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8 May 1927, ‘The White Bird’ disappears

The White Bird was a French biplane that disappeared in 1927, during an attempt to make the first non-stop transatlantic flight between Paris and New York to compete for the Orteig Prize

The aircraft was flown by French World War I aviation heroes, Charles Nungesser and François Coli. The aircraft disappeared after its 8 May 1927 takeoff from Paris. Two weeks later, Charles Lindbergh successfully made the New York–Paris journey and claimed the prize, flying the Spirit of St. Louis.

The disappearance of The White Bird is considered one of the great mysteries in the history of aviation. Many rumours circulated about the fate of the aircraft and crew, with mainstream opinion at the time being that the aircraft was probably lost in a squall over the Atlantic. Investigations starting in the 1980s suggest that the aircraft probably reached Newfoundland, and may have crashed in Maine.

The disappearance of Nungesser and Coli has an extensive legacy, and is referred to in many films and museums. A street in Paris is named after the aviators, and a commemorative postage stamp was issued in 1967. A statue at the Paris Le Bourget Airport honours the attempted flight, and there is a memorial on the cliffs of Étretat, from where their aircraft was last seen in France.


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