The White Bird
May 8, 1927 - At 5:17Am on this day, two French aviators took off from Le Bourget Field in Paris. They were attempting the first trans-atlantic flight from Paris to New York. Their fate would become one of the greatest aviation mysteries of all time.
Charles Nungesser and François Coli were two of the greatest pilots of the age. Both were flying aces from World War I, and they were excited about the offer by New York hotelier Raymond Orteig. He ponied up $25,000 as prize money to the first non-stop flight between New York and Paris.
The plane Nungesser and Coli flew in was called the White Bird. The designers removed two of the bi-plane's cockpits to make room for huge fuel tanks, and the fuselage was reinforced to handle a water landing. Upon takeoff, the landing gear was jettisoned to conserve weight. The plan was to land in the open water, right in front of the Statue of Liberty.
Unfortunately, they never made it to New York. There are many people and some evidence to support the theory that the White Bird did make it to North America. A hermit named Anson Berry claimed that he heard a plane's engine sputtering through the fog near his camp in Maine on May 9th. Then came the sound of a crash in the distance. No trace of the plane has ever been found. In fact, the only piece of the plane that is known to survive is the landing gear that was left behind in Paris.
Two weeks later, Charles Lindbergh would land the Spirit of St. Louis at the same airfield where the White Bird took off.