Pioneers of the skies | DocFilm | DW | 17.01.2020
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DocFilm

Pioneers of the skies

The first successful transatlantic flight in 1919 was a milestone for mankind. This film tells the stories of the people who dared to undertake the dangerous journey. Discover the records and setbacks in this exciting chapter of aviation history.

Watch video 42:34

Ever since the invention of aircraft, pilots have dreamed of flying across the Atlantic non-stop. Daring men and women risked their lives in pursuit of this goal. Then, just 100 years ago, the first transatlantic flight succeeded. The story began in 1918. The British Newspaper ‘Daily Mail’ announced a 10,000 pound prize for the "aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the US, Canada or Newfoundland to any point in Great Britain or Ireland in 72 continuous hours." In 1919, four teams would attempt the crossing from Newfoundland. They were all unemployed fighter pilots. Only two succeeded — John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown. On 15 June 1919, the two men wrote aviation history when they landed in Ireland in a modified bi-plane bomber. But their glory was short-lived. In the 1920s, several other attempts and records followed. Perhaps the most famous was made in 1928 by the two Germans Hermann Köhl and Ehrenfried Freiherr Günther von Hünefeld, and the Irishman James Fitzmaurice. The three men were scheduled to land in New York, and thousands gathered to watch their arrival. But flight conditions were treacherous. Köhl would later describe dramatic scenes when the engine stuttered, storms and fog, hunger and cold, and fear of being lost forever. In the end, the team missed their destination in New York. But they managed an emergency landing on Greenly Island. With that, they had successfully touched down on North American soil, making them the first to complete an east-west non-stop transatlantic flight. The film relays personal stories of courage and determination, from heroes and pioneers who changed the face of travel forver.