Lituanica crashed 74 years ago, today
Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas were Lithuanian pilots emigrant to United States, who made a significant flight in the history of world aviation. On July 15, 1933, they flew across the Atlantic Ocean, covering a distance of 3,984 miles (6,411 kilometers) without landing, in 37 hours and 11 minutes.In terms of comparison, as far as the distance of non-stop flights was concerned, their result ranked second only to that of Russell Boardman and John Polando, and it ranked fourth in terms of duration of flight at the time. Although Darius and Girėnas did not have navigational equipment, and flew under unfavorable weather conditions, the flight made by the airmen at that time was one of the most precise in aviation history. It equaled, and in some aspects surpassed, Charles Lindbergh‘s classic flight. Lithuanica also carried the first Transtlantic air mail consignment in history.
After taking off from Floyd Bennett Field in New York on July 15, 1933, 6:24 AM EDT, Darius and Girėnas in their Lituanica successfully crossed the Atlantic, only to perish on July 17, 0:36 AM (Berlin Time) by the village of Kuhdamm, near Soldin, Germany (now Pszczelnik, Myslibórz area, Poland). The planned route was: New York – Newfoundland – Atlantic Ocean – Ireland – London – Amsterdam – Swinemünde – Königsberg – Kaunas (a total of 7,186 km). Due to weather conditions over Ireland, they changed course to the north and reached Germany via Scotland and the North Sea.
In 37 hours and 11 minutes, until the moment of the crash, they had flown 6411 km (over 7000 km in actual flight path), only 650 km short of their goal — Kaunas. On July 19, the German plane “Derluft”, carried the bodies of the pilots back to Lithuania. The people of Kaunas met the heroes, but in great sorrow. The funeral was a very solemn occasion and was the cause of official national mourning. Those heroes were inspirational figures to the generations of the Lithuanians, including the author of this blog.
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