Manchester Airport and St Thomas’ Infant School commemorate the life of pilot Sir John Alcock
A commemorative plaque has been unveiled in memory of the Manchester man who piloted the first ever non-stop transatlantic flight.
Captain Sir John Alcock, born in Stretford, completed the feat in June 1919, along with Arthur Whitten Brown, by flying from Newfoundland, Canada, to Clifden, Ireland.
As a child, he attended St Thomas’ Infant School, in Heaton Chapel, Stockport, and a Blue Plaque has now been unveiled at the school as part of the Heaton Heritage Society’s plans to showcase the history of the area.
The tribute was sponsored by Manchester Airport as part of its 80th birthday celebrations and it is hoped it will serve as an inspiration to young people in the area, who might consider a career in aviation.
St Thomas’ is celebrating 150 years since it opened, while next year will mark 100 years since Sir John’s transatlantic adventure.
Phil Rowbotham, Heatons Heritage Society Chairman said, “Captain Sir John Alcock is one of the most celebrated people to have lived in the Four Heatons, in Stockport and serves as an inspiration to the students attending his old local school, St Thomas’ in Heaton Chapel. This is why the Heatons Heritage Society are delighted to honour him with a blue plaque and would like to thank Manchester Airports Group for enabling this to happen. The aims of the Heatons Heritage Society are to promote, improve and develop the heritage and conservation of the Four Heatons, for the benefit of the community, encouraging involvement, investment and ownership.”
Alcock piloted the flight alongside Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, as they took on the challenge to win a £10,000 prize offered by London’s Daily Mail newspaper for the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. The flight took off from St John’s, Newfoundland on 14th June 1919, landing near Clifden, Ireland 16 hours and 12 minutes later. A few days after the flight both Alcock and Brown were knighted by King George V.
Tricia Williams, COO of Manchester Airport, said: “We were delighted to support this project in memory of Sir John Alcock, particularly in such a special year for the airport as we celebrate our 80th birthday. We’ve evolved from a wooden hut at Ringway Airport, to the UK’s third largest airport but are hugely proud of our routes and Sir John’s achievements are yet another example of how this part of the world has led the way in a number of fields.
“Our vast route network, including a fantastic range of transatlantic offerings, has contributed to our development and it is people such as Sir John that have enabled the aviation industry to thrive.”
The plaque comes at a time of celebrations this year, as Manchester Airport turns 80 years old and St Thomas’ celebrates 150 years since it opened.
Since Sir John Alcock pioneered the first non-stop transatlantic flight, the number of direct routes from the UK to the USA has not stopped growing, with Manchester now ranked 6th in Europe for passengers travelling direct to the USA. In recent years the airport has launched direct flights to key tourist and business destinations such as Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.