Fitzmaurice's First Attempt

In 1926, Fitzmaurice tried to make real his long-standing dream of crossing the Atlantic by air. He began fundraising and approached the government with his idea. Money was scarce, however, and his plans came to nothing. Meanwhile in England, another experienced aviator, Captain Robert Henry McIntosh was preparing his plans for an east-west crossing. McIntosh was fortunate in that he already had the financial backing of the American millionaire William B. Leeds. McIntosh contacted Fitzmaurice for permission to use Baldonnel as his starting point. The correspondence between the two men led to McIntosh's invitation to Fitzmaurice to join him in his attempt as copilot. Fitzmaurice gladly accepted. McIntosh arrived at Baldonnel in late August 1927 in his Fokker monoplane, named Princess Xenia. McIntosh and Fitzmaurice immediately began intensive preparations for the flight. All the tests were completed and all that was needed was good weather.

The days passed slowly, the weather bulletins reporting fog, rain and storms over the Atlantic. This was a frustrating time for McIntosh as the leave he had been given by his employers, Imperial Airways, was fast running out. The tension of the long wait perhaps made him take chances he may not have taken otherwise. On the morning of the 16th September 1927, a weather report was received from the Chief Meteorological Officer with the Air Ministry in London. It said that weather conditions off the Atlantic coast of Ireland were poor for a distance of 200 miles but after that it was reasonably clear as far as the North American coastline. The two aviators decided to leave that afternoon. A big crowd gathered at Baldonnel to witness the takeoff. At 1:30 pm the Princess Xenia moved down the runway and set off on her epic journey.

As soon as the men left the coast of Galway, turbulence threw the aircraft from side to side. The pilots persevered, in the belief that conditions would get better. However instead of improving, the weather continued to worsen. Visibility was almost nil. McIntosh had to battle with the controls to keep the aircraft in the sky. Both McIntosh and Fitzmaurice were reluctant to turn back after being given such a wonderful and public send-off at Baldonnel. They felt that national and personal pride was at stake. To continue on their journey, however, would have been suicidal and both men knew that their only chance of survival was to head for the nearest land. They turned around and flew back towards Ireland. They landed on Beale Strand near Ballybunion in County Kerry. McIntosh never got another chance to try again. Fitzmaurice on the other hand did not have long to wait before he would head west once more.

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