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Historic Aviation Event Captured in Painting


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This striking oil painting of the Curtis NC-4 Flying Boat banking over Drake’s Waters off the coast of Plymouth Hoe, England and its famous lighthouse was rendered by Henry Reuterdahl, one two American artists hired by the U.S. Navy to cover the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in May of 1919.

Although their first Trans-Atlantic landed in Lisbon, Portugal, they then made a flight to Plymouth Hoe where they were greeted with much fanfare by the public as is depicted in this painting.

Unfortunately, the flights of the naval aviators, was somewhat eclipsed shortly afterward when private aviators John Alcok and Arthur Brown in a Vickers Vimy biplane completed a nonstop flight on June 15, 1919 winning the over $10,000 cash prize offered by the Daily Mail.

However, on February 9, 1929 Congress passed Public Law 70-714 awarding Congressional Gold Medals to Lt. Commander John H. Towers for “conceiving, organizing, and commanding the first trans-Atlantic flight,” and for the six men of the flight crew “for their extraordinary achievement in making the first successful trans-Atlantic flight in the United States naval flying boat NC-4 in May of 1919.”

Today the NC-4 is on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.

The Plymouth Hoe Lighthouse depicted in this painting was originally erected in 1759 as the fourth Eddystone Lighthouse and it was the first successful construction of a wave-swept lighthouse in the world. After a new tower was erected at the site in the ocean, this tower was dismantled stone by stone and rebuilt in Plymouth Hoe as a monument to John Smeaton its builder.

This story appeared in the Mar/Apr 2018 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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