Flying Across the Pond

By David Brown

The Vickers Vimy crossed the Atlantic non-stop in 1919. Two huge four-blade fixed-pitch wooden propellers absorb the power of the engines. The propellers have metal leading edges to combat ero-sion which plagued the early flyers when flying in rain, hail or dust-storms. The Vimy is a big aircraft. The pilot had only muscle power to help him control the air-craft. Physical endurance was a factor on these pioneering long-duration flights (David Brown)In this fast-paced and rapidly evolving world, it is sobering to reflect on the rapid progress in air transportation. It has been less than a century since we first crossed the Atlantic by air. I was reminded of this during a recent visit to the Brooklands Museum near London. The first non-stop airborne crossing of the Atlantic (known to Brits and others as the Pond) was by Alcock and Brown in June 1919. They were competing for, and won, a Daily Mail prize of 10,000 pounds for the first aerial crossing within consecutive 72 hours.  The aircraft they chose was a modified Vickers Vimy, bomb racks removed and replaced by long-range fuel tanks. It was a large biplane of wood and fabric construction, powered by two Rolls-Royce Eagle engines.  Alcock and Brown flew in 15 hours from St Johns, Newfoundland, to Clifden in County Galway, Ireland.

Fighting bad weather across the Atlantic, with limited navigational equipment (a compass and a sextant) Brown navigated them to Ireland. Their electrically-heated suits failed, but they prevailed. With their path barred by clouds, they climbed to 12,000 feet and battled on. They won the prize (presented to them by Winston Churchill) and were both subsequently knighted. Flying the Atlantic was a big deal in those days.

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Editorial: Privatization is on the Way

By Ed Downs


This editorial view underwent many changes in the writing process. Fortunately, readers are rescued from what began as an “angry rant” by the letter from aviation industry leaders, which is included in this editorial opinion. 

This writer listened carefully, and with an elevated level of concern, as President Trump assembled a group of supporters to surround him as he announced plans to modernize the FAA and Air Traffic Control system. This modernization includes “privatization,” a term yet to be defined in a manner that allows informed comment. But, this observer was very concerned that only airline executives, ATC union representatives, and politically appointed bureaucrats from the Department of Transportation were present to represent American Aviation. Lacking was any representation from the operational side of the FAA, business aviation, general aviation, or aviation product manufactures, the principle users of all class G and E airspace and more than 90 percent of this country’s public use airports. 

Also of concern were remarks that implied that airline delays and problems with airline service are all a matter of ATC inefficiencies and a total lack of modernization, with the current ATC structure being outmoded and dependent upon WWII technology. It was also stated that Canadian and European ATC models were considerably better than what we have in America, a glaring “apples to oranges” comparison. It can only be said, most kindly, that the words spoken by President Trump contained significant “misunderstandings,” possibly guided by large corporate and union entities that do not have the welfare of the National Airspace System at the core of their quest for “privatization.”

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