On May 9, 1926, Richard E. Byrd and Navy Chief Aviation Pilot Floyd Bennett attempted a flight over the North Pole.
The plane was a Fokker Tri-motor monoplane named Josephine Ford, after the daughter of Ford Motor
Company president Edsel Ford, who helped finance the expedition. The flight went from Spitsbergen (Svalbard) and back to its take-off airfield, lasting fifteen hours and fifty-seven minutes (including 13 minutes of circling the pole). Byrd and Bennett claimed to have reached the pole, a distance of 1,535 miles. When they returned home, they became national heroes.
Since 1926 though, there have been doubts raised, defences made, and heated controversy over whether or not Byrd actually reached the North Pole. In 1958, Norwegian-American aviator and explorer Bernt Balchen cast doubt on Byrd’s claim on the basis of his knowledge of the airplane’s speed. Balchen claimed that Bennett had confessed to him months after the flight that he and Byrd had not reached the pole. Bennett died on April
25, 1928, during a heroic flight to rescue downed aviators in Greenland.
However, Bennett had started a memoir, given numerous interviews, and wrote an article for an aviation magazine about the flight before his death that all confirmed Byrd’s version of the flight.
Pictures from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division.
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