National Geographic : 1927 Sep
OUR TRANSATLANTIC FLIGHT BY COMMANDER RICHARD EVELYN BYRD, U. S. NAVY (RET.) AUTHOR OF "FLYING OVER THE ARCTIC" AND "THE FIRST FLIGHT TO THE NORTH POLE," IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE The National Geographic Society is privileged to present to its membership the first magazine story from the pen of Commander Richard E. Byrd, leader of the "America's" historicand dauntless flight from New York to France. Members also will recall that THE GEOGRAPHIC presented the first accounts of his Arctic flights under their Society's auspices and of his aerial conquest of the Pole. Commander Byrd and his gallant companions have performed a signal service to aviation science and are receiving the well-merited acclaim of the Nation. To give his thrilling message to The Society's membership without delay necessitated its appear ance in the last pages of this issue.-THE EDITOR. IT LONG has been my ambition to at tempt a transatlantic flight for two rea sons: to help the progress of aviation and, in a small way, to further interna tional amity. When the America was christened the French and American flags were flown to gether. Before the christening, 2,000 peo ple gathered about the plane. As we mounted the speakers' platform I was told that Col. Charles A. Lindbergh had reached Paris. So we turned our christening into a celebration of Lindbergh's triumph. Thus I was the first man to make a speech about his remarkable achievement (page 349). Lindbergh did more for international re lations than we thought possible and so we were glad that he got there first. FLIGHT NOT PLANNED AS A RACE A good-will flight had been for years the dream of our backer, Mr. Rodman Wanamaker. We bore friendly messages to foreign officials and, as a gift to the French Republic from Mr. Wanamaker, we carried one of our most precious relics, a piece of the bunting from which was made the original American flag. As we had repeatedly announced, we were in no race. Even had we been, we were completely out of the running when our plane crashed on the factory test. Floyd Bennett, who worked with me in planning the flight, was desperately injured, through no fault of his own, and now, months later, is still in the hospital. His great ambition to cross the Atlantic was shat tered as was his body, but not his indomi table courage (see illustration, page 353). Bennett and I worked as a team. It was broken, but Floyd said, "It is our duty to see this flight through." He was right, so we repaired my broken arm and the Amer ica and it rose again to show itself the great plane we thought it was, typical of the transatlantic craft of the future. We were anxious to establish certain scientific facts. We thought that the trans atlantic plane of the future must be a multi-engine one that would fly with one of the engines out of commission. That would give the degree of safety necessary for taking passengers across the Atlantic. We also wanted to demonstrate that it is possible to carry a useful load of 500 or 600oo pounds, three or four people, and an efficient radio. As a matter of fact, the America could transport eight or nine peo ple to France in addition to the useful load. Other pioneers, however, must follow these three successful flights. I believe that in ten years regular transatlantic flights will be made. It is possible now to build a large plane, with twice the wing spread of the Amer ica, that will transport 15 passengers and three or four times the useful load we car ried. Many problems confronted us when we started our preparations. No one knew what the cruising radius of a huge, three engine plane such as ours would be. But should one of the engines stop on the America, when lifting a very heavy load, we could with our dump valve let gasoline go overboard until the total weight of the plane would be 1o,ooo pounds. Then it would have a cruising radius of about 1,200 miles with the two engines. The advantage of this type of plane for flying over the ocean is apparent.