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Ketchum, Paul M. (ed.) / The Wisconsin engineer
Volume 42, Number 6 (March 1938)

Waitkus, Felix
Trans-Atlantic flight,   pp. 103-105

Page 105

the same station. Thus
a triangle was plotted
by means of a double
a r m e d  protractor.
w h o s e base and in-
cluded angles w e r e
known. Then it was a
simple matter to locate
the position on this
triangle. The air being
calm, it was possible
to keep the ship more
or less level by flying
with my knees while
the plotting was being
  W i t h everything
functioning w e I  at
this point, and taking                            Instrum(
a deep breath, I
turned out over the ocean, still hoping that the fog would
clear up in a couple of hours to relieve the monotony of
blind flying.
  About 300 miles out of Newfoundland, the Athlone
radio station was beginning to come in; a welcome relief.
Then it was a matter of following the nose of the radio
compass and checking these directions with those previous-
ly computed.
  During the night, over the middle of the ocean, the
plane ran into some difficulties; flying at 12,000 feet, it
flew into a cold mass of turbulent air moving southward.
Starting with a heavy mist, the precipitation changed to
heavy rains and finally to wet snow which piled up on the
wings and propeller with such rapidity that within a min-
ute and a half the plane became heavily loaded with ice,
and began dropping at the rate of about 2,000 feet per
minute. Nothing could be done about it but let her drop.
To add to this predicament, the carburetor venturi be-
came partly choked with ice, with the result that only a
little less than cruising horsepower was available from the
engine. Fortunately, at a lower altitude, the outside tem-
perature rose, melting the ice off of the wings, and with
the carburetor heater full on, the ice in the venturi was
melted off, so that at an altitude of about 3,000 feet, the
plane was flying normally again and under control. The
plane was blown off its course 50 miles during this storm.
A couple of hours later, in attempting to go back up to
12,000 feet, the plane began to ice up again, so it was nec-
essary to fly at the lower level for the remainder of the
  About 150 miles from the Irish coast, the "soup" began
to clear; through holes in the clouds it was possible to see
either the sky or the water intermittently, a most welcome
relief after having one's eyes on the blind flying instru-
ments constantly for almost 17 hours, in fact, from
the time I left Nova Scotia. By this time, the instruments
were beginning to fairly dance before my eyes, and on one
or two occasions, I caught myself watching the instru-
.nt Panel
ments, noticing the de-
flections of the various
needles but doing
nothing about it.
  Through one hole
in the clouds, some-
thing like a floating
log was seen. Upon
diving down from 14,-
000 feet, it turned out
to be a goo d sized
steam trawler, and aft-
er giving the boat a
coupl e of good
"buzzes," I proceeded
toward Ireland. After
flying 30 minutes un-
der the c 1 o u d s, the
green Irish hills were
sighted, a n d where,
from the landmarks, the position of the ship was found to
be four or five miles off its predetermined course. Three
cheers for the radio compass!
  But in the attempts to climb or dive under the storm
areas over the ocean, the engine drank up more gas than
had been planned, with the result that only enough gas
was left to go a little beyond Berlin, but not into Lithu-
ania. Ireland was reported to be all fogged up, England
was experiencing both fog and rains, and Germany, thun-
derstorms. Flying below the heavy clouds and above the
100-foot ground fog, an attempt was made to reach Dub-
lin, but there was the ground fog as far as one could see,
except for an area about ten miles in diameter.
  Rather than chancing a landing on the Continent with
its probably poor landing conditions, and a diminishing
fuel supply, I decided to pick some field in this open
area, land, take on about 60 gallons of gas and proceed
on into Lithuania where the weather was reported to be
perf ect.
  Then, after searching for a pasture large enough in
which to land the Lockheed, I proceeded to frighten the
cattle away from it, some of them even jumping a four-
foot stone fence and haven't been heard from since (so I
was told). But in coming in for a landing and passing
within a foot or two of a haystack and one of those Irish
stone fences, an unexpected gust of wind picked up one
wing and dug the other into the ground. The ship spun
around, washed out the landing gear, right wing front
section of the fuselage and the propeller. Then everything
was quiet, peaceful and beautiful on that Irish Sunday
morning. But I could not drink in the beauty of the coun-
tryside for long, for I heard the playful trickling of gaso-
line and had to get out of the ship before the hot exhaust
pipe or an electrical short circuit might have started a
Wisconsin bonfire. Fortunately, no such fire did occur.
  The Irish then came to my assistance, with the local po-
lice doing an excellent job of protecting, while the inn-
                   (continued on page 116)
March. 1938
Page 105

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