Pilot - Walter Hinton, Copilot - Euclides Pinto Martins,
Flight Engineer - John Edward Wilshusen, Journalist - George Thomas Bye,
Cameraman - John Thomas Baltzel
Photo courtesy of Roberto Pires de Oliveira
by R. Pires
Euclides Pinto Martins was born in Camocim, in the state of Ceará, Brazil, on April 15, 1892. In the beginning of 1909, his father sent him to the U.S.A. with $300, and a plan so that a group of his friends would send a certain amount every month for his maintenance. Euclides did not lose any time and was registered in the "Drexell Institute" in Philadelphia. Three years later he would graduate in Engineering Mechanics. (1911). Besides studying, Pinto Martins worked as a trainee in the Baldwin Locomotive Works.
Euclides Pinto Martins focused on aviation, which had developed in a spectacular manner because of the war. As a result of his interest, Euclides entered a flying school and obtained his pilot's license in 1921. Upon his entrance into the aeronautical field, he became acquainted with Walter Hinton, a veteran flight instructor in Florida. Because of their mutual interests and hopes for the future,, Euclides decided to share his old dream with his new friend: To cross the Atlantic by airplane from New York to Rio de Janeiro, thus establishing the air route. The idea found a positive response in the mind of his colleague and together they started to work on it. They had fought with will force and, finally, they had obtained the support of a banker, Andrew Smith Jr., who agreed to provide the necessary amount of money for the ambitious project. Thus, they contracted with the Curtiss Factory to build a hydroplane for them with a wingspan of about 92 feet and powered by two Liberty engines of 400 hp, each. When completed, the flying machine weighed almost 18,000 pounds! When the They decided to christen it "Sampaio Corrêa" in homage to the Senator and President of the Flying club of Rio De Janeiro.
Everything ready, the new airplane ! The crew: Pilot - Walter Hinton, Copilot - Euclides Pinto Martins, Flight Engineer - John Edward Wilshusen of the Curtiss Plant and to record the event, George Thomas Bye, Journalist of the "New York Word" and a Cameraman, John Thomas Baltzel, of Pathé News.
The hydroplane with its crew was scheduled to take off August 16, 1922, but when it was placed in the Hudson River, they discovered one small damaged area in the left wing which delayed the departure. Finally, on August 17, 1922, the majestic "Sampaio Corrêa",took off from the Hudson estuary applauded by thousand of people! The weather bureau which had predicted the flying conditions, predicted the risk of a storm, but the daring team, did not respect the warning and took off, disappearing over the horizon, following the course of the Hudson River as it flowed by Manhattan Island and New Jersey. At this point, we refer to the story of the take-off which was published in the "Revista Semana" of Rio De Janeiro.
" The Dock of the North River, ahead of 86th Street, appeared to be a human anthill. More than a million people if had crowded on the wharf, with all eyes fixed on the great mechanical bird. The hydroplane Sampaio Corrêa, newly painted, bore on its sides the starry flags of the two great sister republics. As the clocks of the city approached 3:00 PM, the powerful motors began to roar grimly. By means of four or five skillful maneuvers,the device moved, maneuvering between the massed private boats, looking for the widest and most open areas of the river. Then a miracle occurred. Out of that million crazy spectators, perhaps a hundred million cheers roared into the air. For a long time, they had been hearing all the rumors in that tumultuous and seething metropolis. New York throbbed in that shout, which broke from the mouths of all ages, of all shapes and of all conditions. One could say that it was the mouth of the city that cried out".
The truth is that, although it was known to be the season of great storms, our daring adventurers, dared to begin the trip. On this very day, August 17, the airplane was obliged to land in Nanten, because of a strong storm. They spent the night there and then took off in the morning destined for Southport, where they arrived on August 19.. They continued the trip and on the 20th, they arrived in Charleston, without difficulty. They continued the trip but had to land in West Palm Beach due to another storm. They took off on the 21st at 11:00 AM and landed in Nassau, where they spent the night. The following morning, they left for Port-au-Prince in Haiti. On this flight, about 8:00PM, they were surprised by a strong squall, had lost altitude and had fallen into the sea to the east of the island of Cuba, beyond Cabo Maisi.
