Thursday, 17 July 2008

Wrong Way Corrigan Day Memorialised!

I read this blog entry and was very amused. And of course, not having time right now to really delve into this, I found this instead:

Douglas Corrigan (January 22, 1907December 9, 1995) was an American aviator born in Galveston, Texas, nicknamed "Wrong Way". In 1938, after a transcontinental flight from Long Beach, California, to New York, he flew from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York, to Ireland, even though he was supposed to be returning to Long Beach. He claimed that his unauthorized flight was due to a navigational error, caused by heavy cloud cover that obscured landmarks and low-light conditions, causing him to misread his compass. Corrigan, however, was a skilled aircraft mechanic (he was one of the builders of Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis) and a habitual risk-taking maverick; he had made several modifications to his own plane, preparing it for transatlantic flight. Between 1935 and 1937, he applied several times, unsuccessfully, for permission to make a nonstop flight from New York to Ireland, and it is likely that his "navigational error" was a protest against government "red tape"; however, he never publicly acknowledged having flown to Ireland intentionally.

On 9 July 1938, Corrigan again left California for New York. He had repaired the engine (taking his total spend on the aircraft to about $900), gained an experimental licence, and obtained permission for a transcontinental flight with conditional consent for a return trip. With the Robin cruising at 85 miles per hour for maximum fuel efficiency, the outward journey took him 27 hours. Fuel efficiency became critical towards the end of the flight: a gasoline leak developed, filling the cockpit with fumes.

Upon his unannounced arrival in New York, in the midst of Howard Hughes' preparations for takeoff on a world tour, Corrigan decided that repairing the leak would take too long if he was to meet his schedule. His logged flight plan had him returning to California on July 17, but upon take off at 5:15 in the morning with 320 gallons of gasoline and 16 gallons of oil, he headed east from the 1,400-yard (1,300 m) runway of Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn and kept going.

He claimed to have noticed his "error" after flying for about 26 hours. This is not entirely consistent with his claim that after 10 hours, he felt his feet go cold; the cockpit floor was awash with gasoline leaking from the unrepaired tank. He used a screwdriver to punch a hole through the cockpit floor so that the fuel would drain away on the opposite side to the hot exhaust pipe, reducing the risk of a midair explosion. Had he been truly unaware that he was over ocean, it seems likely that he would have descended at this point; instead, he claimed to have increased the engine speed by almost 20% in the hope of decreasing his flight time.

He landed at Baldonnel Airfield, Dublin, on July 18, after a 28-hour, 13-minute flight. His provisions had been just two chocolate bars, two boxes of fig bars, and a quart of water.

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