1933: A Scottish Aviator Completes a Record-Setting Flight Between Europe and South America

February 9, 1933

Scottish aviator James A. Mollison, flying a de Havilland Puss Moth high-wing monoplane that he named “The Heart’s Content,” completed the first solo east-west airborne crossing of the South Atlantic Ocean. This unprecedented flight ended with Mollison landing at the city of Natal in northeastern Brazil at 1:20 p.m. He arrived there just a little over 82 hours after he departed from Europe in his aircraft.

The 27-year-old Mollison had flown out from Lympne Aerodrome in southeastern England at 8:15 a.m. on February 6. Mollison, who was characterized in a United Press news account as “superstitious like most fliers,” wore a green, white, and yellow tie for good luck — the same neckwear he had sported about six months earlier when he made the first solo east-west flight across the North Atlantic Ocean. “No aviator could have crossed the Atlantic from east to west without wearing such a tie,” he explained. Mollison’s wardrobe for the South Atlantic trek also included a gray suit, brown suede shoes, and a black leather coat. 

While leaving behind such everyday items as a toothbrush to help lighten his plane’s load, Mollison did bring along coffee, barley, sugar, pork sandwiches, and a flask of brandy. After leaving England that Monday morning, he made his way south to the city of Thiès in the present-day Republic of Senegal (at the time part of the federation of French colonial territories known as French West Africa). Mollison then flew nearly 1,900 miles (3,057.8 kilometers) across the South Atlantic to Brazil.

A large crowd was on hand to welcome Mollison when he arrived at Natal on February 9. “Mollison Conquers the Atlantic Again,” proclaimed the Jamaica-based Daily Gleaner in its headline announcing the pilot’s successful completion of his latest journey. A heavily fatigued Mollison, whose journey across the South Atlantic involved everything from intense sunburn on his face to powerful rainstorms en route, dismissed his high-risk achievement as “a simple recreation flight.”  

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Additional information on James A. Mollison is available at SAAM Profiles – Jim Mollison & Amy Johnson.pdf

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