Clarence Chamberlin, and his wife, are buried in Shelton, Connecticut. The inscription reads: “First man to fly non-stop NY-Germany carrying a passenger 1927. Set world’s closed course endurance record 1927. Set altitude record 1932. Aircraſt designer, builder, and pilot. Elected Teterboro [New Jersey] Hall of Fame 1972.” Photo: Koontz

Clarence Chamberlin flew this Wright-Bellanca WB-2, the “Columbia” from New York to Germany just weeks following Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 cross-Atlantic flight from New York to Paris. Chamberlin made two documentary films of which one remains available for viewing entitled “Fly First – Fight Aſterwards.” Photo: The Literary Digest, Funk & Wagnalls Co., NY, Vol. 93, No. 8, May 21, 1927.

non-stop from New York to Paris, a distance of over 3500 miles, and Chamberlin was confident he could win. Chamberlin proved he could make the flight on April 12, 1927, when he and aviator Bert Acosta flew two days for over 4,000 miles circling over Long Island. They flew a Wright-Bellanca WB-2, owned by Charles Levine. The WB-2 was constructed of fabric-covered steel tubing, powered by a J-5 Whirlwind engine, and was to be christened “Miss Columbia” twelve days later — but not without an aerial rescue worthy of the silent film, “Perils of Pauline.”

Chamberlin’s scheme to win the Orteig prize included

On April 24, 1927, following the christening of Charles Levine’s WB-2 at Curtiss Field on LI, NY, pilot Clarence Chamberlin and his mechanic John Cerisi agreed to take Levine’s daughter, Eloyse, age nine, and her friend, Grace Jonus, age 15, for a quick flight. On take-off one of the Columbia’s landing struts was broken causing Chamberlin to use extraordinary maneuvers to make a safe landing with the aid of his young passengers and mechanic. Shown here are Eloyse and Grace, Chamberlin, and the grateful, Mrs. Levine. The aircraſt suffered damage upon a ground-loop landing but was quickly repaired to continue service. Photo: The Literary Digest, Funk & Wagnalls Co., NY, Vol. 93, No. 8, May 21, 1927.

compromises made to Levine, who was known for his spur-of-the moment decisions. Fond of publicity, Levine organized a formal christening of the Belanca by his daughter Eloyse, then nine years old. On April 24, 1927, five thousand spectators reportedly attended the ceremony at Curtiss Field, Long Island, for “Miss Columbia” including local dignitaries and their children, of which one was Grace Jonas, age 15. Eloyse and Grace asked Chamberlin for a ride which was eagerly endorsed by their parents — including the impulsive Levine. Chief mechanic John Carisi helped the girls sit next to Chamberlin before he then took his seat on top of the gas tank. Among the spectators, A New York World newspaper reporter watched as a front strut was torn from Miss Columbia’s fuselage on take-off. The joyous publicity event quickly became an hour of anxiety. The World reported that, “it was such a small thing that Chamberlin might easily fly on unaware that anything was wrong, but if he did it was certain that he must wreck the machine and kill or injure himself and his passengers in landing.” Quick- thinking air mail pilot, Dean C. Smith and mechanic Paul Herman took off in a Curtiss Oreole, eventually flying

18 | apr 2020

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