Spotlight on the Archive: Alcock and Brown and 100 years of non-stop transatlantic flights

Last month marked 100 years since the famous transatlantic flight of Alcock and Brown. The Heathrow Archive includes several photos of the celebrated statue of the pair. The sculpture had proudly been on display at Heathrow Airport until recently………

In April 1913 the Daily Mail offered a prize of £10,000 to “the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland to any point in Great Britain or Ireland in 72 continuous hours.” The competition was suspended after the outbreak of war in 1914 however it resumed after the armistice in 1918.

Alcock and Brown’s Vimy Vickers (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In June 1919 British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown flew a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Connemara, County Galway in just 15 hours 57 minutes. The aircraft crash landed in peat bog land and the pair were received as heroes by the locals. The Secretary of State for Air, Winston Churchill, presented them with their Daily Mail prize and both Alcock and Brown were later awarded the honour of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) by King George V.

Image Source: Heathrow Archive

The celebrated statue of Alcock and Brown, designed and sculpted by William McMillan, was commissioned by the British Government and unveiled at Heathrow in 1954 where it stood proudly on display within the Central Terminal Area. The sculpture was moved in 1974 to make way for work to extend the Piccadilly line to Heathrow Central.

Movement of statue Heathrow 1974 (Image Source: Heathrow Archive)

The limestone statue has been in place outside the Heathrow Academy in recent years.

Image Source: Heathrow Archive

The statue was recently transported to Clifden in Co. Galway on Tuesday 7th May 2019 to mark the centenary of the first non-stop transatlantic flight from North America to Europe as part of a festival of commemorative events. The sculpture will return to Heathrow later in the summer.

Removal of statue from Heathrow before journey to County Galway, Ireland. Image Source: