ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

"Wrong Way Corrigan"

Updated on June 18, 2011

New York to Ireland

Douglas P. Corrigan became famous because of a supposed transatlantic flight navigational error. In 1938, Corrigan "mistakenly" flew from New York to Ireland in his vintage 1929 “Curtis Robin,” thus the moniker “Wrong Way.” He claimed it was a mistake…but it wasn’t.

Corrigan was supposed to be flying from New York to California, but because he seemingly “misread” his compass, he ended up in Ireland. He clung to that story.

At the time, Americans were in the midst of the Great Depression and Corrigan's stunt provided a much needed humorous distraction and he became an instant national folk hero. To this day, Corrigan's nickname, "'Wrong Way,” remains a stock handle in sporting events to describe anyone who goofs and goes the wrong way.

Corrigan was born in Galveston, Texas, on January 22, 1907. His father was a construction engineer and his mother a teacher. Corrigan's family around moved fairly often during Douglas's childhood. Eventually, his parents divorced and he was swapped from one parent to another before settling in Los Angeles with his mother. There, he found work in the construction industry.

One Sunday afternoon in October 1925, Douglas observed people taking rides in a Curtiss”Jenny” biplane at a local airfield. One week later the excited Corrigan took his own ride flying over Los Angeles. He now absolutely had to learn to fly and began taking lessons. Corrigan also spent time learning everything he could about aircraft mechanics. On March 25, 1926, Corrigan made his first solo flight.

Flight Lessons

Coincidentally, Corrigan’s flight lessons were taken at the airfield where B.P. Mahoney and T. C. Ryan, noted aircraft manufacturers, were operating a small airline. He got a job with the team and started working in their San Diego factory. This was the same company which shortly thereafter, built the “Spirit of St. Louis” for Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh made his famous transatlantic flight in May 1927. Inspired by Lindbergh's success, he decided to make his own transatlantic flight someday. Being of Irish decent, he selected Ireland as his destination.

In October 1929, he became a full-fledged pilot. The following year, he moved to the East Coast and began a small passenger-carrying service with a friend named Steve Reich. Although they did fairly well, Corrigan eventually grew restless and returned to the West Coast.

Bureaucratic "Red Tape"

In 1933, he purchased a used OX5 Robin monoplane to make the trip back to California, where he resumed work as an aircraft mechanic. He began modifying his plane for his dream transatlantic flight.

Corrigan applied for permission in 1935 to make a non-stop flight from New York to Ireland. However, officials denied his application, claiming his plane was too old and not sound enough to attempt such a venture. Corrigan made several modifications to his aircraft over the next two years, but each time he reapplied, officials turned him down.

By 1937, Corrigan had become weary of bureaucratic "red tape" and decided to make the flight anyway. He never publicly acknowledged making such a decision.

His plan was to land in New York late at night, after airport officials would have left for the day and then leave for Ireland. But various mechanical problems foiled this course of action and he was unable to risk the flight just then. He returned to California to wait for another opportunity.

On July 8, 1938, Corrigan took off from California headed for New York. The official flight plan called for him to return to California. On July 17th Corrigan’s small plane left Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn in thick fog. He headed east because airport officials instructions were to lift off in any direction except west since there were some buildings at the western edge of the field which could be a hazard.

To everyone's dismay, he kept flying eastward…the opposite direction of California. Corrigan maintained visibility was so bad he could only fly by using his compass, which supposedly indicated he was heading west.

About 26 hours into his flight, Corrigan’s story was, he finally managed to drop down out of the clouds and noticed he was over a large body of water. Since it was obviously too early to have reached the Pacific Ocean, Corrigan looked down at his compass. Without the fog encumbering his eyesight he suddenly noticed he "had been following the wrong end of the magnetic needle." And after a 28-hour, 13-minute flight he landed at Baldonnel Airport, in Dublin.

When questioned by officials, he explained he had gotten mixed up in the clouds and flown the wrong way and how he had misread the compass. Of course, they didn’t buy the story. Authorities continued pressuring him for "the truth," but Corrigan stuck to his guns declaring "That's my story." Officials finally released him after realizing he wasn’t going to say anymore. He was reprimanded with a brief suspension of his pilot's license.

Corrigan returned to the United States and was greeted as a national hero, complete with ticker tape parade…larger than the one Lindbergh had received. The obvious humor of the feat prompted The New York Post to print a front-page headline reading "Hail to Wrong Way Corrigan,” backwards!

Corrigan retired to a quieter life in Santa Ana, California after his famous flight. In the 1950's, he bought an orange grove and lived there until his death on December 9, 1995.

During the 50th anniversary of his flight, some newspapers began reporting he was going to admit having flown to Ireland intentionally. But whether he ever publicly acknowledged it or not has been the subject of some debate.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Lea, I take the 5th on that one!

    • leabeth profile image

      leabeth 

      7 years ago

      Great Story. Sometimes it is better to act first then plead "not guilty". Why does it sound familiar??

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Thank you H P

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 

      7 years ago from Guwahati, India

      It is a great hub of adventure written nicely. Mistaken identity is a weapon of mischievous adventure leading to new discovery that brought the immense pleasure of uncertainty to certainty.

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Good one Ginn ! Very funny

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 

      7 years ago

      JY---maybe this still has something to do with the fact that MEN never stop and ask for directions????? ha,ha, just wondering????

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)