From the archive

How Nature reported Alcock and Brown’s trans-Atlantic flight in 1919, and predictions of a huge expansion of air traffic in 1969.

50 Years Ago

An annual increase of 13–14 per cent in passenger traffic at Heathrow London Airport is expected from the introduction of the Boeing 747 jets next April. These aircraft, which are having their final tests at the end of this year, will each carry an average of 350 passengers … [B]y 1973 there will be 250 of them arriving at Heathrow each week, so that the number of passengers will be about 23 million, almost double the 1968 figure of 13.7 million. To accommodate this increase, the British Airports Authority has planned £12.5 million worth of additions and extensions to the existing Heathrow facilities … The present terminal building 3 will become a separate departure terminal connected to a newly built arrival terminal and a multi-storey car park. … Each of the seven departure lounges will feed passengers into an aircraft … by way of telescopic air jetties. Thus the 350 passengers can enter or leave the plane in a few minutes.

From Nature 21 June 1969

100 Years Ago

The honour of the first direct trans-Atlantic flight … has fallen to two English aviators … Capt. J. Alcock as pilot, and Lt. Whitten Brown as navigator. Newfoundland was left at 4.25 p.m., G.M.T., on June 14, and a landing made at Clifden, Galway, at 8.40 a.m., G.M.T., on June 15 … The passage was made in 16 hours 15 min., giving an average speed of nearly 120 miles per hour. The wind was favourable, but the weather very bad … Clouds were met at all altitudes, and it was generally impossible to see either ocean or sky. At the higher altitudes the machine became covered with ice, and at one time the air-speed indicator became clogged, thus robbing the pilot of his best guide as to the altitude in which he was flying. The sense of horizontality was for the time lost, and the machine executed various evolutions until it had fallen so low that the sea became visible … The flight may well be regarded as one of the most wonderful feats of recent times, and the two brave aviators are to be heartily congratulated on their great achievement in the face of such enormous difficulties.

From Nature 19 June 1919

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01908-x

Paid content

Nature Briefing

An essential round-up of science news, opinion and analysis, delivered to your inbox every weekday.