Centennial Celebration of the First Transatlantic Flight

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On Wednesday, May 8, many came out to Riis Landing to mark the 100th anniversary of the historic takeoff of the very first transatlantic flight from Rockaway. Members of the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, the National Park Service, community members and even family members of the crew and others involved in the success of the NC-4 and U.S. Navy Seaplane Division One were on hand to mark this momentous occasion.

Robby Schwach of Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office spent two hard years unearthing the story of the first transatlantic flight to bring it out of shadows of history and recognize the amazing feat on the 100th anniversary. The program began just shortly after 10 a.m., when three Navy seaplanes, the NC-1, NC-3 and NC-4, took off from the Rockaway Air Naval Station a century before, marking the start of their journey. Out of the three planes, the NC-4 would be the only one to complete the full trip, making stops in Massachusetts, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the Azores, before reaching Lisbon, Portugal.

The ceremony included speeches by members of the Coast Guard and Navy, who acknowledged the accomplishments of their fellow service members 100 years ago. Councilman Eric Ulrich presented proclamations to the members of both branches. Family members of Jack Towers, the head of the Naval Aviation Corps who spearheaded the historic journey, spoke about the accomplishments of their late family member. Although a seaplane wasn’t available, there were flyovers with helicopters from the Coast Guard and NYPD, while a FDNY boat put on a water show that caught the attention of the crowd. Bands from Scholars’ Academy and Channel View School for Research performed while their fellow classmates watched on. The ceremony ended with students from the schools placing carnations in a basket in memory of all of the crewmembers involved in the flights, which were later placed in Jamaica Bay by boat.

Following the main ceremony, the road near Beach 169th and Rockaway Point Blvd. was officially co-named, “US Navy Seaplane Division One Way,” so that generations to come will know what took place in the area.

Want to learn more about this historic event? Stop by the Rockaway Artists Alliance T7 Gallery in Fort Tilden through June 2 to check out an exhibit full of information, photos, videos and more relating to the events. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

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