By Armand F. Pereira - October 1996
The text below is my summarized account of the first southern Atlantic air crossing, done in 1922 by Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral, in memory of which Flemming Pedersen and I will fly the same route, beginning in Lisbon on 15 December (we'll take off from Geneva on Friday the 13th of December 1996!).
The text is based on the writings that I found at the library of the Navy Museum in Lisbon. Our aircraft (Flemming's own aeroplane) is a lot better: a 31 year-old single engine Mooney equipped with current navigational paraphernalia, instead of a Fairey-17 hydroplane (with double wings held to wooden floaters by flimsy cables...! The Mooney is smaller but between 1.6 and 2.4 times faster and 2.3 times more fuel efficient.
The Fairey-17 had two major advantages, however: It could land on water! Furthermore, because even with special adaptations its tank capacity was not enough to fly from Cape Verde to Fernando Noronha, it had to be met by a ship at St. Peter (& St. Pauls) Rocks to refuel them and, as it turned out, to save them from sinking along with their hydroplane whose floating capacity had been destroyed by rougher than expected sea waves. In a second critical segment of Coutinho and Cabrals voyage (you can read about it below), the engine stopped and they had to land on the sea. This time the waters were calm. So, they climbed out of their barrel-shaped cubicles and stretched and relaxed on the floaters to figure out what to do, while two sharks exhibited their fins between the two floaters.
Flemmings Mooney (baptized "Honey Mooney" for the travelling ordeals of Flemming and Angelas wedding celebration nine years ago) does not have floaters, but it has an inflatable rubber dingy which has not been put to use in the past 31 years and hopefully not in the next few months. And our survival kit includes a can of shark repellant. Another difference between the two voyages is that the Fairey-17 "Lusitania carried "a bottle of Ramos Pinto port wine for exceptional needs", whereas the Mooney "Honeymooney" will carry the same port (albeit of different vintage) as well as some French champagne not for "exceptional" but, rather, basic needs!
Coutinho and Cabral's adventure was less important for the future of civil aviation than Wright Brothers flight of the "Kitty Hawk", but it was quite incredible in itself and the first of its kind. Even the more adventurous first non-stop solo crossing of the North Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh took place five years later. Yet, at least seven of the worlds major encyclopaedias did not mention G. Coutinho or S. Cabral! That surely tells something about encyclopaedias! Anyway, you can read about them below (if you have nothing better to do, that is!).