The F16 is a fighter aircraft used primarily by the Air Force. Information supplied by a Navy spokesman incorrectly identified the F16 as a Navy aircraft in a Metro article yesterday.
The Navy paid tribute to its "flying boats" yesterday afternoon when two vintage Catalina seaplanes floated 1,500 feet above the Capital Beltway just as traffic started to crawl.
The 40-minute flight was part of a celebration to mark 75 years of Navy aviation. On Thursday, the planes will attempt to reenact the first transatlantic flight in 1919.
"There were planes and jets that go higher and faster," said Connie Edwards, owner and pilot of one of the planes that is on the way to New York to trace the flight of an earlier plane, the Nancy NC4, which crossed the Atlantic Ocean under the guidance of Lt. Cmdr. Albert C. Read. "But none of them could do what this one can. And Read never got the attention he deserved."
Charles Lindbergh, who did not make it across the Atlantic until 1927, became famous for his flight from New York to Paris, but the flight of the NC4 rarely turns up in the history books.
Conceived during World War I when the United States and Britain grew fearful that German submarines would cut off commerce between the continents, the Nancy didn't make it into the air until the war had ended.
When the Nancys finally took off for Europe on May 16, 1919, three planes started but only one survived the 23-day journey.
Sixty-eight destroyers were assigned to mark the route to the Azores. In addition, five battleships were stationed in the Atlantic, and among other chores, they fired shells each night to help the airplanes find their way with only primitive navigational equipment.
London's premier newspaper of the time, The Daily Mail, had offered a $50,000 prize to the first aviator to cross the Atlantic. But U.S. military personnel were not allowed to accept the money.
Yesterday's loop of the Beltway, a tour for journalists with strong stomachs or light heads, took off from Andrews Air Force Base. Because there was no cabin pressure to worry about, windows were propped open for most of the trip.
Cruising speed was about 150 miles an hour, which was almost unimaginable when the NC4 was first unveiled. The maximum speed of the Catalina, which seats 11 passengers, is about 195 miles an hour. The original Nancys, using wooden propellers on their four engines were lucky to reach 95 miles an hour.
By comparison, the F16, the current Navy superstar, travels more than 1,500 miles an hour. Its thrust of 25,000 pounds is equal to about 3,200 horsepower at cruising speed.
The Catalinas' transatlantic flight is being held to mark the date that the Navy places as the official birth of U.S. Navy aviation -- May 8, 1911, when the first officer in charge of aviation, Capt. Washington I. Chambers, issued requisitions for two Curtiss biplanes.
"It's a glorious day for this country," said Edwards. "And I'm proud to be able to bring it back."