The Adamowicz Brothers Take to the Skies for a Pioneering Flight Across the Atlantic Ocean

June 29, 1934

Joseph Adamowicz (1893-1970) and his younger brother Benjamin Adamowicz (1898-1979) began an ambitious airborne journey from North America to Europe. They are believed to be among the first (if not the first) amateur pilots to undertake any kind of transatlantic flight.

The brothers, flying a monoplane known as City of Warsaw, made an early-morning departure from Harbour Grace Airport on the island of Newfoundland (at the time a British territory and now part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador). “Although the fuel load was heavy the monoplane left the ground and climbed to the westward,” reported the New York Times. “Then it came back over the airport at a height of 1,000 feet [304.8 meters]. It was climbing as it sped across Conception Bay and disappeared over the ocean.”

Joseph and Benjamin Adamowicz, who were of Polish descent, had been born in a region of the Russian Empire that is now part of the Republic of Belarus in Eastern Europe. By 1917, the brothers had immigrated to United States. After initially working in a sugar factory, they started their own business producing soda water and soft drinks in New York City.

The Adamowicz brothers’ shared enthusiasm for aviation first took shape when they flew on board an aircraft as passengers in 1928. They subsequently bought a Waco biplane and used that to learn the fundamentals of flying. The brothers enjoyed their new means of transportation so much that they eventually decided to attempt a flight across the Atlantic. They paid $22,000 for a Bellanca J-300 monoplane to use for that planned journey. To highlight their Polish heritage, the brothers named their new aircraft City of Warsaw. In addition, they featured an image of a white-tailed eagle – one of Poland’s national symbols – on the red, white, and blue monoplane.

Despite a successful takeoff from Newfoundland, the Adamowicz brothers’ 1934 flight across the Atlantic proved to be anything but a leisurely and carefree ride. By the time they had been flying for six hours over the ocean, the brothers encountered potentially dangerous problems with ice on the aircraft. Benjamin, who was operating the controls at that point in the flight, resolved the ice problem by maneuvering City of Warsaw to a lower altitude. The brothers subsequently had to deal with another major weather-related challenge when they found themselves flying through a heavy rainstorm for a few hours.

The amateur pilots finally managed to bypass that rain by flying their aircraft above the clouds. It was then that they realized, however, that the monoplane’s main fuel tank was leaking. The Adamowicz brothers had brought several cans of emergency fuel with them, and they pumped that fuel into the steadily emptying tank. The emergency fuel was enough to get City of Warsaw to mainland Europe.

On the morning of June 30, the Adamowicz brothers crossed over a shoreline. Due to heavy fog as well as their weak navigational skills, the brothers were not able to readily determine their position. They ended up flying around for about another four hours before the fog finally cleared. The brothers then landed City of Warsaw in a meadow in northwestern France, having taken a total of 30 hours and 24 minutes to complete their 2,500-mile (4,023,4-kilometer) flight.

The following day, the Adamowicz brothers flew to Paris. From there, they took to the skies again for a trip to Poland. While they had to make an emergency landing in Germany to care of additional fuel leaks in their aircraft, the brothers finally arrived in Poland’s capital city of Warsaw on July 2. They were greeted there as heroes for their high-risk journey. (The above photo depicts that welcoming crowd gathered around the brothers’ aircraft in Warsaw.) After being lionized in their ancestral homeland, Joseph and Benjamin Adamowicz sold their monoplane to a government organization there in Poland and then sailed back to the United States to resume their everyday jobs in New York City.

The Adamowicz brothers (Benjamin on the far left, Joseph on the far right) during their visit to Poland after they completed their transatlantic flight.

For more information on the 1934 transatlantic flight of Joseph and Benjamin Adamowicz, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adamowicz_brothers

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