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Against all odds...

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[Note: This is a (somewhat) ambitious post, and involves a story, surely, told and re-told, umpteen times, but, still, it has always sustained its appeal, to me, as a most remarkable one...! Ever since, I'd seen "that" (atypical and anti-climactic) image of the "up-turned" Vickers Vimy, as the culmination of a triumphant voyage, the picture has remained with me! And, since quite a while, within the limits of the SIM, I've been thinking of a Screenshot-based post, on it, but, I've not been able to get to do it, although, I've been collecting bits and pieces of (random) thoughts about it...It took me several hours, this week, to (finally) accomplish it, as best as I could, but, if you ask me, the whole experience, was more satisfying, than even my "CS C-130 Antarctica Expedition" or the "CS B707 Flying Tiger North Pole Adventure"...So, here we go, with this incredible story, paired with a set of selected (SIM) images from my own comparative (virtual) journey....]

If we were to ask, "Who was the first person to fly across the Atlantic in an airplane, nonstop?", Charles Lindbergh's name and his famous "solo" flight, immediately come to mind. On May 21, 1927, the (historic) Spirit of St. Louis, had landed at the Le Bourget Aerodrome in Paris. But, eight years before that...another significant event had taken place...

101 years ago, from today, precise to within two weeks, on June 15, 1919, the first-ever (non-stop) transatlantic crossing was completed, by Captain (Sir) John Alcock and Lieutenant-Colonel (Sir) Arthur Brown. Their plane had carried the very first (batch of) mail, in an official mail-bag, across the Atlantic. One of those letters included a note, hand-written, prior to the flight, by Alcock, himself, to his sister Elsie, ..., which would be the first piece of (transatlantic) air-mail, on record, (officially) carried over the ocean...!

On that day, at St. John's, Newfoundland, there were so many teams, contending to take off, that Alcock and Brown had a difficult time just to find a suitable field they could use as a runway for their flight. Conventional airport and runway facilities were non-existent, in the area. And, their (modified) Vickers Vimy, (originally) built and intended, to be used as military bomber, was, by no means, a small plane (see a few close up shots below). The Pilot (Alcock) and Navigator (Brown) would sit in an "open" cockpit (that itself is a clue to the endurance test that would soon ensue!) at the front of this airplane. Included, below, is, one close-up shot of the (virtual) Pilots, in the (virtual) cockpit, but, their likeness to the real gentlemen, I leave to your investigations and imaginations...(I personally think the resemblances are adequate...🙂...)

At around 1:45 pm, Alcock and Brown took an early chance, and lifted off Lester's field, on the afternoon of June 14, while other teams were still busy perfecting their respective planes,...(BTW, I've included a pop-up (non-Vimy) Digital Timer/Clock and a pop-up (Vimy) Clock, in many of the screenshots below, for you, to keep track of the progress; so, e.g. please note the local (St. John's) time of 1:45 on both the Clocks, as the Timer (00:00:00) is ready to start counting "Up", just prior to the take-off roll)!

The duo were, hardly, into the Atlantic, before, one after another misfortune, would befall them in B2B succession, and it would not let up throughout the rest of their flight. Here is a list of events, per records:

  1. Shortly afterwards, the wind-driven electrical generator failed, depriving them of radio contact (for the remainder of the flight), and, also, their intercom and heating.
  2. Then, an exhaust pipe burst, causing a frightening noise which made conversation impossible without the failed intercom.
  3. The use of a sextant and a drift-bearing plate, was the only means, for them, to determine their position as they flew, but, shortly after the radio went out, fog covered the sea, so, Brown could not determine their drift. Then, a haze developed, and he was unable to use the sextant to determine their location. They had to fly near-blind most of the way!
  4. As night approached, and clouds began to obscure their vision, Brown urged Alcock to climb above the clouds, so he could use the stars to get a fix on their position. He was able to calculate that they were averaging 106 miles per hour, faster than they had planned. But, soon they flew into another bank of clouds, and, on top of that, the airspeed indicator got stuck and Alcock didn't realize the airplane was slowing down. Alcock became disoriented while the the aircraft went into a stall, fortunately, to be recovered, and leveled off, barely hundred or so feet above the waters of North Atlantic!
  5. Alcock also had to deal with a broken trim control that made the plane become very nose-heavy as fuel was consumed.
  6. The weather did not improve, and the rain, that had started, turned to snow as they flew farther east towards Ireland (see one close-up shot of Vimy's on-board Compass pointing at "E", 98 degrees (to be precise), as evidenced by my (pop-up) GPS heading). They flew into a large snowstorm and were drenched by rain. Ice covered the airplane. The ice covered the air intake of one of the engines, and Alcock decided to shut that engine down before the backfiring could destroy it.
  7. Brown had to frequently stand up in the open cockpit and clear ice and snow from the instrument sensors which were outside the cockpit. There is one account of Brown, having to climb out onto the wings to clear the engines, although he has made no mention of it. [Side Note: Here, I would suggest the viewing, of one artistic Painting (out of numerous) of the duo, flying over the Atlantic. Please search for these keywords "Alcock and Brown in their Vickers Vimy stock image Look and Learn" and click on the first link. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words...Observe, Alcock, in the cockpit, looking out sideways at Brown, who is, standing, balanced, on the wing...true or not, the image is a haunting one, and cannot be too far from the challenges they had to face in reality (i.e. rudimentary plane against dangerous weather over the Atlantic)!]

