Africa Megaflyover

Vimy Atlantic Flight of the Vimy
Three Historic Flights

The Vimy's civil identity was designated G-EAOU—"God 'Elp All of Us."

Past National Geographic Features:

May 2000 Queen of the African Sky thumbnail

May 2000
An exciting article with stunning photos of the Vimy's 1999 recreation of a 1920 flight from London to Cairo to Cape Town.

May 1995 National Geographic magazine The Vimy Flies Again cover thumbnail

May 1995
Our successful 1994 15,000-mile (24,000-kilometer) adventure from England to Australia resulted in the cover story for the May 1995 issue of National Geographic and the National Geographic TV documentary, "The Greatest Flight."

March 1921 National Geographic magazine cover thumbnail

March 1921
Weighing in at a whopping 110 pages, the second longest article on any subject ever printed in National Geographic was about R. Smith and K. Smith's 1919 flight from England to Australia.

The British Vickers Vimy biplane that achieved the first nonstop transatlantic flight in June 1919 was originally designed as a bomber for England in World War I. Just after the war, Vimy made three historic "first flights," inspiring the development of long-distance aviation for a skeptical world:

The British Vickers Vimy biplane

The First Nonstop Transatlantic Flight, June 1919

In 1919 Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten-Brown became the first pilots to fly nonstop across the Atlantic. They were pioneers and heroes, ushering in the next chapter in the progress of aviation.

From the New York Times - Monday, June 16, 1919

Captain Alcock's Own Narrative of His Flight From Newfoundland to Ireland
Special cable to the NEW YORK TIMES
(By Courtesy of the London Daily Mail)

LONDON, June 16, (By telegraph from Clifden, Ireland.)— We have had a terrible journey. The wonder is that we are here at all. We scarcely saw the sun or the moon or the stars. For hours we saw none of them.

The fog was very dense, and at times we had to descend to within 300 feet of the sea. For four hours the machine was covered in a sheet of ice caused by frozen sleet; at another time the sleet was so dense that my speed indicator did not work, and for a few seconds it was very alarming.

We looped the loop, I do believe, and did a very steep spiral. We did some very comic "stunts", for I have had no sense of horizon.

The winds were favorable all the way: northwest and at times southwest. We said in Newfoundland we would do the trip in 16 hours, but we never thought we should. An hour and a half before we saw land we had no certain idea where we were, but we believed we were at Galway or thereabouts. Our delight in seeing Eashal Island and Turbot Island (5 miles west of Clifden) was great. People did not know who we were when we landed, and thought we were scouts on the lookout for the "Vimy".

We encountered no unforeseen conditions. We did not suffer from cold or exhaustion except when looking over the side; then the sleet chewed bits out of our faces. We drank coffee and ale and ate sandwiches and chocolate.

The flight has shown that the Atlantic flight is practicable, but think it should be done not with an aeroplane or seaplane, but with a flying boat. We had plenty of reserve fuel left, using only two-thirds of our supply.

The only thing that upset me was to see the machine at the end get damaged. From above, the bog looked like a lovely field, but the machine sank into it up to the axle and fell over on to her nose.

From the London Daily Mail - Monday, June 16, 1919

8 Sandwiches Between Them

"We ate meat sandwiches. I ate three and Brown five. I drank four cups of coffee and so did Brown. We fed spasmodically—3 or 4 times—just when we felt we wanted to. We ate chocolates too. I was not hungry, but frightfully thirsty. We shared the last cup of coffee. We did not suffer from cold. Our suits kept us warm.

"The cockpit was very cozy indeed, but when we peered over the side sleet and ice chewed bits out of our faces.

"For a time we spoke to one another by means of communication telephones, but they broke down and we had to discard them after 4 hours. After that we had to shout."

Lieut. Brown said: "Most of our conversation consisted of tapping one another on the shoulder and going through the motion of drinking. We knew our own jobs."

Asked for the lessons of the flight Capt. Alcock replied, "It has shown that flying the Atlantic is a practicable job, but I think it should be done with a flying-boat, not a seaplane or an aeroplane."

"We know now," said Lieut. Brown, "exactly the type of machine that manufacturers must make for commercial purposes."

The First England to Australia Flight, November 1919

In March 1919 the Australian Government offered £10,000 (about $18,200) to the first Australian pilots to make the long-distance flight from England to Australia. The feat was first accomplished in a Vickers Vimy in November 1919 by brothers Captain Ross Smith (pilot) and Lieutenant Keith Smith (navigator). The flight lasted just under 28 days and 135 hours, 55 minutes of flying time. The adventure covered 11,130 miles (17,910 kilometers) from Hounslow Aerodrome to Darwin, Australia.

The First England to South Africa Flight, 1920

Building off the enthusiasm garnered by the first transatlantic flight and the flight from England to Australia, the South African government offered the same £10,000 prize to the first pilots to successfully fly from London to Cape Town, South Africa—a feat that had been attempted but not yet completed.

On February 4, 1920, Lieutenant Colonel Pierrie van Ryneveld and Major Christopher Quintin Brand took off from Brooklands Aerodrome in Surrey, England, in a Vickers Vimy called the Silver Queen for an 11-hour flight that would fall short of the goal, making an emergency landing. The Silver Queen would never fly again. The Silver Queen II met a similar end after flying 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) further than its predecessor before crashing.

Undaunted, the South African government provided a third plane—a de Havilland DH9—to the two pilots and on March 17, 1920, they landed at Wynberg Aerodrome in Cape Town after 45 days of harrowing flying.


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