Vimy to recreate first transatlantic flight

“Yesterday I was in America, and I am the first man in Europe to say that!”

John Alcock said that, shortly after landing a World War I-era Vickers Vimy bomber in Ireland on June 15, 1919. He and Arthur Brown had left St. John’s, Newfoundland, a mere 16 hours and 12 minutes earlier.

If all goes well, another Vimy – this one a replica – will take off from St. John’s toward Ireland sometime between June 3 and 20, depending on weather and a lot of other factors.

The airplane already has replicated the historic first flights from England to Australia, which also was made in 1919, and from London to Cape Town, South Africa, which was flown in 1920. The Atlantic crossing will replicate the third of the Vimy’s great first flights.

The Vickers Vimy bomber was used by the British in World War I. Less than a year after that war ended, a Vimy made the first two of three famous flights, inspiring the development of long-range aviation in a world that still saw no practical purpose for manned flight.

In 1992, Peter McMillan organized a team to build an authentic Vimy replica, specifically to recreate those inspiring flights.

Construction, from start to FAA certification, took 17 months and some 25,000 man hours. It has been flying since 1994, making the cover of “National Geographic” magazine following its astonishing, 15,000-mile flight from England to Australia and again after its 9,000-mile flight to South Africa.

The airplane is intended, says McMillan, to “inspire the pioneers of tomorrow by providing a vivid reminder that only the brave and imaginative make progress – never the critics and skeptics.”

As this issue goes to press, the Vimy had left its home in California and reached Oshkosh, Wis.

To follow its adventure, day by day, go to Vimy.org.

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