Eventually, they made landfall in County Galway, Ireland, landing at 8:40 a.m. on 15 June 1919, after 15 hours 57 minutes of continuous flying time. They had averaged a speed of about 100 knots, and their altitude varied between sea level and 12,000 ft. They landed on what appeared from the air to be a suitable green field, but which turned out to be a Bog, near Clifden, on the coast. This caused the aircraft to nose-over, although neither of the airmen was hurt.

They would be received as Heroes, by the locals of Galway, and during the following week, knighted by King George V.

Next, some notes, about my own (virtual!!) flight, and the screenshots, for this post:

  1. I've used a Freeware Vimy (See "Rara-Avis Simulations" and Freeware Block (V)).
  2. Once into the Atlantic, I've set high precipitation and five miles visibility. The intermittent rain would continue to torment me, throughout my journey...🙂...more so, as I approached the Irish coastline (please see screenshots of my landfall; land ahoy!).
  3. I've, here, a slightly under-powered Vimy (I could have adjusted the Thrust Scalars, but, have opted to leave it the way it was - yielding me a cruise speed of about 80 knots). Also, please note (and excuse) that, due to a prop-blur texture issue (that I could not fix), the Props appear static whenever I paused to snap the images.
  4. I've tracked a direct GPS route from St. John's (CYYT) to (the interior) Galway Airport (EICM) - not the Clifden Bog! At no point, have I enabled GPS navigation, but, instead, manually adjusted the heading to stay on the "magenta" line. Due to my shortage of time, the SIM rate is set to (2x) across the Atlantic, and is reverted to (1x) on (first) sighting of land.
  5. I've started my Timer (00:00:00) after lift-off at, St John's local time, (01:45:31) pm, and stopped the Timer (see Green "START" sign), at (18:45:36), on reaching the coastlines of Ireland, at, St John's Local Time, (12:32:06) pm. So, it took me 18 hrs and 45 minutes for the flight. Galway is 4 hours forward (i.e. later) than St. John's. So, [1:45 pm (St John's) + 18 hrs 45 mins = 8:30 am (St John's) => 8:30 + 4.00 = 12:30 pm (Galway)]. Alcock and Brown had reached the Clifden Coast around 9am, beating my (under-powered) Vimy by over 3 hours...🙂...! My distance is 1685 nm (between CYYT->EICM). They had travelled 1640 nm, to Clifden, on the coast. What's amazing is that, without the benefit of any such (ultra-modern) "magenta" line, Brown, had "nailed" the shortest distance from Newfoundland to Ireland, in abysmal weather conditions, using only the Sun and stars etc. for navigation, a testament to his (remarkable) navigational skills!
  6. You can read the Vimy Clock (or the digital Clock), at any time, for St. John's Local time, and, I've also shown several Top-Down Globe/Earth shots, to indicate my positions on the Atlantic (look for the "Red" cross-wire) - with the Timer running continuously to show the elapsed time!
  7. There is also a sequence of (3-4) images, shown below, as the (hazy) Sun, (gradually) dips down the (western) sky, behind my (virtual) Vimy, eventually enveloping us, both, in (total) darkness...🙂...BTW, I thought I saw Moon's reflection, on the water, (please see one shot), so, I looked hard, above, but, could not locate the Moon in the sky, likely due to (pre-set) clouds and poor visibility conditions. Next morning, the Sun, would, dutifully (and reassuringly) rise up...to meet me again (see shot). After daylight happens, look for the (morning) Sunlight sweep across the two Globe shots - from Right (East) to left (West) - past me and my Vimy!
  8. The last shot, of EICM Airport (Aerphort na Gaillimhe) Terminal is thanks to a Freeware EICM (Galway) scenery, from the Library.
  9. For landing (without any mishap) on Rwy 08 of EICM (w/o LOC/ILS), in such poor visibility, I've made use of my (trusty) Synthetic ILS gauge, for a bit of extra guidance! Please note, I'm fully established on the (synthetic) "needles", at 7.75 nm out, even when I/we cannot see any Rwy (or Rwy lights), at all! This gauge is good fun!

Hope you enjoy this account and these images, to, maybe, reminisce (and appreciate), within the confines of our SIM, at least, a minuscule part of this epic (and record-setting) voyage! Personally, I did feel (and learn) a few things, myself, about the "REAL" journey, just a little bit better, while, navigating, even though virtually, over the the vast Atlantic, in loneliness, flying half-blind, in rain and clouds...without a sign of land, for 18 long hours...(Of course, unlike the real aviators, I had the recourse to hit "Pause" and get a refreshment or a drink, if I wished.....🙂...!)

