Raimond Goerler on: Richard Byrd: The Transatlantic Flight of 1927
Q: How did the public rate Byrd as one of the competitors in the
transatlantic race? Was he expected to win or confident that he would?
RG: The transatlantic flight of 1927 proved to be a rather controversial, to
some extent, disappointing one. Byrd was, in fact, the favorite, he had a
brand new airplane, he had his own runway, he had a meteorological service to
make weather forecasts. He had all the advantages of and more that Charles
Lindbergh did not. Lindbergh flew on a one motor aircraft and he was the first
and Byrd was heavily criticized for being overly cautious and he was very
cautious. He insisted that it was not really a race that what he wanted to do
was to demonstrate the safety and reliability of the tri-motor, which he saw as
the future of aviation rather than the single engine airplane - not everybody
believed that story.
Q: What do we learn about Byrd's stature from the public reaction to his
transatlantic flight? You were talking about a cult figure, now a celebrity.
RG: Despite coming in third in that transatlantic competition Byrd did so
with a real splash. He lands in the ocean off the coast of France, does so
because it is safer to land in the ocean than it is to land in a house or tree
tops and they row the raft to the small French village and so despite being a
loser in the competition, he still does this in a heroic fashion and gets a
ticker tape parade, the first American to receive two ticker tape parades in
New York City and boasted he's the toasted, I should say as the quintessential
American hero. He did it, he wasn't first but he did it with a flair.
Q: Briefly how hairy was the transatlantic flight?
RG: The transatlantic flight was a terrible flight. It was a horror for Byrd
who was a foremost navigator. It flew through clouds, through fog, rain and
the diary of that flight are simply with messages that are impossible to
navigate, impossible to navigate. It was much more drama than Byrd would have