The Flight of Wrong Way Corrigan: Navigational Error or Publicity Stunt?

By | October 10, 2018

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American aviator Douglas ‘Wrong Way’ Corrigan waves to the crows at the Ticker Tape Parade in New York City. (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

In 1938, an American pilot named Douglas Corrigan made a cross-country flight from Long Beach, California, to New York City. That flight was uneventful but when Corrigan climbed back into his airplane to make the return flight to California, things didn’t go as planned. Corrigan took a wrong turn and ended up in Ireland. For his aviation blunder, Corrigan earned the nickname ‘Wrong Way Corrigan’ and capitalized on the notoriety from his error. But was it really an error? Or did Wrong Way Corrigan intend to make a trans-Atlantic flight? Let’s look at the evidence. 

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Wrong Way Corrigan was Fascinated with Aviation

Born in Texas, Douglas Corrigan learned to fly while working in the factory for Ryan Aeronautical Company in San Diego, building airplanes. In fact, Corrigan worked on the Spirit of St. Louis, Charles Lindbergh’s famous airplane. It was Corrigan that installed the wings, the instrument panel and the fuel tanks on the Spirit of St. Louis. Corrigan’s entire career was focused on the aviation industry. For someone so well-versed about airplanes, it is hard to believe he ‘misread’ the instruments and flew in the wrong direction.