We’re back with the video series “A City Full of History,” delving into the lesser known aspects of New York City history produced by Untapped Cities contributor Dan Thurber, who runs the YouTube channel Bookworm History. The last week we followed Sergeant John Champe in his plot to infiltrate New York City and kidnap Benedict Arnold from the British. This week we track down the story of the ‘Bremen’, the first airplane to fly across the Atlantic Ocean from East to West!
The history of transatlantic flight is at once both fascinating and tragic, reflecting the pace of early advancements in aviation. The Atlantic Ocean was first crossed non-stop by John Alcock and Arthur Brown in 1919, a mere sixteen years after the Wright Brothers first took flight at Kitty Hawk. Others would follow Alcock and Brown’s exploit; Richard Byrd, Clarence Chamberlin, and of course, Charles Lindbergh. While all of these aviators had crossed the Atlantic they had all done it by crossing from west to east, and there was a reason for that: it was easier.
The prevailing winds over the North Atlantic blow from west to east. So if you’re flying from North America to Europe you will be carried along by the wind and have an easier time of it. Coming the other way, you’ll be fighting the wind. Which is why, for almost a year after Lindbergh won the Orteig Prize, no one had been able to do it non-stop in an airplane. Then came the ‘Bremen’, crewed by Captain Hermann Koehl, Major James Fitzmaurice, and Baron Guenther von Huenefeld. Less than a decade before the flight of the ‘Bremen’, the Irish Fitzmaurice had fought on the opposite side of World War I from the Germans Koehl and von Huenefeld. Ten years later these three men would cross an ocean to prove not only the possibility of transatlantic flight, but also, as Fitzmaurice wrote “the great progress that has been made in transforming aviation from a war weapon into a peace force.”
Come along with us as we follow the ‘Bremen’ across the ocean, and through New York, a city delighted to celebrate the visiting aviators!
Check out previous videos from A City Full of History. Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of JFK Airport.