As always, notes, thoughts, and edits, are welcome! Thanks for your interest! Happy Memorial Day Weekend to the folks in U.S, and a Good weekend to all!





















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Excellent "modern" recreation of an historic journey sir! Would you say that the Vimy is a study level aircraft? The cockpit was certainly cold & dark.. and that's when she's actually in flight! 😄

Interesting site - Rara-Avis simulations. Nice find!😎

1 hour ago, P_7878 said:

Brown, had "nailed" the shortest distance from Newfoundland to Ireland, in abysmal weather conditions, using only the Sun and stars etc. for navigation, a testament to his (remarkable) navigational skills!

Certainly a lost, or at least dying art these days I reckon! When an alien race turns up and switches all our GPS off then it may come in rather handy 😜

You probably know that there is a sextant add-on for the sim. I've watched videos on how to use it, but have not got the "right stuff" to wish to try and use it myself 😩. Links provided in the youtube vid.



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Mark Robinson

"What's it doing now?"

Author of FLIGHT: A near-future short story (ebook available on amazon)

I made the baby cry - A2A Simulations L-049 Constellation

Sky Simulations MD-11 V2.2 Pilot. The best "lite" MD-11 money can buy (well, it's not freeware!)

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Posted (edited)

Hi Mark: Appreciated the comments...!

Regarding, "...The cockpit was certainly cold & dark.. and that's when she's actually in flight!..."...🙂...

As, I've said above, because of an inherent Prop-texture issue, (because it must have been a port-over), whenever I would pause the flight to take a picture, the props would go dead-still,... In any case, even when spinning, their rotations did not look smooth and continuous...Normally, I've a stock set of (replacement) prop-blur textures (bmp/dds), that would fix this in such type of planes, but, that didn't work in this case...for me...and I was as much in a hurry to embark on my epic (virtual) voyage as much as Alcock and Brown, were in the "real" case...🙂...(More correctly, for my case, actually, I was missing Creamer for my Coffee, to get from store, and, therefore, could not spend more time, on the preparations....), but, if you trust me, the props were indeed spinning (and producing required thrust) as soon as I pushed the throttles for takeoff....to take me, all the way, safely across the Atlantic...!

Regarding, the Rara-Avis, that is really same as the good-old Classic Wings, we were used to before...e.g. search for the thread, "Classic Wings is back", on FlightSim.com. (This alternate name threw me off a bit, too, but, I am quite familiar with the older website and its Freeware planes...good ones, btw...)

Regarding, sextant, several years ago, I'd explored it a bit...and, I also recall, reading, in various Forums, from folks who have actually adapted and used it for SIM, as you've correctly indicated....Maybe, one day, but, now the "AUTOFLIGHT" on my MD-11, is already calling me...!

Yes, true, GPS sometimes get messed up..., but, the Sun and stars would be the same...

Here is a bit, below, I'd come across during my North Pole flight:

"Earth’s northern magnetic pole is moving quickly away from the Canadian Arctic toward Siberia. This movement has forced NCEI scientists to update the World Magnetic Model (WMM) mid-cycle....Due to unplanned variations in the Arctic region, scientists have released a new model to more accurately represent the change of the magnetic field between 2015 and now....

Smartphone and consumer electronics companies also rely on the WMM to provide consumers with accurate compass apps, maps, and GPS services...."

So, that's indeed, at least, a concern, to keep track of, it looks like....

Anyway, thanks again, and, humor aside, this flight was enjoyable and educative for sure...!!

Edited by P_7878
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Amazing!!! Those Early Aviators really had The Stones!!

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Posted (edited)

Patrick: Thank you!! And, yes, those guys were special...🙂...!

Mark (or/and whoever is interested in a Freeware (FSX) Vickers Vimy):

I looked around a bit, and found a (revised) version of the Classic Wings (Rara-Avis Simulations) Vimy, that has fixed the prop-issues, mentioned above. The file name on Flightsim.com is "vickers_vimy.zip". The two files, seem, similar, otherwise. This package has two variations: (I) Transatlantic (G-VIMY) and (II) England to Australia (G-EAOU) (also, see below)...

The Vimy may have looked cumbersome (and may have felt heavy to the pilots...), but, it was, certainly a classic aircraft, and a rugged and reliable "marathoner", with an illustrious record. Besides well-known military use, it's remembered for its famous long-distance races and wins...

The most celebrated and significant of these being the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, performed by John Alcock and Arthur Brown in June 1919 (subject of the above post).

Other record-breaking flights, by Vimy, were made from the United Kingdom to destinations such as Australia and South Africa. I now recall, a long while ago (a year or so ago), I'd posted a screenshot-based story of the race to South Africa (I now also recall the catchy names for the two Vimy aircraft involved in that race: Silver Queen and Silver Queen II)...it was a complex and exciting race...that the Vimy could not (actually) finish, but, it surely helped its two (determined) pilots win the race, (if you're interested in such history, you may look back, at that (well-received) post, ..."First Flights (II) - Race to Cape Town (Dark Continent)..."...no need to react or comment...)

Good rest of the Sunday!

Edited by P_7878
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