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Flying High

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Piece of first Transatlantic flight on display at Bangor museum

Maine is rich in history and it just got a little wealthier thanks to a few artifacts donated to the Maine Air Museum from the first plane to successfully cross the Atlantic in 1919.  Mary Rowe of Waterville found some old parts among her grandfather's possessions and didn't know what to do with them.

"My grandfather saved things you wouldn't believe. He had a spark plug from an old 1926 tractor. When he died in 1958, his belongings went to my brother until he passed in 2006," shared Rowe.

Before getting rid of the old pieces, Rowe contacted Gene McKay of Oakland, a history buff. As it turns out those old parts came from a NC4, a Navy flying boat, that was the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic. The parts were identified as pieces from the aircraft's lower stabilizer and elevator assembly.

McKay said the morning of May 8, 1919, a crew was in the process of refueling the NC1 and NC4, hours before the planes were scheduled to take off. At that time, fuel was kept in barrels and an electric pump was used to transfer the gasoline, which ignited a huge fire that lasted eight long minutes. When it was over, one wing of the NC1 was charred, the fire on the tail assembly was put out, and pieces of an NC2 were stripped off the plane and used to repair the NC1 and NC4.

"Her grandfather, John Gifford Lyman, was employed by the Naval Aircraft factory in Rockaway Beach, New York and was working there at the time of the fire. He was able to repair the plane and saved these pieces," explained McKay.

"The miracle is the fact that they [the aircraft parts] made it at all," said Rowe.

The NC4 flight, with its turbulent start, successfully finished its journey on May 27, 1919, landing in Lisbon, Portugal. Now pieces of this historic flight are on display for all to enjoy at the Maine Air Museum on Maine Avenue in Bangor. The museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sundays 12 p.m.- 4 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 December 2011 15:49


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