15 June 1919: The British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown made the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic on this day. They flew a modified Vickers Vimy bomber plane from St. John’s Newfoundland and to Clifden, Co Galway thus winning the Daily Mail prize of £10,000. They were feted as heroes and were Knighted a few days later by King George V.
The flight nearly ended in disaster several times owing to engine trouble, fog, snow and ice. It was only saved by Brown's continual climbing out on the wings to remove ice from the engine air intakes and by Alcock's excellent piloting despite extremely poor visibility at times and even snow filling the open cockpit. The aircraft was badly damaged upon arrival due to the attempt to land in what appeared from the air to be a suitable green field but which turned out to be the bog on Derrygimlagh Moor, but neither of the airmen was hurt.
Legend has it that the birds of Ireland did not sing for a week afterwards!
Both men had served as Aviators in the Great War and both had been shot down and captured. Alcock was tragically killed some months later in December 1919 while flying to the Paris Air Show. Brown lived on until 1948.