A Pilot Who Crossed The Atlantic Ocean ‘By Accident’ Turned Out To Have A Concealed Motive

In an era when powered flight was still in its infancy, pioneers such as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart were household names. But perhaps one of the most unlikely aviation celebrities was Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan — a man who found fame in a rather embarrassing way.

An unbelievable blunder

Having made an unbelievable blunder in his attempt to enter the annals of flight history, Corrigan found himself the laughing stock of the United States. And his unfortunate legacy would endure for decades to come. But did he really make a mistake — or was he smarter than people thought?

New York to Long Beach

On July 17, 1938, Corrigan took off from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York. According to his official paperwork, he was bound for Long Beach, California — a flight distance of almost 3,000 miles. After takeoff, though, his plans went awry, and he ended up completing a very different sort of journey.

5,000 miles off course

Twenty-eight hours later, Corrigan landed — not in California, but in Dublin, Ireland, having traveled some 5,000 miles off course. Stumbling out of his battered plane, he seemed bewildered to discover that he had crossed the Atlantic Ocean instead of flown coast-to-coast. According to reports, he told baffled onlookers, “Just got in from New York. Where am I?”

Not quite what he seems

According to Corrigan, thick cloud cover over New York had caused him to lose his way. In fact, he claimed, he hadn’t realized his error until he was nearing the end of his journey. But as word of his entertaining misadventure spread — and his grinning face appeared on news programs around the world — it became clear that this bumbling airman wasn’t quite what he seemed.