When the British airship R.34 crossed the Atlantic in 1919, she and her crew became instant celebrities. Taking off from Britain on July 2, the crew battled winds, storms, freezing conditions and a rapidly dwindling fuel supply before arriving 108 flying hours later. Hovering over a field in Mineola, NY, the airship discharged its first cargo – Major John Pritchard – who parachuted down in order to organize the landing party below. This was necessary due to the fact there was no one in the United States who had any experience in handling such a craft. As the photos illustrate, obviously Pritchard was successful. He also became the first man to arrive in America by air (and parachute).
The first photo shows R.34 resting after its journey. Scattered and stacked all around are hundreds of hydrogen cylinders to provide gas for the trip home. Why the whole place wasn’t blown to kingdom come is probably a miracle in itself.
Photo #2 is interesting in that the men of the 278th Aero Squadron decided to use the R.34 as a backdrop for their group photo. At this time, the 278th was being disbanded at Mineola, and the arrival of R.34 was obviously inspiring. This is the only explanation because the 278th certainly had nothing whatsoever to do with airships (other than trying to shoot them down, should the opportunity present itself.).
The last photo is an example of how the R.34 compared to the Woolworth Building in New York City. It being, in 1919, the tallest building in the world Woolworth’s was always a handy prop for comparison (ocean liners, airships, etc.).
Meteor WH169 is pictured on its home turf of RAF Cranwell in the late 1950s. As a two-seater, it was used primarily for training and in such a scenario the aircraft crashed and ended up in the scrapyard in 1960. Lurking behind it are two other Cranwell mainstays of the 1950s: a de Havilland Vampire and a Vickers Valetta (WJ462).
Found this last week on ebay listed as a 1930’s RAF photo. After receiving said picture, a closer examination showed it to be yes, RAF, but it was taken in America during World War II (Note the “USA” titles worn by some of the men). Most who know a thing or two about WWII aviation also know that the airmen of many Allied nations trained in the United States during that time. With wide-open spaces, fair weather, and, most importantly, a noticeable lack of Luftwaffe fighters to distract you, the US was the logical place to learn the fundamentals of flight.
Men of Britain and other nations were welcomed, and by the time the program ended thousands of airmen had been trained in what was obviously a very successful idea. To those who may disagree I offer this: Name one man in the RAF who was shot down in American skies by Luftwaffe fighters.
I rest my case.