The First East to West Transatlantic Flight

James Fitzmaurice did not have long to wait before he got the opportunity to try again. In 1928 efforts to make a successful East-West crossing of the Atlantic intensified, despite the obvious dangers involved. Preparations: In 1927, Charles Lindbergh completed a non-stop solo flight from New York to Paris. While he didn't land in Ireland, he later remarked that when he saw the green hills of Ireland he knew that he had hit Europe on the nose. (Weldon, p.25) Ireland's advantageous position on the Europe-America flight path became obvious. Two Germans, Baron Gunther Von Hunefeld and Captain Hermann Koehl were planning a fresh attempt at conquering the Atlantic, despite having barely survived their first effort in 1927. Their intention was to begin their journey in Ireland. The Irish government was approached by the Germans, permission was granted for Baldonnel Aerodrome to be used and all possible assistance was offered.

They extended an invitation to Fitzmaurice to join them on their attempt, to be made in early 1928. Fitzmaurice was chosen , probably because of his experience and his position of Commanding Officer at Baldonnel. Von Hunefeld later wrote: "The welcome given to us by the Irish military and civil authorities was most hearty. We were made guests of the Irish Air Corps and soon it was settled between Koehl and me to invite Commandant Fitzmaurice to accompany us as second pilot on our flight to North America. And so our 'German-Irish Crew' as we came to call it was formed and none of us ever regretted the pact which proved itself so trustworthy in the course of extreme danger" (Barry, p.14) The aircraft to be used was a Junkers W.33 named Bremen. It carried 520 gallons of petrol, enough for forty-four hours in the air. Fully loaded the plane weighed 5 tons. The plane arrived in Baldonnel on 26th March 1928.

Fitzmaurice took every opportunity to acquaint himself with the Bremen and many trial runs were undertaken. The big take-off was delayed because of bad weather but following a favourable North Atlantic weather report Thursday 12th April was set as the date for the Bremen's departure. When news of the intended departure got out, thousands of people made their way from Dublin out to Baldonnel to wish the flyers well and to see the historic take-off. Michael Burgess, a Garda on duty there that day recalled that the crowd were "very excited but well behaved, many of them had Rosary beads, and some of them were shaking holy water at the plane and its crew." (Fennelly, p.176) The huge crowd of sightseers cheered as the Bremen took off.

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