Thor Solberg

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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.

Contents

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]

Legacy

See also

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References

  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". europeanairlines.no. 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.