Aviator Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan, who became a legend when he took off for California but landed instead in Ireland 50 years ago, made a nostalgic return to the Emerald Isle Monday and said he was thinking of taking up flying again.
It was on July 17, 1938, that Corrigan climbed into the cockpit of a junked $10 Curtiss Robin monoplane with $3 in his pocket to fly from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Los Angeles - and ended up at Baldownnel Aerodrome near Dublin.Corrigan, now 81, returned Monday, wearing the same flight jacket and still carrying $3 in his wallet - but this time aboard a Boeing 747 jetliner as guest of Aer Lingus, Ireland's national airline.
He was later scheduled to return to Baldownnel, to try to touch down at exactly the same time as he did on the 1938 flight.
Corrigan told reporters his 28-hour-plus trans-Atlantic flight a half-century ago was a mistake, that "I simply misread the compass then."
"When I came down out of the clouds," he said, "I knew it wasn't California. There were no bathing beauties on the beaches and no orange groves."
But Corrigan has lost none of his confidence in either his flying abilities or his old Curtiss Robin. "I've still got it (the plane). It hasn't flown for for 49 years but some airline people are going to put it back in flying condition and one of these days I'm going to fly it myself.
"I quit flying 16 years ago but I think I'll try it again one of these days," Corrigan said.
When he landed 50 years ago, the Irish rolled out the red carpet and then-Premiere Eamon De Valera told him, "You have put Ireland on the map."
Monday, Corrigan sat in the cockpit of the Aer Lingus jumbo jet and said later, "This was all Greek to me. It's all very interesting to watch but it's nothing like the last time . . ."
The gray-haired Corrigan, spry and talkative, began retracing his famous feat in Los Angeles early Sunday, and stopped to reminisce at the Brooklyn airfield where his historic flight began before departing for Ireland.
Standing at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn Sunday, Corrigan blamed the U.S. government for his wrong-way flight. He said the U.S. Bureau of Air Commerce twice denied him permission to cross the Atlantic Ocean because it said his airplane was inadequate.