Aviation Historian 40
J.Kightly, R.Reis - The power of three
Fairey IIID c/n F400 prepares to depart Portugal for South America in March 1922. Colourisation of original photograph by RICHARD J. MOLLOY.
Several monuments commemorating Cabral and Coutinho’s 1922 flight take pride of place in Portugal, including this remarkably accurate full-size sculpture of the aircraft by Soares Branco at the departure point on the waterfront at Lisbon. Another full-size steel sculpture is located at Sao Bras de Alportel in the Algarve.
The original surviving Fairey IIID, c/n 402 Santa Cruz, is seen here preserved at the Museu de Marinha de Lisboa (Portuguese Naval Museum), while an accurate replica constructed by Portuguese aerospace company OGMA for the 50th anniversary of the crossing is at the Museu do Ar at Alverca.
Replacement Fairey IIID c/n F401 awaits offloading from the stem of SS Bage at Fernando de Noronha on May 6. Given the serial “16”, this was a IIID, but fitted with the 62ft 9in (19-13m)-span extended upper wings of the IIIB, the lower wings retaining the IIID’s 46ft 1in (14-05m) span. A protective tarpaulin covers the forward fuselage.
With the Portuguese flag proudly raised above the cockpit of the third Fairey IIID used in the attempt, c/n F402, Cabral and Coutinho finally arrive at Rio de Janeiro on June 17, 1922.
Bearing its construction number, F400, prominently on the aft fuselage, the first of Cabral and Coutinho’s three Fairey IIIDs used on the South Atlantic attempt undergoes instrument and equipment checks in flying attitude at Doca do Bom Sucesso in Belem, Lisbon, before departure. By this time the underwing fuel tanks had been deleted and relocated in the main floats.
With engineers hard at work on its Rolls-Royce Eagle engine, Lusitania undergoes maintenance at Sao Vicente in Cape Verde in early April 1922, Cabral and Coutinho having decided that a technical stop was essential to the crossing’s viability. It was here that the pair hatched the plan to alight at the St Peter and St Paul Archipelago.
Cabral (left) and Coutinho in the cockpits of Fairey IIID c/n F400. Cabral’s cockpit is in the midships position, close to the aft cockpit, in which Coutinho is seen here. The second and third Fairey IIIDs used to complete the South Atlantic flight were of standard configuration, with the crew situated further apart.
Artur de Sacadura Freire Cabral (left) and Carlos Viegas Gago Coutinho photographed beside the hangar containing the specially adapted Fairey IIID the pair used to launch the first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic in 1922. A distinguished naval geographer, Coutinho was 53 years old when he and Cabral undertook the 1922 flight.
The aircraft was a completely standard IIID floatplane and was named Santa Cruz, as seen on the cowling at its official christening.
Another view of the Fairey being unloaded from SS Bage at Fernando de Noronha. The difficulties of such a task in inclement weather are apparent, especially for the unloading crew, but the weather held long enough for the delivery to be completed in calm conditions. Apart from the unequal-span wings, this was a standard IIID.
Named Lusitania in honour of the ancient region which became Portugal, Fairey IIID c/n F400 taxies past the distinctive 16th-century Torre de Belem on the River Tagus in Lisbon, the landmark famous as an embarkation and disembarkation point for Portuguese explorers.
Lusitania begins to sink beneath the waves after losing a float on alighting near the rocky outcrop of the St Peter and St Paul Archipelago on April 18. The launch from the Republica is alongside, picking up the airmen and their documents and instruments. Note the Cruz de Cristo retouched on to the underside of the port wing.
Marinha Portuguesa Felixstowe F.3 flying-boat N4018 arrives at Funchal, Madeira, having flown from Lisbon, on March 22, 1921. This trial “raid” was undertaken by Coutinho (furthest left) and Cabral (standing, second from left) plus crew in order to test long-distance navigational techniques. Coutinho’s calculations proved remarkably accurate.