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NC 4


"For other uses, see NC 4 (disambiguation).

The NC-4 was a Curtiss NC flying boat, designed by Glenn Curtiss and manufactured by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. In May 1919 the NC-4 became the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, making the crossing over 19 days with multiple stops along the way.

The accomplishment was largely eclipsed in public memory by the first non-stop trans-Atlantic flight made by British pilots Alcock and Whitten-Brown two weeks later.


The NC-4's trans-Atlantic mission was the result of planning that began during World War I, when Allied shipping was threatened by submarine warfare. Designs were started for a fixed-wing aircraft capable of flying from the United States to Europe on its own power.

The planes were not finished and tested until after the war was over. The US Navy decided to try a demonstration of trans-Atlantic flight nonetheless.

The NC-4 was the fourth of the Navy's initial series of four large Curtiss NC Flying Boats constructed for the Navy by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. The NC-4 made its first test flight on 30 April, 1919.

The Transatlantic flight

The Navy Transatlantic flying expedition began on 8 May. The NC-4 was originally in the company of two other NC Flying Boats, the NC-1 and the NC-3. They left Naval Air Station Rockaway, New York (now de-commissioned and part of Gateway National Recreation Area), then stopped in Newfoundland before leaving on 16 May for the longest leg of their journey, the flight to the Azores, reached 15 hours later. The NC-1 and the NC-3 were both forced to land at sea due to rough weather; the crew of the NC-1 was rescued by the Greek freighter Ionia; the crew of the NC-3 managed to sail their flying-boat to the Azores.

After delays for repairs, the NC-4 took off again and landed in Lisbon, Portugal on 27 May, becoming the first fixed-wing aircraft to cross the ocean under its own power, with 26 hours total flying time.

The NC-4 later flew on to England, arriving in Plymouth on 31 May to great fanfare, having taken 15 days for the flight from Newfoundland to Great Britain.

This feat was eclipsed shortly afterwards by the non-stop Transatlantic flight of Alcock and Brown in a Vickers Vimy when they flew from Newfoundland to Ireland on June 14/15 1919, thereby winning the Daily Mail prize of £10,000, which had been announced in 1913, for "making a transatlantic flight in seventytwo consecutive hours between any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland and any point in Great Britain or Ireland".


The crew of the NC-4 was Albert Cushing Read, commander/navigator; Walter Hinton and Elmer F. Stone, pilots, James L. Breese and Eugene T "Smokey" Rhoads, flight engineers, and Herbert C Rodd, radio operator. Initially E.H. Howard was to go as a flight engineer, but Howard lost a hand in a propeller accident at the start of the mission, and was replaced by Rhoads.

After the crossing

After arriving in Plymouth, the crew on the NC-4, by now reunited with the crews of the less successful NC-1 and NC-3 boats, travelled to London by train and received a tumultuous welcome. While they visited Paris the NC-4 was dismantled in Plymouth and loaded on the USS Aroostook for the return journey to the United States, arriving in New York on 2 July 1919.

Following the return of the crew, a goodwill tour of the eastern and southern seaboards was undertaken.

In 1929, to honor the first transatlantic crossing, the United States Navy created a special military decoration known as the NC-4 Medal.

The NC-4 aircraft is now preserved in the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.



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