2006-08-11 / Editorial/Opinion

Opinions Rockaway Needs Recognition For An Historic Event

Ask about the first transatlantic flight across the Atlantic Ocean and nine out of ten people will respond with the name of Charles Lindberg and the year of 1927. While Lindberg was the first man to fly a solo, nonstop flight to Europe, the first flight across the Atlantic actually took place in 1918 and it started in Rockaway. On May 8, 1918, three U.S. Navy "Nancy" flying boats, so called because of their designation, N for Navy and C for the Curtis Aviation, the plane's builder, took off from Naval Air Station Rockaway, now the parking lot for Riis Park in the National Park System. One of those planes, the NC-4, piloted by Lieutenant Commander Putty Read, made it to Lisbon, Portugal on May 27 after stops in Cape Cod, Halifax (Nova Scotia), Trepassey (Newfoundland) and Horta (Azores). Not many people know of the historic flight of the NC-4 and the other Nancy boats, however. We believe that the lack of knowledge about the flight rests largely with the federal government and specifically with the National Park Service, which oversees Gateway National Urban Recreational Area. Go to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and there is an entire national park built around Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers flight. Go to Gateway and you find nothing about the flight of the NC-4. Two things must be done by the feds. First of all, officials at Gateway should plan and then mount a permanent exhibit that honors the flight of the Nancy boats and teaches about the true first flight across the Atlantic. Then, the United States Postal Service should put out a first class stamp in the plane's honor. Rockaway was part of one of the most important firsts in transportation history, and it is time everybody knew that fact.

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