Conditions that night had turned very grim! Our adventurers were in the open Atlantic, a total blackout, with risks of of drowning and of sharks. Luckily, they had not been injured in the crash. The "Sampaio Corrêa" still floated and they had located the flare pistols in the dark. The flares illuminated the night skies over the ocean, even as they had almost despaired of finding aid! Sadly the signals had not been seen. The situation began to worsen, due to water entering the holes in the airplane caused by the crash into the sea. It was during this period of concern, that Pinto Martins, calling upon on his knowledge of navigation, remembered that they had a strong signal light onboard, which he found in a dry part of the plane. Intrepid Pinto climbed up onto the nose of the hydroplane and began to signal for aid. In a short time, being close to the scene, the Gunboat "Denver" of the American Navy saw the flashes, answered by whistle and came to the aid of the downed plane. Vain attempts were made to tow the "Sampaio Corrêa" to safety, but even as our adventurers watched, it sank to the bottom of the sea.
Pinto Martins himself gave the following declaration to the Jornal do Brasil: "... the atmospheric conditions being the worst possible, , the altimeter had become inaccurate. We were flying in a strong fog and thinking we were still far above the water, we unexpectedly crash landed in the sea. Due to the force of the crash, the hull of the plane was ruptured and the water rushed in... "
Lost airplane. The survivors had been taken to the Naval base at Guantânamo, in Cuba. Pinto Martins and friends had not given up their dream. They still had high hopes of proving that an air route binding the Americas, (north and south), was possible. Therefore, they contacted the newspaper, "The New York Word" which agreed to give them another airplane with which to continue the flight. They travelled to the Naval Base at Pensacola, Florida, where another airplane acquired by the newspaper waited for them. It was a hydroplane which belonged to the base and which had seen six years of service. Thanks to that donation, on September 4, 1922, in St. Petersburg, Florida, they accepted the ship and christened it Sampaio Corrêa II.
Our adventurers continued bravely and soon they had taken off from Florida, landing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on September 7. They stopped there for 30 days awaiting the arrival of spare parts from the U.S.A. to repair the refrigeration system. On the seventh of October, they took off bound for Santo Domingo, Domenican Republic, where they spent the night, leaving then for Porto Rico. They continued the trip, arriving in Guadalupe and then left for Martinique where they landed on October 12. In the air again, suffering many difficulties due to the rains, they arrived in Port of Spain, capital city of Trinidad and Tobago, October 15. There they lost 30 more days having to replace the propellers and to make other repairs. On November 21, they took off for Georgetown in British Guyana. From there they flew to Paramaribo, Dutch Guyana, Cayenne, French Guyana, and finally on the first of December, landed in the Cunani River, the State of Pará, Brazil, to the north of the Amazon River estuary.
The youngsters were eager for adventures and did not lack for them, continuing to the Island of Maracá, Belém, and Bragança where they were obliged to anchor in the River Caeté due to the weather. They passed three days in iBragança, then took off for São Luis. At noon on December 14, the Sampaio Correia landed in the Bay of São Marcos, the crew going ashore on the island of São Luis, in Maranhão, where they stayed until the 19th.
Edição de RPires em metaficcão gráfica
Finally, four and a half hours after the take-off on December 19, they landed in Camocim, the
birthplace of Pinto Martins. After enjoying many well remembered homages, they left the following day for Aracati, without landing
in Fortaleza because of the difficulty of landing in the severely agitated waters in the cove of the Mucuripe. They spent the night in
Aracati and then they took off for Natal where they enjoyed a restoring sleep. Soon, quite early, the took off in a southerly direction.
They had traveled barely 50 miles when the port engine developed a problem. They were still flying over the Potiguar territory,
close to Conguaretama, Baia Formosa, when a serious condition in the left engine forced them to land in the Bay.
Inspecting the engine, they discovered that some gears had been damaged irreparably and had to be replaced. They could only be
obtained from Pernambuco, specifically in Recife. Pinto Martins traveled to Recife and returned days later with the parts to
repair the engine.
