Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Douglas Corrigan: Famous Dougloid.

On July 17, 1938, Douglas Corrigan, an amiable airplane mechanic, flew a Curtiss Robin from Long Island to Ireland and walked from anonymity into immortality. On landing in Ireland he was alleged to have asked "Where am I?".

The story's a little more complex, of course. He had a penchant for doing the unexpected. Corrigan worked for Ryan Aircraft in San Diego and a lot of his handwork went into construction of the Spirit of St. Louis. Later in the thirties, he decided that he could do what Slim Lindbergh had done as well, but the government didn't agree with his plan and refused to grant permission for an Atlantic crossing. He gassed up the Curtiss (which he'd flown nonstop from Los Angeles) and departed, allegedly for Los Angeles, and turned up in Ireland a couple of days later. When asked about it, he alleged with a smile that there had been a compass error and figured he'd gone the wrong way. This earned him the nickname of "Wrong-way Corrigan". Later in life, he was a test pilot for Douglas Aircraft and retired to Orange County, California where he raised oranges.

Once, at an airshow, I saw him from afar. What I saw was an elderly Irishman who still had a touch of the blarney on him. This picture and another were found in a box of miscellaneous paper goods found at a yard sale a couple of years ago.

The point of Corrigan's life is very simple and it is often wasted on people. It is this: Pay careful attention to the experts when they tell you that you can't do something, and then go ahead and do what your heart told you anyway. It is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission.


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