Smithsonian National Air and Space MuseumPioneers of Flight

Military Aviation

First Transatlantic Flight

NC-4 Taxis into Lisbon

NC-4 taxis into Lisbon harbor after its successful flight on May 29, 1919. The world press celebrated NC-4's flight as a triumph of logistics and American aeronautical capability at a time when most planes had a difficult time simply staying in the air.

The U.S. Navy achieved the first transatlantic flight eight years before Charles Lindbergh became world famous for crossing the Atlantic nonstop and alone. Three Curtiss flying boats, each with a crew of six, were involved: NC-1, NC-3, and NC-4. The Navy wanted to prove the capability of the airplane as a transoceanic weapon and technology.

The five-leg flight began on May 8, 1919, at the naval air station at Rockaway Beach, New York. It followed a route to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland; the Azores in the middle of the Atlantic; Lisbon, Portugal; and Plymouth, England. Only NC-4, commanded by Albert C. Read, flew the whole way. The entire trip took 24 days.

The NC-4 Crew

The NC-4 crew, left to right: Lt. Elmer F. Stone, U.S. Coast Guard, pilot; Chief Machinist's Mate Eugene S. Rhodes, engineer; Lt. Walter Hinton, copilot; Ensign Herbert C. Rodd, radio officer; Lt. James L. Breese, engineer; and Lt. Cmdr. Albert C. Read, commanding officer and navigator. Far right: Capt. Richard E. Jackson, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Azores.

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