrest Road, Centerville Road and Brookview Road. It is located on Holland Brook, originally named Amanmechunk, which means large creek in the Unami dialect. The area was inhabited by the Raritan prior to the arrival of European settlers. The Native Americans who lived near Readington Village travelled to the coast during the summer for fish and clams. Such a trip is mentioned in an Indian deed transferring lands around Holland Brook to English and Dutch settlers. The deed mentions two of the natives, who lived at Readington: Metamisco and Wataminian.

Aviation in Delaware

The history of aviation in Delaware begins with the first aeronautical event of the flight of Robie Seidelinger in an aircraft of his own design, the Delaplane, on 21 October 1910 at Wawaset Park, Wilmington.

Ernest H. Buehl Sr. (1897-1990) was a German-born aviator and aviation figure. He opened three airports and trained hundreds of pilots, including C. Alfred Anderson, who became the lead trainer of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Trondheim Airport, Jonsvatnet

Trondheim Airport, Jonsvatnet was a water aerodrome located at Valset on the lake of Jonsvatnet in Trondheim, Norway. The airport was built as the first permanent airport serving Trondheim and initially was used for Norwegian Air Lines' (DNL) routes which commenced in 1935. Ahead of the 1936 season the airport was equipped with permanent installations, including wharfs and a small terminal building. In 1937 the airport was used by Widerøe, before DNL returned the following year.


  1. 1 2 3 Curtis Leeds (September 19, 2010), "75 years after his Dad did it, Thor Solberg of Readington Twp. will retrace his path flying to Norway", The Hunterdon County Democrat , retrieved April 16, 2015
  2. 1 2 Meg Goldewski (June 29, 2014), "KN51 in the middle of a tug of war", General Aviation News , retrieved April 16, 2015
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Henry Goddard Leach (1936), The American-Scandinavian Review, Volume 24, p. 58
  4. 1 2 3 4 Henry Goddard Leach (1960s), The American-Scandinavian Review, Volumes 54–55 , retrieved April 19, 2015
  5. Rob Mulder (June 16, 2010), Thor Solberg and his expeditions , retrieved April 16, 2015
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 The Norseman, 1966, p. 51, retrieved April 19, 2015
  7. 1 2 3 A.N. Rygg, Full text of "Norwegians in New York, 1825–1925" , retrieved April 19, 2015
  8. 1 2 3 Joshua Stoff (2013), Transatlantic Flight: A Picture History, 1873–1939, ISBN   9780486148007 , retrieved April 19, 2015
  9. Rob Mulder (June 16, 2010). "Thor Solberg and his expeditions". Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  10. Silver commemorative spoon; Thor Solberg , retrieved April 19, 2015
  11. "Not In My Backyard", Flying , Flying Magazine, p. 45, July 2000, retrieved April 19, 2015
  12. "Thor Solberg statue". Florø Lufthamn (Airport. Retrieved March 25, 2016.