francis coli

It was a time when the race across the Atlantic Ocean was a big as the Race to Space would become years later. Since the invention of planes, everyone trained as a pilot wanted to set some sort of record in the aviation industry, and there were plenty of them out there to set. One in particular, the transatlantic flight was in its early stages. The world was waiting for that first successful transatlantic non-stop flight.

Then on May 8, 1927, it looked like all that would change. That morning French aviator, Captain Charles Nungesser and his co-pilot, Francis Coli took off from Paris in a plane they called The White Bird, to the surprise of many observers who felt the weather conditions were not favorable. Nevertheless, the White Bird taxied down the runway at 5:17 am on that Sunday morning, bound for New York. The plane rose and faltered, and after rolling half a mile it finally labored into the air. As it disappeared in the distance, it was no more than 700 feet off the ground when. Less than five hours later the White Bird was sighted leaving the Irish coast on its way westward over the Atlantic. It looked as if all was going well.

The Bi-Plane was later spotted in the early morning off Nova Scotia fighting strong head winds and heading for the Maine Seaboard. It had been in the air for approximately 33 hours. Shortly after the sighting the plane mysteriously disappeared while trying to be the first to complete the non-stop transatlantic flight, flying from Paris to New York City. On the afternoon of May 9, 1927, Anson Berry, fishing in his canoe on Round Lake in eastern Maine, heard what sounded like an engine overhead, approaching from the northeast. He could not see the airplane, if that was what it was, because of a heavy overcast. He assumed that it was the White Bird, because there weren’t many planes flying in those days.

The engine sounded erratic. Moments later it stopped, and Berry heard what he described years later as a faint, ripping crash. The afternoon was wearing on, and the always unsteady spring weather was worsening, with rain beginning to fall. Perhaps because he did not trust the weather to hold, Berry did not investigate what he heard. The plane, pilot and navigator have never been seen since and two weeks later American aviator Charles Lindbergh, flying solo, successfully crossed from New York to Paris. Many people wondered why no one had ever happened upon the wreck, but the probable area of the crash is in an area of heavy underbrush, and it is likely that the wreck has been buried in the foliage.

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