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The NC-4, a United States Navy flying boat constructed in 1918 by the Glenn Curtiss Company, was the first aircraft ever to complete a successful flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike the epic solo flight of Charles A. Lindbergh some eight years later, the crossing of the NC-4 was not made nonstop but, rather, was achieved in a kind of hop, skip and a jump that required almost two weeks to complete.
The NC (Navy Curtiss) flying boats were produced after Rear Admiral David Taylor, then the Navy's chief of construction and repair, determined in 1917 that the United States needed a seaplane capable of flying across the Atlantic to strike at German U-boats in European coastal waters. In less than a year, Curtiss turned out the first of his remarkably advanced craft.
The NC flying boats, which carried a five-man crew, featured a highly efficient, streamlined fuselage (actually a hull) that proved to be exceptionally seaworthy. Powered by four 12-cylinder, 400-horsepower Liberty engines, the NC-4 was a biplane with a box-like, tail assembly that was mounted on outrigger booms extending aft from the hull and upper wing.
In May 1919, three Curtiss flying boats--the NC1,NC-3 and NC-4--took off from Newfoundland, and headed for the Port of Horta in the Azores, nearly 1,400 air miles to the southeast. Their ultimate destination was Plymouth, England. To assist the three flight crews in navigating their way across the open ocean, a fleet of nearly 70 U.S. Navy destroyers was deployed at 50-mile intervals along their route.
Of the three planes, only the NC-4--under the command of Lieutenant Commander Albert Read--made it safely into Horta. From there it flew on to Lisbon, Portugal and finally landed at Plymouth, England on May 31.
Both the NC- I and NC-3 were forced down at sea in a heavy
fog some 200 miles west of the Azores. The NC-1 foundered and sank after its crew had been
picked up by a passing Greek freighter. However, the NC-3 under Commander John
Towers, who was in charge of the entire operation, was more fortunate. Towers and his men
rigged a mast and sailed the NC-3 safely into Horta harbor.
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.
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Updated: March 12, 2004