Welcome to the story of the ping pong flight an often overlooked event in the history of aviation.
An exhibition has been built along with this site to depict the main incidents which took place during the journey .Pictures of the mural panels are placed below and you can scroll down them and read a short description of the flight and the men who made it happen
Facts covering the flight can be seen by clicking on the titles at the top of this page.
The flight returned via Merseyside, England , where this project was created and is based .The exhibition was shown in Wayfarers Arcade ,Southport to remind people of the part the town played in this historic event.
This stylized map displays the route of a most remarkable flight made by a modified Vultee V1-A aircraft in September 1936.
Funded by the famous entertainer Harry Richman and captained by `Dick` Merrill on leave from eastern Airlines.The attempted flight had been from Floyd Bennet Field , New York , which is now part of a U.S. National Park , to Croydon, London, returning the following day but this had not transpired . Clearly this modified but never the less extended flight remained a great achievement and had a large influence on the future of aviation .
A CLUB IN MIAMI
Clearly from the map, it was evident that it was going to be an altogether different
venture than envisaged some months previously when Merrill called in at the Miami
club where Richman was entertaining
Captain Dick Merrill the popular pilot (DC2s) at Eastern Airlines had achieved much fame from his previous exploits - from the Barnstorming days to Postal Services (with impromptu aerobatics frequently included) To a variety of long distance rescue missions. And yet he had not flown the Atlantic. Not for want of trying, but on his earnings this cherished dream had not been feasible.
Two offers of subsidy had not materialized.
Then early in 1936 the famous and wealthy entertainer Harry Richman decided to boost his own modest aviation ambitions by acquiring a modern plane a Vultee V1-A Merrill had at once recognised that the plane would be capable of an Atlantic trip, and decided to call in on Richman. As he suspected Richman would be up for it and tentative agreement was reached. Merrill would do the essential flying and Richman would fund the enterprise .They called the aircraft `Lady Peace` to promote peace .
"Fly from New York to London, refuel and return the next day". Merrill suggested .The two-way Atlantic
trip had not been done before .Such was the plan and preparations began in earnest.
At 4pm on 2nd.Sept.( after waiting for clear skies from the previous day ) they emerged from the hangar and made towards a small crowd for last minute farewells and good luck
wishes to add to the bundles already collected ( including Amelia Earhart`s ). Finally Merrill started the engine with its customary roar, and slowly moved onto the runway which stretched from Flatbush Avenue. At the Eastern end Merrill turned to align for take-off. Final cockpit checks completed with oxygen available , Richman lowered the wing flaps as Merrill slowly eased the aircraft into its take-off run .From the sluggish start the plane started to gather speed more rapidly .
Passing the hundred mark , Merrill adroitly corrected a sudden dip by the starboard wing and the plane now approaching 130mph lifted and skimmed over Flatbush Avenue .Nearby spectators on the airfield ducked anticipating the returning aircraft but Merrill climbed steadily curving onto a course over Long Island.
To their surprise they were joined by a couple of DC2s , one on each side as Rickenbacker (straw hat and all) and staff waved their farewells before returning to their duty at Newark.
Climbing steadily the pilots set their course for Newfoundland and the Atlantic , away from the setting sun into twilight.
As the Vultee flew east following the ` Great Circle ` route ,which would later be used by many commercial airlines the two pilots used their early form of radio direction system to check progress but as they began to approach the Irish coast a huge thunder storm lay in their flight path reducing visibility and the primitive system`s efficiency . They became lost and low on fuel and had to look for an emergency landing place.
They reached New York on the afternoon of 21st. September 1936 landing at Floyd Bennet Field where an Air Society timekeeper signified the Trans Atlantic return of the VulteeV1-A named `Lady Peace` captain Dick Merrill had been somewhat delayed from the original intent of an Atlantic crossing from New York to London returning within 48 hours ; rather than the nineteen days in reality, the flight was an outstanding achievement .Included were the Transatlantic records from New York to Carmarthenshire , Wales ,and Southport , Lancashire ( in 1936 ) ,to Newfoundland .
Crossing the Atlantic both ways had created one of the most astonishing flights in aviation history . Later to be known as the` Ping Pong` flight owing to the 40,000 table tennis balls on board to be used as a flotation aid in case of ditching.