Anniversary of the First Round-Trip Flight Across the Atlantic

On this day in 1919, the British airship R34 completed the first round-trip crossing of the Atlantic ocean by air.

Westbound Crossing

R34’s flight from Scotland to New York was the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic from East to West, against the prevailing westerly winds; a feat that would not be accomplished by airplane until 1928.

The ship left East Fortune, Scotland on July 2, 1919, and landed in Mineola, New York on July 6, 1919, after a flight of 108 hours and 12 minutes.

Eastbound Return

The ship sailed home on July 10, 1919, and arrived in Pulham, England on July 13, 1919 after a flight of 75 hours and 3 minutes.  It was the first round-trip crossing of the Atlantic by air.

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Ed Regis
Ed Regis

Stu: That’s a good point you make there about fuel-efficiency being the answer to the question I posed. It may even be the correct answer. My hesitation is that, as I mentioned in my reply to glenn’s post earlier, a conventional winged aircraft actually beat the airship on the eastbound… Read more »

Ed Regis
Ed Regis

It is sort of amazing that this large, expensive, and comparatively slow aerial vehicle accomplished these crossings before the comparatively light, fast, and relatively inexpensive airplane was able to. Does anyone have a nice, neat and simple explanation of this fact?


The explanation is the following: They offered a “work around” for engine technology, navigation technology, and the limits human endurance to deal with these deficiencies of the day. Even through the end of WWI engines were still unreliable, limited by fuel consumption (range) and performance when running for long periods.… Read more »

Ed Regis
Ed Regis

Thanks for your answer. I agree about engine unreliability and navigational problems, but I don’t see how the dirigible by itself solved the latter. And despite the challenge of long-endurance engine performance, the British aviators Alcock and Brown nevertheless made it first across the Atlantic Eastbound, nonstop, on 14-15 June… Read more »


The answer is simple. An airship is an aerostat which means it flies without the need of an engine pushing it through the air creating dynamic lift. An airplane (then as now) is an aerodyne which means it gains flight only by moving through the air using the air movement… Read more »