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Floyd Bennett


Bennett Drive, Gander, was named in honour of Don Bennett, the man who played a critical role in the Ferry Command during the Second World War, and who was instrumental in forming a Pathfinder Squadron for the Royal Air Force. There were others with the same name such as Bill Bennett of Gander Aviation and another by the name of Floyd, who gained worldwide fame as a result of his exploits with Richard Evelyn Byrd (Byrd Avenue, Gander).

Bennett Drive, Gander, was named in honour of Don Bennett, the man who played a critical role in the Ferry Command during the Second World War, and who was instrumental in forming a Pathfinder Squadron for the Royal Air Force.

There were others with the same name such as Bill Bennett of Gander Aviation and another by the name of Floyd, who gained worldwide fame as a result of his exploits with Richard Evelyn Byrd (Byrd Avenue, Gander).

Floyd was born at Warrensburg, New York, on Oct. 25, 1890. In 1917, he enlisted in the United States Navy and became more interested in airplanes than ships. History would have ignored him had it not been for Byrd.

In 1925, Byrd, a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, was involved with a naval aviation expedition to Greenland. Bennett, by now a warrant officer, was one of the most capable pilots on the expedition and he and Byrd became friends.

The two decided to try to be the first to fly over the North Pole. In 1926, flying a three-engine Fokker monoplane, the Josephine Ford, Byrd and Bennett departed from Spitsbergen, Norway, on May 9.

Byrd and Bennett claimed that they reached the North Pole and subsequently received many honours and accolades, among which were the Medal of Honour and the Distinguished Service Medal. It is generally thought today that they never reached the pole, and later when Byrd's diary was found, the sextant readings showed that they could not have actually reached the Pole. Norwegian Raould Amundsen is considered by many to be the first to fly over the North Pole.

The citation on Bennett's Medal of Honour: "For distinguishing himself conspicuously by courage and intrepidity at the risk of his life as a member of the Byrd Arctic Expedition and thus contributing largely to the success of the first heavier-than-air flight to the North Pole and return." Bennett was also awarded a special medal of the National Geographic Society presented by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926.

Two airports in New York are named in honour of Bennett. Floyd Bennett Field, New York City's first municipal airport, and Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport, near his birthplace, in Queensbury, New York. The destroyer, USS Bennett (DD-473), was also named in his honour. On his flight to the South Pole in 1929, Byrd named his Ford Tri-motor airplane the Floyd Bennett in honour of him.

Bennett and Byrd then began planning for an air crossing of the Atlantic in their second plane, the America, but an accident, in which Bennett suffered severe injuries, also put the aircraft out of commission.

Bennett never fully recovered from the accident, however, he and Byrd planned a flight to the South Pole. Before the expedition was scheduled to begin, Bennett became involved with the attempt to recover the Bremen, the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic westwards, which had gone down off the coast of Labrador. During this period, Bennett became ill and died in a Quebec City hospital on April 25, 1928.

The Americans mourned him as a national hero and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Next week: Bernt Balchen

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