2009-06-26 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

The NC-4 Historical Anniversary Flight Of May - 1986
From The Rockaway Museum by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

In May of 1919, the United States Navy seaplane known as NC-4 (or Navy/Curtiss Four) began the first transatlantic flight to the European continent with sister ships NC-1 and NC-3. The two sister ships were forced down at sea, crews saved, and NC-4 completed the flight to Plymouth, England.

In May of 1986, a celebration was held at the Beach Channel High School grounds, with a threefold purpose. Specifically honored were the Rockaways' Tri-centennial, the 75th Anniversary of Naval Aviation, and the 67th Anniversary of the great flight over the pond. Charles Augustus Lindberg flew over alone in 1927.

For the celebration here, a privately owned PBY-Catalina seaplane, of World War Two vintage, once a US Navy patrol plane, was repainted with the old Navy blue and yellow colors, and marked with the number four in very conspicuous places.

The plane and a cargo of dignitaries flew to Rockaway from the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, Florida, and landed in Jamaica Bay, close to what was once Rockaway Naval Air Station (1917 to 1931) and is now Riis Park.

After the ceremonies, the plane plus another painted white, were taken to the Coast Guard facility at Floyd Bennett Field, and put on display for a few days. Later the flight to Plymouth, England was recreated exactly as done in May of 1919, complete with ceremonies at Plymouth, England.

This week's view is of the tail section of the PBY-Catalina seaplane with the NC-4 silhouette (in black) on the vertical stabilizer painted red, white and blue. The horizontal stabilizer (at lower right) is painted yellow, as was the main wing section up front. The fuselage and both engine cowling covers were painted blue. The tips of both three bladed propellers were striped in red, white and blue. A special 75th Naval Aviation Anniversary logo was on both sides of the seaplane representing the NC-4 of 1919.

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