First Across the Atlantic

Flight of the U.S. Navy
Flying Boat NC-4
May 8 31, 1919


Aircraft Specifications
Navy Curtiss (NC) Flying Boat
Nickname: "Nancy Boat"

Wing Span 126 Top wing  94 Lower wing
Gap between wings 14' center 12' outer tips
Length over all 68 5.5 Hull length 44' 9"
Height 24' 5"
Empty 15,874 lbs.
Gross 28,000 lbs.
Wing loading 11.7 lbs per sq.ft.
Wing area 2380 sq.ft.
Power loading 17.5 lbs per bhp
Controls: Dual control Deperdussin system
Crew: Five
Two pilots in hull forward of gas tanks side-by-side seating
Navigator forward with small compass mounted on top of hull
Wireless operator and engineer main compartment aft gas tanks
First flight: May 1, 1919
Four Liberty V-12 water cooled engines each rated 400 hp @ 1700 rpm
Configuration three tractor and one pusher
Weight  820 lbs. dry, 1315 lbs. wet
Fuel and oil capacity:
Nine main gasoline tanks @ 200 gal. ea.
Gravity fed gasoline tank center of top wing 91 gal.
Total gasoline 1891 gal. or approx. 11,400 lbs
Oil capacity 160 gal
Gasoline consumption average 650 lbs/hr
Speed and cruising radius:
Cruising 67 kts (77 mph) 
Top 82 kts (95 mph)
At gross weight 58 kts (66 mph) min. and 74 kts (85 mph) max.
Cruising radius (w/o wind): 1476 nm
Davis recoilless rife and Lewis gun (removed for trans-Atlantic flight)
NC boats designed for WW1 anti-submarine warfare
Cost: $100,000.00 each
Click on photo to enlarge

NC-3 and NC-4 prepare to leave NAS Rockaway

NC-3 and NC-4 departing New York base

Nancy Boats in Trepassey Harbor, Newfoundland

NC-1 takes off from Newfoundland

NC-3 warms up engines in lee of ship

NC-3 departing Trepassey

NC-4 in flight

NC-4 in Ponta Delgada Harbor


Course Departure
Time (Z)
Time (Z)
Leg (NM)
Total (NM)
May 08 NAS Rockaway NY to Cape Code MA 1402 1853 267 267
May 14 Chatham MA to Halifax NS 1307 1710 445 712
May 15 Halifax NS to Trepassey NL 1253 2139 465 1177
May 16-17 Trepassey NL to Horta, Azores 2205 1323 1200 2377
May 20 Horta, Azores to Pt Delgada, Azores 1239 1424 150 2527
May 27 Ponta Delgada, Azores to Lisbon, Portugal 1018 2001 781 3308
May 30 Lisbon, Portugal to Mondego River, Portugal 0529 0721 113 3421
May 30 Mondego River, Portugal  to Ferrol, Spain 1336 1647 228 3649
May 31 Ferrol, Spain to Plymouth, England 0627 1326 458 4107
Time = Greenwich Mean Time (Zulu)
Distance = Nautical Miles (NM)

Seaplane Squadron One

LtCdr Patrick N. L. Bellinger, USN, Commanding Officer, Pilot and Navigator
Lt. Louis T. Barin, USN, Co-Pilot
Ltjg. Harry Sadenwater, USN, Radio Officer
Chief Machinist Mate Rasmus Christensen, USN, Engineer
Chief Machinist Mate C. I. Kesler, USN, Engineer

*NC-1 lands at 1310 17 May to verify position. Aircraft damage prevents further flight.  Crew rescued by Greek ship Ionia.
LtCdr. Marc Mitscher, USN, Commanding Officer

*Wing 'cannibalized' to repair NC-1 prior to departure from New York.
Cdr. John H. Tower, USN, Commanding Officer, Squadron Commander and Flight Organizer
Cdr. Holden C. Richardson, USN, Pilot
LtCdr. Robert A. Lavender, USN, Radio Officer
Lt. David H. McCulloch, USN, Co-pilot
Chief Bosun Mate Lloyd R. Moore, USN, Engineer

*NC-3 lands at 1330 17 May to verify position.  Aircraft damage and rough seas prevent further flight.  NC-3 taxies two days to Ponta Delgada, Azores arriving 19 May.
LtCdr. Albert C. Read, USN, Commanding Officer and Navigator
3dLt. Elmer F. Stone, USCG, Pilot (US Coast Guard Aviator #1)
Ltjg. Walter Hinton, USN, Co-Pilot
Lt. James L. Breese, USNRF, Co-Pilot & Engineer
Ens. Herbert C. Rodd, USNRF, Radio Officer
Chief Machinist Mate Eugene S. Rhodes, USN, Engineer Chief

*Complete trip from Rockaway NY to Plymouth England, 53 hours and 58 minutes in the air.
NC-4 is on display at the
National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola FL.