Only with great difficulty were they able to take off from the Bahia Formosa enroute to Recife. A new problem in the engine forced them to go down in Cabedelo. It soon became apparent that this time the problem was even worse. The trip almost ended there, had it not been for the intervention of the Commander of Naval Aviation, Captain of Sea and War, Protógenes Guimarães. Understanding the desperate situation of the travellers, with the engine being irreparably damaged, he donated a new one to them! This very generous donation made a continuation of the trip possible .
In the future, this Commander would have beautiful career and would ultimately become the Minister of the Navy.
They installed the new motor, then took off from Cabedelo and landed in Recife. There, as in all the other places they had stopped, they were very well received with parties, a visit to the Governor and all of them were honored as heroes. Euclides, in Recife, had the joy of hugging his father and his two sisters, Abgail and Carmen. From there onward, the trip would be more tranquil for they were in the northeast and the possibility of bad weather was minimum.
They stayed in Recife for three days and then left at 11:00 AM enroute to Alagoas, landing in Maceió where they remained until the following day. From there, after the usual parties, it had only taken 3 hours and 50 minutes to reach Salvador.. In the Bahian capital, the parties and homages had been many. Various authorities, including the American Consul, lent their prestige to the ceremonies of greetings to the conquerors of the passage!
They left on the weekend, February 4, at 12:55PM, landing in Porto Seguro at 4:30PM. After refueling the airplane and having a calm night, they left in the morning at 8:50AM for Vitória in Espírito Santo. They were in the air for 12 hours and 12 minutes when the reception festivities began for the "voyagers" of the air!
It was just a short time before they arrived in Rio De Janeiro and it was necessary to make plans for the arrival. A flotilla of Naval Aviation planned to escort them to the point of arrival! Authorities would be present, for after all it would be the conquest of a route that would come to be explored, in the future, for great companies of world-wide aviation!
They had left, anxiously, at 12:30PM, enroute to Cabo Frio and later Rio De Janeiro! They landed in Cabo Frio at 3:15PM, February 7, where they spent the night.
At 10:35AM. they took off flying over Araruama, Saquarema, Maricá and many other coastal communities in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Finally, at 11:32PM on February 8, 1923, the airplane was sighted flying over the Bay of the Guanabara! Upon landing, they had been met by the motor boat "Independência" of the Navy department. The first one to be hugged by Senator Sampaio Correia was Pinto Martins followed for Hinton, the pilot, George Thomas, the journalist and finally the cinematographer John Thomas who, after all, had filmed the event! Several days of parties and honors had happened in Rio de Janeiro.
Although receiving many honors, Euclides Pinto Martins had many difficulties as a consequence of his adventures. He incurred debts which had to be paid. After "Raid", the fame and the glory, he felt the weight of being a common man with little money. His wife refused to live in Brazil and entered into an action which resulted in divorce. He was being pressured to pay back the money which had been loaned to finance the event ($19,000). It was in this climate that, sadly, Pinto Martins was found dead in his room from a shot to the head, perhaps due to a crisis of depression. It was April 12, 1924, little more than one year after his glorious triumph. Nothing more is known about his death, diagnosed officially as suicide. In deep respect to this great conqueror, we will limit ourself to reproducing the words of his father on his disappearance:
"It is proven that he arrived in this state of depression due to very cruel privations...His death was a consequence of the dignity and high-mindedness of his character. .."
Our deep respects, aviator!
Os Hidroaviões Aterrissam no Potengi
"No dia 21 de dezembro de 1922, o brasileiro Euclides Pinto Martins e o norte-americano Walter Hinton chegava a Natal, fazendo o "Sampaio Correia II" amerissar nas águas do Rio Potengi. Estavam realizando o "raid" Nova Iorque-Rio de Janeiro."
"Após essas façanhas, a capital norte-rio-grandense passou a receber grande número de aviadores famosos, que com suas aventuras escreviam a história da aviação. Todos eles foram recebidos como verdadeiros heróis."
The Hydroplanes Land in the Potengi
After these exploits, the Rio Grande do Norte capital began to receive large number of visits from famous aviators, who by means of their adventures helped to write the history of aviation. All of them had been received as true heroes.