On This Day: 10th Anniversary of The Sikorsky S-38 Transatlantic Flight

Ten years to this day, two of Aviation Without Borders USA (AWB-USA) founding members Tom Schrade and Frank Franke crossed the North Atlantic in Tom’s 82-year-old Sikorsky S-38 amphibious aircraft.

The backstory – Experts said it could not be done, many had tried but none succeeded.
From an idea hatched at Barron Hilton’s Flying M Ranch and after many months of planning, Tom and his crew took off from Minneapolis, the USA on August 20th 2010 and arrived ten days later in Frankfurt, Germany.

The crew of this historic flight were pilot and owner Thomas Schrade, former German astronaut Dr. Ulf Merbold, former Airbus CEO Tom Enders, German glider world champion Bruno Gantenbrink, and Frank Franke, the director of Luftfahrt ohne Grenzez (Wings of Help).

The Aircraft – The Sikorsky S-38 amphibious aircraft affectionally known as the Flying Yacht is a duel-engine aircraft built in the late 1920s at the Sikorsky plant, College Point Long Island, USA. It was designed as a commercial aircraft with a crew of two plus up to eight passengers.

A total of 101 S-38’s were made and were the mainstay during the early years of aviation. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, numerous attempts were made to cross the North Atlantic, all of these attempts ended in disaster: the niece of former President Woodrow Wilson wanted to be the first woman to fly from America to Europe in 1929 but was lost in the Atlantic. Two journalists from the Chicago Tribune newspaper also attempted the adventure but plunged into the ocean and were also lost.

All of them had tried to follow Charles Lindbergh and his first Atlantic flight between New York and Paris in 1927. It took almost 100 years before Tom Schrade successfully crossed the North Atlantic in his reconstructed Sikorsky S-38. To this day, the S-38 can be seen at special aviation events in the skies over Florida. 

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though chequered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the Gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.“

Theodore Roosevelt