“Bird of Paradise” Pilots Make Aviation History


Five weeks after the much celebrated Charles Lindbergh flight from New York to Paris, two plucky American pilots took a two ton Atlantic-Fokker C-2 trimotor airplane on a 2500 mile transpacific flight from California to Hawaii.

On June 29, 1927, they landed in the Pacific archipelago. The achievement was impressive and they received the Mackay Trophy.Without GPS or other modern instruments used in today’s navigation, 1st Lt. Lester J. Maitland and 1st Lt. Albert F. Hegenberger operated like the explorer’s of older times. They relied on the stars at night time and a sextant in the day time.

They also confirmed and corrected their course by sightings of military and civilian ships. Basically, they flew by dead reckoning.

Had they erred in their azimuth, they would have never sighted land and would surely have run out of fuel somewhere over Pacific.

Maitland and Hegenberger deserved more recognition, but Lindbergh had captured the larger share of the spotlight.

Timing, they say is everything on the stage. It appears also to be the case in heroic feats.



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