If you think the first flight across the Atlantic was Charles Lindbergh’s, think again.
His was the first solo flight. Two British aviators, Capt. John Alcock of the Royal Flying Corps and his navigator, Lt. Arthur Whitten Brown, did it in June of 1919.
This month, pilot Steve Fossett and navigator Mark Rebholz did it again, in a near-duplicate of the Vickers Vimy bomber flown by Alcock and Brown. Fossett and Rebholz took off from St. John’s, Newfoundland, around 7 p.m. July 2, in fog and heavy cloud cover under which most of the trip was flown. They landed at Clifden, Ireland, at 5:05 p.m. (local time) the following day. Their flight, like the one 86 years earlier, took almost exactly 16 hours.
Fossett and Rebholz had a somewhat better time of it than Alcock and Brown, though. The British team endured an ice storm along the way, and ended up nose-down on soft ground. Fossett and Rebholz had a good tailwind halfway across and landed neatly at the eighth hole of the Connemara golf course, recreating the 1919 flight almost exactly.
Navigation was by watch, compass and sextant – the tools of Alcock and Brown – which was made tricky by heavy clouds covering sun and stars.
Rebholz is a 747 captain for United Airlines. Fossett is well known for his record-setting adventures, including nonstop solo flights around the world in a balloon, then an airplane.