The Orteig Prize was a $25,000 reward ($340,067 as of 2015) offered on May 19, 1919, by New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig to the first allied aviator(s) to fly non-stop from New York City to Paris or vice-versa. The offer was made in a letter to Alan Ramsay Hawley, president of the Aero Club of America.
Gentlemen: As a stimulus to the courageous aviators, I desire to offer, through the auspices and regulations of the Aero Club of America, a prize of $25,000 to the first aviator of any Allied Country crossing the Atlantic in one flight, from Paris to New York or New York to Paris, all other details in your care.
Yours very sincerely,
The Aero Club replied on May 26 with Orteig confirming his offer three days later. His offer was accepted by the Aero Club who set up a formal structure to administer the competition. On offer for five years, it attracted no competitors. After its original term had expired Orteig reissued the prize on June 1, 1925 by depositing $25,000 in negotiable securities at the Bryant Bank with the awarding put under the control of a seven member board of trustees. By then the state of aviation technology had advanced to the point that numerous competitors vied for the prize.
Several famous aviators made unsuccessful attempts at the New York–Paris flight before relatively unknown American Charles Lindbergh won the prize in 1927 in his aircraft Spirit of St. Louis. Lindbergh chose to fly solo, although this was not a requirement of the prize and required him to be at the controls for more than 30 hours. Lindbergh was the first American ever to cross the Atlantic non-stop in a heavier-than air aircraft (rather than an airship), and he promptly became a national hero. His flight was followed by the "Lindbergh boom", as public interest in air travel bloomed and aviation stocks skyrocketed.
Lindbergh pursued a risky strategy for the competition; instead of using a tri-motor, as favored by most other groups, he decided on a single engined aircraft. The decision allowed him to save weight and carry extra fuel as a reserve for detours or emergencies. He also decided to fly the aircraft solo, so avoiding the personality conflicts that helped delay at least one group. To save weight which had contributed to the crashes of other contributors, Lindbergh also dispensed with non-essential equipment like radios, sextant and a parachute (although he did take an inflatable raft. The final factor in his success was his decision to fly into weather conditions that were clearing but not clear enough for others to consider safe. Lindbergh was quoted as saying "What kind of man would live where there is no danger? I don't believe in taking foolish chances. But nothing can be accomplished by not taking a chance at all."
Advancing public interest and aviation technology, the Prize occasioned investments many times the value of the prize. In addition, lives were lost by men who were competing to win the prize. Six men died in three separate crashes. Another three men were injured in a fourth crash. During the spring and summer of 1927, 40 pilots would attempt various long-distance over-ocean flights, leading to 21 deaths during the attempts. For example, seven lives were lost in August 1927 in the Orteig Prize-inspired $25,000 Dole Air Race to fly from San Francisco to Hawaii.
1927 saw a number of aviation first and new records. The record for longest time in the air, longest flight distance, and longest overwater flight would be set and all would exceed Lindbergh's effort. However, no flyer gained the fame that Lindbergh did for winning the Orteig Prize.
- April - Ludwik Idzikowski arrives in Paris to investigate aircraft for the Polish airforce. He will also begin planning a trans-Atlantic flight.
- September 21 - Attempting a New York to Paris flight, Frenchman René Fonck with co-pilot Lt. Lawrence Curtin of the US Navy, crashed their $100,000 Sikorsky S.35 on takeoff, killing radio operator Charles Clavier and mechanic Jacob Islamoff.
- Late October - Richard E. Byrd announces that he is entering competition.
- February - Igor Sikorsky was reported to be building a new aircraft for Fonck.
- April 16 - A test flight of Byrd's $100,000 Fokker C-2 monoplane, America results in a nose-over crash, resulting in Byrd suffering a broken wrist, pilot Floyd Bennett breaking his collarbone and leg, and flight engineer George Otto Noville requiring surgery for a blood clot.
- April 25 - Clarence Chamberlin and Bert Acosta in the $25,000 Bellanca WB-2 monoplane, Columbia, set the world endurance record for airplanes, staying aloft circling New York City for 51 hours, 11 minutes, and 25 seconds and covering 4,100 miles, more than the 3,600 mile from New York to Paris
- April 26 - U.S Naval pilots, Lieut. Comdr. Noel Davis and Lieut. Stanton Hall Wooster, are killed when their Keystone Pathfinder, American Legion, fails to gain altitude during a test flight at Langley Field, Virginia, about a week before they expected to attempt the New York to Paris flight.
- Early May - Both Chamberlain's and Byrd's group are at adjoining Curtiss and Roosevelt Fields in New York awaiting favorable flight conditions. The owner of Chamberlain's aircraft, Charles Levine is feuding with co-pilot Lloyd W. Bertaud who obtains a legal injunction. Byrd's group are still testing new equipment and instruments.
- May 8 - Charles Nungesser and François Coli attempted a Paris to New York crossing in a Levasseur PL-8 biplane, ' L'Oiseau Blanc (The White Bird) ' but were lost at sea, or possibly crashed in Maine.
- May 10 - May 12 - Repositioning his $10,000 Ryan monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis, to Curtiss Field, in New York, Charles A. Lindbergh sets a new North American transcontinental speed record.
- May 11 - Byrd's financial backers forbid the group to fly until Nungesser and Coli's fate is known.
- May 15 - Lindbergh completes test flights. The Spirit of St. Louis total flight time is only 27 hours, 25 minutes, less than the predicted time of the Atlantic crossing.
- May 19 - Lindbergh has his aircraft moved to the longer runway at Roosevelt Field, Byrd having offered him its use, and prepares to fly the next morning.
- May 20 - Lindbergh takes off, requiring ground crew to push the Spirit of St. Louis, which is flying for the first time with a full load of fuel, but no parachute, radio or sextant to save weight.
- May 21 - Lindbergh captures the Orteig Prize, making the first solo transatlantic flight, in 33½ hours.
- May 21 - Byrd's America officially christened at almost the same time as Lindbergh landed in Paris.
- June 4 - June 6 - Two weeks after Lindbergh, Chamberlain, without Bertaud and with Levine as his passenger, flies the Columbia from New York to Eisleben, Germany, a record distance of 3,911 miles.
- June 16 - Lindbergh is awarded the Orteig Prize
- June 29 - Byrd with replacement pilot Bernt Balchen, co-pilot Acosta and engineer Noville fly to Paris in 40 hours, but end up safely ditching in the Atlantic after encountering fog over Paris.
|1927||Charles Lindbergh||Spirit of Saint Louis||30 hours||Winner|
|1926||René Fonck||Sikorsky S-35||-||Gear collapse from excess weight|
|1927||Floyd Bennett||Ford America||-||Ground loop on take-off|
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