Transatlantic flight  

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Transatlantic flight is the flight of an aircraft, whether fixed-wing aircraft, balloon or other device, which involves crossing the Atlantic Ocean — with a starting point in North America or South America and ending in Europe or Africa, or vice versa.

Problems that faced early aviation included the unreliability of early engines, limited range (which prevented them from flying continuously for the periods of time required to completely cross the Atlantic), the difficulty of navigating over featureless expanses of water for thousands of miles, and the unpredictable and often violent weather of the North Atlantic. Today, however, commercial transatlantic flight is routine. Experimental flight (in balloons, small aircraft, etc.) still presents a challenge.


The North Atlantic presented challenges for aviators due to weather and the huge distances involved coupled with the lack of stopping points. Initial transatlantic services, therefore, focused more on the South Atlantic, where a number of French, German, and Italian airlines offered seaplane service for mail between South America and West Africa in the 1930s. From February 1934 to August 1939 Deutsche Lufthansa operated a regular airmail service between Natal, Brazil, and Bathurst, The Gambia, continuing via the Canary Islands and Spain to Stuttgart, Germany. From December 1935, Air France opened a regular weekly airmail route between South America and Africa. German airlines, such as Deutsche Lufthansa, experimented with mail routes over the North Atlantic in the early 1930s, both with seaplanes and dirigibles.

In 1931, the airship Graf Zeppelin began offering regular scheduled passenger service between Germany and South America which continued until 1937. Over its career Graf Zeppelin crossed the South Atlantic 136 times.[1] In 1936, the airship Hindenburg entered passenger service and successfully crossed the Atlantic 36 times before crashing at Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937. [2]

As technology progressed, Pan American World Airways of the United States, Imperial Airways of Britain, Lufthansa of Germany, and AĆ©ropostale of France, began to use flying boats to connect the Americas to Europe via Bermuda and the Azores during the 1930s. A main reason for using flying boats was the lack of runways long enough to allow large airplanes to take off and land. On 26 March 1939, Pan American made its first trial transatlantic flight from Baltimore, Maryland to Foynes, Ireland using a Boeing 314 (named Yankee Clipper by PanAm) with a scheduled flight time of about 29 hours.[3]

During World War II the crossing of the Atlantic by air became much more commonplace with the instigation of RAF Ferry Command, whose purpose was to deliver US- and Canadian-built combat aircraft to the United Kingdom, flying from Gander, Newfoundland, to Prestwick in Scotland. Over the course of the war, more than 9,000 aircraft were ferried across the ocean. The Atlantic Division of the United States Army Air Forces Air Transport Command ferried aircraft and carried supplies and passengers from the USA to the British Isles. By the end of the war, crossing the Atlantic had become a routine operation, presaging the inauguration of scheduled commercial air transport services after the war.

After World War II long runways were available, and American and European carriers such as Pan Am, TWA, Trans Canada Airlines (TCA), BOAC, and Air France acquired larger piston aircraft, which allowed service over the North Atlantic with intermediate stops (usually in Gander International Airport, Newfoundland and/or Shannon, Ireland). Scheduled jet flights began in October 1958, and supersonic service (Concorde) was offered from 1976 to 2003. Since the loosening of regulations in the 1970s and 1980s, a large number of airlines now compete in the transatlantic market.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Transatlantic flight" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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