07/17/2005: Great Moments in the History of "Incompetence":
On this day in 1938, aviator Douglas Corrigan made aviation history. Having just completed a transcontinental flight from California to New York, he took off from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, ostensibly on his return flight to California (according to some stories, Corrigan had attempted to file an amended flight plan for a flight to Ireland from New York, but was turned down). Corrigan was originally vectored eastbound from Bennett Field because of heavy weather to the west, but for unexplained reasons continued to fly eastbound instead of backtracking towards California as he should have.
On his arrival at Baldonnel Airport, Dublin, Ireland 28 hours and 13 minutes later, Corrigan's explanation to authorities was that his trans-Atlantic flight was the result of a navigational error; according to his story he misread his compass while in a cloudbank and believed he was headed towards California and not over the Atlantic. Authorities didn't believe him, and he was disciplined by having his pilot's license suspended until August 4, 1938 (the day Corrigan returned to the U.S.--by steamship).
But on his return, Corrigan received a hero's welcome, and perhaps one of the greatest nicknames of all time: "Wrong Way" Corrigan. Corrigan died on December 9, 1995; until the day of his death he never admitted what authorities and most others suspected: that his flight to Ireland was a deliberate act, and not the result of a navigational error. However, given that at the time of his accomplishment trans-Atlantic flights were still a feat beyond the capabilities of all but the best and bravest pilots, Corrigan still deserves proper recognition for his achievement, even if he had to go about it in an unorthodox manner.
Len on 07.17.05 @ 10:15 AM CST