Whether it was an accident or deliberate defiance, Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan became a Depression-era hero when he flew his rickety airplane across the Atlantic from New York to Ireland instead of his intended, or pretended, route across the U.S. to California. Surprised authorities, who could have made the errant pilot's life miserable, overlooked his exploit with a wink. An excerpt from The Post of July 19, 1938:
Baldonnel Airport, Dublin, Ireland, July 18 --
Douglas G. Corrigan, a 31-year-old Californian, eased a battered $900 airplane onto the airport here today after flying 3,150 unauthorized miles alone across the Atlantic from New York.
He climbed from the cockpit of his nine-year-old craft into a circle of Irishmen. As they gazed open-mouthed, he patted his ship and said:
"All it needs is a bit of grease. Then it will take me back to New York."
While his listeners' mouths gaped wider, the aviator continued calmly:
"I'm Douglas Corrigan. Just got in from New York.
"It took me 28 hours and 13 minutes.
"Where am I? I intended to fly to California."
He didn't have a passport, landing papers or maps. He didn't have a radio or any fancy instruments.
But he had $15, an incorrigible grin and his story of a flight in the wrong direction.
It was the most sensational "wrong way run" since the dash of another Californian, Roy Riegels, University of California football player, 60 yards in the wrong direction in the January 1, 1929, Rose Bowl game with Georgia Tech.
Corrigan landed at 2:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m E.S.T.). He had left Floyd Bennett Field at 4:17 a.m., E.S.T. "for California."
While technically detained here, it was not expected he would encounter much trouble for his unsanctioned flight over the Atlantic.
(In Washington, Dennis P. Mulligan, chief of the Air Commerce Bureau, said he had postponed the question of punishment. Regulations provide for penalties ranging from a fine to revocation of a pilot's license for a foreign flight without permit.)
Airport officials took a look at the American's single-engined plane and shuddered. Hundreds of persons flocked to the airport to see the flier and his craft.
Corrigan glibly explained how he had made a bee line out over the Atlantic when his destination was California with the words:
"My compass went wrong." ...
Astonished officials asked so many questions they almost forgot to ask him for his landing papers.
"Forget it," he grinned when they did get around to that. "Really, I thought I was going to California." ...