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Late in the First World War, the British rushed  into production a twin-engined heavy bomber with which it hoped to pound enemy fortifications at the front and German factories behind the Rhine.  The plane, designed by R.K. Pierson and built by the Vickers Company, was called the Vickers Vimy.  And although the rugged, if ungainly, Vimy became operational too late to see combat, it entered the annals of aviation history in 1919 when it became first aircraft to complete a nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

By standard of its day, the Vimy was a large aircraft. Although it required only a two-man crew, the plane weighed about 13,000 pounds when fully loaded.  Its wings spanned more than 69 feet, and its length was about 43 feet. It was normally powered by two 12-cylinder, 350 horsepower Rolls-Royce engines driving four bladed wooden propellers that measured almost  ten and a half feet in diameter.

In 1913 the London Daily Mail had offered a 10,000-pound prize for the first successful non-stop flight across Atlantic Ocean. At the end of  World War I the prize remained unclaimed.

    Then, late in the afternoon of June 14, 1919, a Vickers Vimy IV took off from a pasture near St.John's, Newfoundland, and headed eastward across the Atlantic.   Abroad were two officers of the Royal Firing Corps--Captain John Alcock, who served as pilot, and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten-Brown, navigator.  Also crammed aboard  the wood and fabric aircraft were some 865 gallons of highly explosive aviation gasoline.

All through that long and dismal night over the Atlantic, Alcock and Brown battled snow, ice, fog and fatigue, as the Vimy lumbered along between sea level and 12,000 feet at an average speed of about 118 miles per hour. Finally at 8:40 the following morning, the two aviators sighted the wireless station at Clifden, Ireland. A few minutes later, while attempting to land, the Vimy nosed over in a bog. Neither Alcock nor Brown was injured, although the aircraft itself was badly damaged.

Alcock and Brown had covered some 1,900 air miles nonstop in about 16 hours - and had won the Daily Mail prize. But, more importantly, they have conquered the ocean by air.

The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
Permission was granted to ALLSTAR by The Franklin Mint to use the preceding materials.
ALLSTAR maintains the copyright for the format in which the material is presented.

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Updated: March 12, 2004