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Guests of honour Ryan Tubridy and Tony Alcock at the Alcock and Brown 100 Festival launch in Dublin
Alcock and Brown 100

Heroes of the first transatlantic flight Alcock and Brown to be celebrated at Clifden centenary

In June 1919 John Alcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown made history being the first people to complete a non-stop transatlantic flight

IN JUNE 2019 Clifden will celebrate the centenary of the first non-stop transatlantic flight, completed by Sir John Alcock and Sir Arthur Whitten-Brown in 1919.

The Alcock and Brown 100 Festival will see a full reenactment of the 1919 landing during the festival 12-16 June next year.

The Royal Navy aviation pilots flew in a two-man Vickers Vimy biplane from St John’s in Newfoundland, Canada but went off course and took it upon themselves to perform a crash landing at Derrigimlagh Bog, Clifden in Connemara, Co Galway.

In doing this successfully and making it out alive, the pilots achieved the first non-stop transatlantic flight with a duration of 16 hours and 28 minutes landing about 25 miles north of their target destination.

The commemorative festival was launched by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin in Dublin on Tuesday.

The festival looks set to hold aviation conference, a fireworks display, a regatta, guided tours, street concerts and flyovers from Air Corps and private aircraft.

Tony Alcock MBE is the nearest surviving relative to Captain Alcock and the centenary celebrations will be a “golden opportunity for long-awaited recognition of what they (the pilots) did” he said.

As a retired RAF pilot he regards Alcock and Brown’s landing as a “tremendous fleet of skill”.

Speaking to Tony Alcock said he was “very honoured” to be invited to the launch and remembers attending the unveiling of the memorial plaque with his fathers, uncles and cousins for the 40th anniversary.

A spokesperson of the festival said that through this fantastic piece of modern history

these men proved that intercontinental flight was humanly possible”.

The spokesperson said that when the plane was coming in to land in the Derrigimlagh Bog it flew “over the village at a low altitude” to the shock of the villagers below that heard the roar of the plane.

“Yesterday we were in America” – challenging conditions

Brendan Lynch author of Yesterday We Were in America: Alcock and Brown – First to Fly the Atlantic Non-Stop also attended the event.

The phrase comes from Alcock famously being the first person in Europe to be able to say he had been in the US yesterday.

Lynch’s book describes how “anything that could go wrong, did go wrong” for the pilots on the first transatlantic flight.

Speaking to Lynch described the dangerous flight as “epic”.

The pilots experienced problems with the plane stalling, the exhaust breaking down and there was “continuous rain and cloud almost for the entire distance” which made the flying conditions challenging.

At the time pilots were offered a prize of £10,000 by the London Daily Mail which the pair from Manchester received along with knighthoods from the British Empire.

The landing site in Clifden was coincidentally the site of Guglielmo Marconi’s Wireless Station, the site of the first commercial transatlantic wireless transmission.

Alcock and Brown unsung local heroes

There is hope to “retell the story again” at the centenary festival with informative talks, field trips and documentaries taking place throughout.

Chairperson of the festival Terence O’Toole told that Alcock and Brown are “held very dear in the area” and the people have always marked the key anniversaries as a way of “acknowledging the story in our own way”.

Alcock and Brown’s landing site is one of Fáilte Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way signature discovery points along the coastal route in Derrigimlagh.

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