Today Marks The 100th Anniversary Of Transatlantic Non Stop Flight

Today marks exactly 100 years since the first non-stop transatlantic flight crash-landed in a bog in Ireland. The flight, captained by John Alcock and Arthur Brown and powered by Rolls Royce was in response to a Daily Mail competition. This had a £10,000 reward.

Rolls Royce Alcock and Brown Transatlantic
Alcock and Brown completed the first transatlantic flight in a Vickers Vimy. Photo: Rolls Royce

By all accounts, the flight was not a fun one. Due to poor weather, the crew flew much of the flight not knowing where they were. In order to cope with the cold conditions of the open cockpit, they had to wear electrical jackets. However, the attempt was good enough for both the Daily Mail and the history books, with the pilots claiming the prize.

Newfoundland departure

The attempt to cross the Atlantic commenced on June 14th 1919. While the Daily Mail launched the competition in 1913, proceedings were put on hold due to the outbreak of the First World War. The flight departed from Lester’s Field in Newfoundland at 16:12 GMT.

Vickers Vimy
The aircraft used in the record-breaking attempt. Photo: Frank Munger via Rolls Royce

The flight was operated using a Vickers-Vimy, a biplane which had been converted from a bomber used in the war. Powered by Rolls Royce Eagle VII engines, the flight received as much technical support as possible from the manufacturer. This included some staff who were sent to the departure site to fine-tune the aircraft.

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A perilous flight

The flight across the Atlantic was a world away from the comforts found in an Airbus A380 crossing the ocean today. As the aircraft was an early biplane, the cockpit was open. In fact, the aircraft was flying at an average speed of 118 mph in front of a 28mph headwind.

Transatlantic Flight
The transatlantic flight was rather perilous. Photo: Mark Postlethwaite via Rolls Royce

Tied with the cool Atlantic, one would imagine it was rather chilly. Thankfully, the pilots had electrically heated coats to keep them warm. Accounts of the trip report that the pilots had to deal with snow, ice, and continuous fog.

A boggy crash landing

At 08:40 GMT after a 16-hour 28-minute flight, the aircraft touched down in Ireland. While the flight had intended to head to London, the duo decided to land early. This satisfied the requirements of the competition and would’ve stopped a rival from landing before they reached London.

Alcock and Brown
Unfortunately, the aircraft ended up crashing in a bog, however, the attempt was successful. Photo: Rolls Royce

Unfortunately, the site chosen by the duo turned out to be a bog, and as such, the aircraft tipped. Reporting on the flight, Alcock said “We have had a terrible journey. The wonder is we are here at all.” However, the men were viewed as heroes, having flown the first non-stop transatlantic flight.

Another 100 years of flight

Celebrating the milestone achievement, Alan Newby, Director of Aerospace Technology and Future Programmes at Rolls-Royce said: “It’s remarkable to think that since the first non-stop transatlantic flight, aviation has transformed how we live, opening up the world to billions of people.”

Rolls Royce
Over the next 100 years, Rolls Royce has their sights set on electrification. Photo: Rolls Royce

He went on to add “Now, we set our sights to the third generation of aviation. Just as Alcock and Brown pioneered civil aviation, the growth of electrification will form a new chapter in our history. We’ve set ourselves a demanding target: to build the fastest electric plane in history, and we’re aiming to power into the record books next year.”

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for aviation! What do you think is in store? Let us know in the comments!

2 comments
  1. I am so glad to see these two unsung heroes celebrated at last. You will find it difficult to find any serious website showing any homage to them.
    They flew in an open two seater Vimy bomber from St. John´s in Newfoundland non-stop to Clifden, Co. Galway in Ireland, through freezing conditions, fog and rain for just under 16 hours to reach the other side of the Atlantic.
    They flew 1890 miles or 3024 kms.
    Theirs was an accomplishment which was not bettered till 8 years later when Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris le Bourget, alone in 33.5 hrs. This is the more celebrated triumph but still the second.
    In those years many others flew across the Atlantic in hops or perished in the attempt. All should be remembered.

  2. I work at Preston Park Museum in the collection and we have just discovered a wheellock pistol owned by Louis XIII of France but also TK North who designed the Vickers Vimy so it’s a strange connection but it makes me think of how it connects to the story.

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