YouTube // British Pathé
YouTube // British Pathé

Douglas Corrigan 'Accidentally' Flew to Ireland Today in 1938

YouTube // British Pathé
YouTube // British Pathé

American aviator Douglas Corrigan earned the nickname "Wrong Way" on July 17, 1938, when he filed a flight plan from Brooklyn to Long Beach, California...but ended up in Ireland.

"Wrong Way" Corrigan eventually returned to the U.S., went in front of news cameras and admitted his "mistake" while grinning broadly. But of course, he knew what he was doing all along—and his flight was a daring feat. Corrigan had modified his plane for the intercontinental flight, using knowledge he picked up while helping build Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis a decade earlier. Corrigan had been denied permission once before to fly from New York to Ireland, so his "mistake" was a clever (albeit dangerous and illegal) way to make the journey.

Corrigan made the flight in a plane he called Sunshine. The plane had a leaking gas tank, no radio, and no parachute. He carried "a couple boxes of fig bar cookies" and some gum for sustenance. The flight lasted 28 hours. After his arrival near Dublin, his pilot's license was suspended...but only for a few weeks.

Upon Corrigan's return to the States, the New York Post printed a giant headline backwards, declaring: "HAIL WRONG WAY CORRIGAN." A more legible right-way subhead read: "MILLION CHEER MADLY IN WELCOME TO FLYER." Corrigan became a minor American hero, endorsing "Wrong Way" products, writing a memoir, and starring as himself in the movie The Flying Irishman. Here's Corrigan the year after his famous flight, arriving in Newark to cheering crowds:

Corrigan appeared on TV's To Tell the Truth 19 years after his flight. In the clip below, he shows up around the 16:50 mark.

Douglas Corrigan lived in California until his death in 1995. All hail Wrong Way Corrigan!

Big Questions
When Flying, Why is Taking Off More Dangerous Than Landing?

Why is taking off more dangerous than landing?

Tom Farrier:

Landing is generally considered quite a bit more hazardous (and requires a bit more exacting handling), but both takeoffs and landings can have their challenges. Still, aircraft like to fly; sometimes it can be a little tricky to encourage them to stop doing so at the end of a flight, especially in the presence of unpredictable winds or slippery runways.

This is a graphic from my favorite go-to reference on commercial aircraft accidents, updated annually by Boeing but including all airliner accidents:

The shaded area under the aircraft silhouette shows the amount of time an aircraft spends in each “phase of flight.” At the top, there are two numbers worth looking at carefully. Final approach and landing is when 48 percent—essentially half—of all fatal accidents that have occurred from 1959 through 2016. By contrast, taking off and starting to climb is only about a quarter as hazardous (13 percent). These ratios used to be somewhat different; takeoffs used to see their share of accidents a lot more frequently than today.

The biggest challenge with taking off in the early days of jet airliners was the rate at which they could accelerate during their takeoff roll. Often, a lot of time was required between when the aircraft passed the speed at which the pilots were committed to taking off (V1) and when the jet actually could get into the air with a positive rate of climb. When an emergency would suddenly present itself in that window of vulnerability, sometimes there were no good options, and sometimes the pilots picked the wrong one.

One of the biggest ways pilots (and flight engineers in aircraft that use them) have to earn their paychecks is when something bad happens during a takeoff roll and they have to decide whether to continue the takeoff and deal with the problem in the air, or if the situation is critical enough that it’d be preferable to wrestle the fuel-laden beast on the ground and risk going off the end of the runway.

To try to address the need for added clarity in such situations, some of these early accidents led to recognition of the need for establishing a second speed benchmark (V2), which is the point at which the aircraft is going fast enough to make a successful takeoff with one engine out. Bear in mind that a lot of the biggest early jets had four engines, none of which was nearly as powerful as the current generation (some actually used water injection systems to boost their thrust during takeoff), and which suffered failures a lot more often.

“Rejected takeoffs” are pretty rare occurrences these days, and airport design has gotten better at minimizing the consequences of an aircraft running off the end of a runway if circumstances conspire to make things exciting for its inhabitants. For example, "engineered material arresting systems” are basically long slabs of pavement designed to collapse under the weight of an aircraft, grabbing hold of it and bringing it to a fairly enthusiastic stop.

This may not sound desirable, but some of the places EMAS has been installed (including Boston’s Logan and New York’s LaGuardia Airports) have seen more than their share of aircraft in trouble winding up in bodies of water during what are euphemistically (but accurately) referred to as “runway excursions.”

Such departures can happen either during takeoff or landing emergencies, and it’s nice to know that the chances of surviving both have been improved significantly with one ingenious invention.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

When Chuck Yeager Tweeted Details About His Historic, Sound Barrier-Breaking Flight

Seventy years ago today—on October 14, 1947—Charles Elwood Yeager became the first person to travel faster than the speed of sound. The Air Force pilot broke the sound barrier in an experimental X-1 rocket plane (nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis”) over a California dry lake at an altitude of 25,000 feet.

In 2015, the nonagenarian posted a few details on Twitter surrounding the anniversary of the achievement, giving amazing insight into the history-making flight.

For even more on the historic ride, check out the video below.


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