L to R: Chief Rhoades, Lieutenant Breese, Lieutenant Junior Grade Hinton, Lieutenant Stone, Lieutenant Commander Read, Missing Ensign Rodd


All Navy Effort

U.S. Navy ships are stationed at intervals of 50 miles along the track of the flight to assist in navigation and relay weather information.  Other ships participate in the staging fuel and supplies.  Visual signals from the ships along the track are made and keep the three aircraft flight on course until heavy fog is encountered nearing the Azores.  NC1 and NC3 land to verify their position and damage the tail of each aircraft.  NC4 forges ahead and although off course visually spots land and enters the history books as the first flight across the Atlantic.  

Ships Assisting in First Flight

Cape Cod to Halifax Halifax to Trepassey Trepassy to Azores Azores Detachment
USS McDermut (DD-262)
USS Kimberly (DD-80)
USS Delphy (DD-261)
USS Ludlow (DD-112)
USS Stevens (DD-86)
USS McKee (DD-87)
USS Robinson (DD-88)
USS McKean (DD-90)
USS Greer (DD-145)
USS Aaron Ward (DD-132)
USS Buchanan (DD-131)
USS Upshur (DD-144)
USS Boggs (DD-136)
USS Ward (DD-139)
USS Palmer (DD-161)
USS Walker (DD-163)
USS Thatcher (DD-162)
USS Crosby (DD-164)
USS Kalk (DD-170)
USS Meredith (DD-165)
USS Bush (DD-166)
USS Cowell (DD-167)
USS Maddox (DD-168)
USS Hopewell (DD-181)
USS Stockton (DD-73)
USS Craven (DD-70)
USS Dent (DD-116)
USS Philip (DD-76)
USS Waters (DD-115)
USS Harding (DD-91)
USS Gridley (DD-92)
USS Fairfax (DD-93)
USS Columbia (C-12)
Azores to Lisbon Lisbon to Ferrol Ferrol to Plymouth North & South of Track
USS Sampson (DD-63)
USS DuPont (DD-152)
USS Cassin (DD-43)
USS Wilkes (DD-67)
USS Lamberton (DD-119)
USS Gamble (DD-123)
USS Robinson (DD-88)
USS Conyngham (DD-58)
USS Wadsworth (DD-60)
USS Winslow (DD-53)
USS Ericsson (DD-56)
USS O'Brien (DD-51)
USS McDougal (DD-54)
USS Conner (DD-72)
USS Rathburne (DD-113)
USS Woolsey (DD-77)
USS Yarnall (DD-143)
USS Tarbell (DD-142)
USS Harding (DD-91)
USS Mahan (DD-102)
USS Gridley (DD-92)
USS DuPont (DD-152)
USS Biddle (DD-151)
USS Utah (BB-31)
USS Florida (BB-30)
USS Arkansas (BB-33)
USS Wyoming (BB-32)
USS Texas (BB-35)

Behind the Scenes

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy and a leading proponent of the flight, petitions Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels for approval of the expedition.  Roosevelt travels to Rockaway Beach prior to the transatlantic flight and receives a ride in NC-3 piloted by his boyhood friend Jim Breese.  A special chair is rigged for him behind the pilots.  Roosevelt's flight lasts fifteen minutes.

Cdr. Richard E. Byrd, USN, invents aerial navigation instruments that make the flight possible and later uses them in his polar explorations.



Smith, Richard K.:
First Across! Annapolis MD; Naval Institute Press, 1973

Steirman, Hy & Kittler, Glenn D.:
Triumph: The Incredible Saga of the First Transatlantic Flight New York; Harper & Brothers, 1961

Grossnick, Roy A.:
Naval Aviation 1910-1995 Washington D.C.; Naval Historical Center, 1997

U.S. Navy, The NC-4: The First Transatlantic Flight Pensacola FL; National Naval Aviation Museum, nd.