The year 1919 was memorable in the history of aviation for the first successful flight across the Atlantic, achieved by aviators of the United States Navy using NC flying boats, jointly developed by the United States Navy and the Curtiss Engineering Corporation, the N in the designation standing for navy and the C for Curtiss.
[ad#ad-1]These flying boats were able to plow through rough water up to a speed of 60 miles per hour, and then take to the air and fly at a speed of over 90 miles per hour. The hull or boat proper was 44 feet 9 inches in length by 10 ft. beam, with six water-tight compartments in which were the rest quarters, navigating compartment, gasoline tanks and space for the radio apparatus and its operator. A minimum crew consisted of five men, though under certain circumstances extra men could be carried for relief. The wings had a total area of 2380 square feet, while the tail had over 500 square feet area. It was different in design and construction from other seaplanes, being made up in the general form of a biplane. There were four Liberty engines mounted between the wings, each having a capacity of 400 horse power, so that when the full load of 28,500 pounds was carried, the weight is 17.5 pounds per horse power. There is a tractor propeller on each side of the centre line driven by an engine, and on the centre line itself the two remaining engines are mounted in tandem, the front one driving a tractor propeller and the rear engine a pusher propeller.
The principal dimensions and characteristics of the NC type of flying boat were as follows:
Top Speed: >90 m.p.h.
Engine: 4 Liberty Power 1,600 h.p. inline
Wingspan: 126 feet upper, 94 feet lower
Weight: loaded 28,500 lbs.
Armament: machine guns
Weight, empty 15,100 lbs. Useful load 13,400 lbs. Gravity tank 90 gals, capacity Fuel tanks 1,800 gals, capacity Oil tanks 160 gallon capacity
The NC type was developed following a conference between engineers of the U. S. Navy and the Curtiss Company held in November, 1917, at Washington, D. C., and in January of the following year a working model was tested in a wind tunnel, and the design was found practical. Machines were straightway put under construction, and in October, 1918, the NC-1 was given a trial flight at Rockaway Beach, Long Island. In the following months this flying boat made a trip from Rockaway to Anacostia, D. C., 358 miles, in 5 hours and 19 minutes. In the meantime other planes of this type were completed, and in February, 1919, the NC-2 was given an altitude trial and climbed 2000 feet in 5 minutes. So satisfactory were the trials of these planes that on February 24th Secretary Daniels ordered four planes to be prepared for the transatlantic flight, and work was begun at Rockaway. On April 3rd the design of the hull of the NC-2 was found impractical and it was taken out of the flight, but the NC-3 and the NC-4 were assembled at Rockaway.
The latter was damaged by fire while in the hangar, but the wings were replaced, the elevators repaired, and everything was put in readiness, so that on May 8th at 10 A.M. the three planes, NC-1, NC-3 and NC-4 were able to leave Rockaway for Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland. On account of trouble with the oil feed the NC-4 was forced to make a landing about 100 miles off Chatham, Massachusetts, after a trip of 300 knots. The defect was remedied and a new engine was substituted a few days later, so that on May 14th the NC-4 was able to proceed from Chatham to Halifax in 4 hours and 10 minutes, a distance of 320 knots. The NC-1 and the NC-3 completed their trip from Rockaway to Halifax on the day they started, a distance of 629 miles, and on May 10th they proceeded from Halifax to Trepassey, making 529 miles in 6 hours and 56 minutes for NC-1 and 5 hours and 32 minutes for NC-3. Here the squadron of three planes was again united, and on May 16th they left Trepassey Bay for the Azores, a distance of 1250 miles, starting at 10.03 in the afternoon, Greenwich Civil Time. The NC-4, which was commanded by Com. A. C. Read, reached Horta, Azores, in 15 hours and 13 minutes, with an average speed of 78.4 knots per hour. The other flying boats were not as successful. The NC-1, commanded by Lieut. Com. P. N. L. Bellinger, encountered dense fog and a rough sea, so that the crew was forced to take refuge on a passing steamship, the Ionia, which landed them at Horta. The seaplane was so damaged it sank. The NC-3 also encountered fog and heavy clouds, but was able to reach Ponta Delgada under its own power, having drifted and “taxied” 209 miles, and being so much damaged as to be out of the race. On May 20th the NC-4, now the only survivor in good flying condition, made the trip from Horta to Ponta Delgada, 160 miles, in 1 hour and 44 minutes, and then on May 27th flew from Ponta Delgada to Lisbon, Portugal, 810 miles, in 9 hours and 43 minutes, thus completing the transatlantic flight.
[ad#ad-1]The flying time from Newfoundland to Portugal, a distance of 2472 miles, was 2i; hours, 51 minutes. The reception of the NC-4 at Portugal was most enthusiastic and cordial, and the greatest interest was manifested in Ixith continents over the flight, and congratulations were bestowed at its successful termination. The most careful preparations had been made by the Navy Department, and a patrol of destroyers was organized to maintain stations along the course to communicate by radio with the flying boats. They were supplied with pyrotechnic and other signals to afford visible marks, and it was believed that the trip could be carried out with a minimum of danger and risk.
The NC-4 left Lisbon on May 30th, and after a halt at Mondego, 100 miles north, owing to engine trouble, proceeded to Ferrol, Spain, 300 miles. On May 31st the NC-4 proceeded from Ferrol to Plymouth, and thus completed the transatlantic flight as scheduled. The total flying time from Rockaway, New York, to Lisbon, Portugal, was 41 hours and 58 minutes, which is comparable with the fastest steamship passage made by the Cunard liner Mauretania of 4 days, 14 hours and 27 minutes from Liverpool to New York.