In June 1919 British aviators, John (Jack) Alcock and Arthur (Teddy) Brown, made the first non-stop transatlantic flight in a modified World War I Vickers Vimy bomber and added the location of the First Transatlantic Flight Landing site to Clifden’s list of accolades.
They took off from St. John’s, Newfoundland, and landed in Clifden, creating history and ensuring that for generations, people would want to visit the First Transatlantic Flight Landing Site, near a small town, in Connemara, on the West coast of Ireland.
In April 1913, the London newspaper The Daily Mail offered a prize of £10,000 to “the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland and any point in Great Britain or Ireland” in 72 continuous hours”.
The competition was suspended with the outbreak of war in 1914 but reopened after Armistice was declared in 1918] Several teams had entered the competition. When Alcock and Brown arrived in St. John’s, , the Handley Page team were in the final stages of testing their aircraft for the flight. However, their leader, Admiral Mark Kerr, was determined not to take off until the plane was in perfect condition. The Vickers team quickly assembled their plane and at around 1:45 p.m. on 14 June, whilst the Handley Page team were conducting yet another test, the Vickers plane took off from Lester’s Field.
Alcock and Brown flew the modified Vickers Vimy, powered by two Rolls-Royce Eagle 360 hp engines. Their altitude varied between sea level and 12,000 ft (3,700 m) and upon take-off they carried 865 imperial gallons (3,900 litres) of fuel.
For part of the journey the airspeed indicator was out of action, probably due to being iced-up, and Brown had to make his own estimate of the speed for the purposes of dead reckoning.
They made landfall in Galway at 8:40 a.m. on 15 June 1919, not far from their intended landing place, after less than sixteen hours’ flying time. The aircraft was damaged upon arrival due to an attempt to land in what appeared from the air to be a suitable green field but which turned out to be a bog, near Clifden.
Thankfully neither of the airmen was hurt.
There are two memorials commemorating the flight are sited near the landing spot in County Galway, Ireland. The first is an isolated cairn four kilometres south of Clifden on the site of Marconi’s first transatlantic wireless station, from which the aviators transmitted their success to London.
This monument is around 500 metres from the actual location of the First Transatlantic Flight Landing Site.