May 8

The Eagles Return

Wednesday, May 8, 2019 12:01 AM

By

American seaplanes NC1 & NC3 at their moorings near Baker Point on 9 May 1919. Photo by F. G. Goodenough.Credit: 2013.066 Annabel (Siteman) Ells fonds, Postcard Collection No. 56, Courtesy of Eastern Shore Archives.

On 8 May 1919, the waterfront of Halifax harbor was lined with spectators awaiting the arrival of three U.S. Navy seaplanes from Long Island on the first leg of their much-heralded attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Reports of their progress were received during the afternoon as they moved along the south shore of Nova Scotia and finally, at 7:40 pm, two of the aircraft, NC-3 and NC-1, landed safely in the harbor.

These were Navy Curtiss or NC (Nancy) flying boats, designed as self-deploying anti-submarine aircraft and intended for combat duties. But when NC Seaplane Division One was commissioned on 3 May 1919, their task was to achieve the U.S. Navy’s long-held ambition to be ‘First Across’ the Atlantic Ocean.

The American fliers were no strangers to Halifax. From August 1918 until January 1919, the U.S. Navy flew six Curtiss HS-2L flying boats on aerial anti-submarine patrols from United States Naval Air Station Halifax, located at Baker Point near Eastern Passage. When they first arrived, the Americans were termed the ‘Eagles of Protection’ and the Commanding Officer of those ‘Eagles’, Lieutenant-Commander R. E. Byrd, was now back in Halifax onboard NC-3.

In the end, it did not fall to either NC-3 or NC-1 to complete the trans-Atlantic crossing. It was NC-4, which arrived in Halifax on 14 May, that achieved the honor of being ‘First Across.’ She arrived in Lisbon on 27 May after staging through Newfoundland and the Azores and proceeded on to Plymouth, England, landing on 31 May 1919 after 52.5 hours total flying time.