91st anniversary of the South Atlantic airplane crossing

The date was June the 15th. 1922, the place was Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro Brasil. That day Portuguese Navy Officers Commander Sacadura Cabral and Admiral Gago Coutinho completed their journey across the South of the Atlantic Ocean.

Of course this was 1922 and aircraft were not as reliable as they came to be so this mission was covered by some aircraft changes, minor and not so minor mechanical fixes and all type of problems. Fact is that even Charles Lindbergh that performed the North Atlantic Cross connecting New York to Paris with the Spirit of Saint Louis only achieved that 6 years later in 1927.

The first Atlantic cross completed is mentioned to be in 1919 by Sir John Alcock and Sir Arthur Whitten Brown also in the Northern Hemisphere connecting St. Johns, Newfoundland to Connemara, Ireland.

Admiral Gago Coutinho was a very experienced navigator in the Portuguese Navy some of its Books Papers and know how is still used today to teach the new Navigator Officers of the Portuguese Navy and during the crossing the navigation was entirely made by the stars witch gives more importance to their achievement.

Below it’s a paper allusive to this mission signed by both Officers.
One of the Fairey F III-D can be seen in the Portuguese Navy Museum close to the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, Lisboa, and not to far from there and very close to the Tower of Belém there is a statue marking the starting point of this journey with a 1/1 réplica of the aircraft. As I said before aviation was not so reliable at that time specially for great journeys as this one so the firs aircraft ,the Lusitânia, had to be replaced by a second one, the Pátria, after a water landing already near Fernando Noronha Archipelago, although this second aircraft wasn’t the final one as it turned out it didn’t came to leave Fernando Noronha Archipelago due to an engine pane and a forced ditching Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral had to wait once more for another plane that could fly them to Rio de Janeiro.
The Fairey F III-D “Santa Cruz” photo: Carlos da Cruz
The Monument in Belém the starting point photo: Carlos da Cruz

Replica of the Fairey F III-D “Santa Cruz” in 2007 in Air Force Museum, Alverca photo: Filipe Cardoso

The third aircraft, the Santa Cruz, is the one now exposed at the Portuguese Navy Museum and it has a replica of it at previous Portuguese Air Force Museum in Alverca, plans are to take it to que new installations now in Sintra Airbase. This museum in Sintra has already some documentation and minor pieces exposed regarding this flight that can be seen.

One of the pieces that to me has the biggest historical relevance and that I had the opportunity to see a copy of the Mission Report typewritten by Admiral Gago Coutinho with illustrative photographs and every thing also autographed by Gago Coutinho. Nowadays this rare piece of Aeronautical History is well protected and can be seen at the entry lobby of the Portuguese Navy Helicopter Squadron the followers of the ancient Po Navy Aviation.

A rough resume of the journey between Portugal and Brasil

Since the XVth. century that Portugal looked straight to the ocean as an opportunity and as it is said around here “we gave new worlds to the world” and Commander Sacadura Cabral and Admiral Gago Coutinho were true believers of that. They joined the Sailor’s spirit for adventure the interest for the new world of aviation and centuries of navigation knowledge all together.

At the time of the crossing Admiral Gago Coutinho attained the rank of Captain or in Portuguese Capitão-de-Mar-e-Guerra.

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