Aviators Ball caps off centennial celebrations of Alcock and Brown's remarkable flight

Industry leaders, aviation fans and history buffs gathered Friday evening to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Alcock and Brown's history-making flight from a field in St. John's to Clifden, Ireland — the world's very first non-stop transatlantic flight.

The Aviators Ball was held at the St. John's Convention Centre with several performances and guest speakers paying tribute to a century worth of history.

"It's funny, this morning I got on a plane in Toronto and I am looking at the little monitor and it says minus 61 outside. Can you imagine what it was like flying in an open cockpit across the Atlantic?" said Ted Barris, an author and journalist who spoke at the event.

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Barris said the endeavour was quite frightening considering the circumstances the men were under.

"This big prize was offered: £10,000 for somebody to cross the Atlantic, and there were a lot of competitors. It was a scary enterprise because we didn't have the kinds of devices to get us there we do today," said Barris.

Push toward greater heights, further distances 

Aspiring astronaut Bethany Downer, who hopes to be the first person from the province to go to space, said Alcock and Brown's flight paved way for her own sky-travelling dreams.

"When we consider how far we have come in 100 years, we can't help but think what the next 100 years will bring," she said.

Downer completed a master's degree at France's International Space University and has worked for the European Space Agency. She was selected to join astronaut training program Project PoSSUM, or Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere.

Like Alcock and Brown, she's willing to take some risks to change the course of history.

"I think I accepted a long time ago, that's part of the gig. I am working on something that is much bigger than myself so in these efforts we are looking to advance human capabilities, technology and science," said Downer.

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Commemorative stamp revealed 

A new commemorative Canada Post stamp was also on display at the ball.

Newfoundland artist Grant Boland drew an image of a little boy holding up a biplane.

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"The reason I took this approach instead of a literal historical representation is I wanted to focus on the driving force behind the event which, in my mind, is human imagination," Boland said.

It also was representative of a story often told about a little boy who was seen playing with a toy biplane in Ireland after the plane landed.

Boland said his son, who was the model behind the stamp was "delighted."

Other events that were hosted June 14 by Aviation History Newfoundland and Labrador included a commemorative flight that retraced the flight path of Alcock and Brown.

Meg Roberts/CBC

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