US-Ulster flight to pick up Ferraris (September 1954)

The first civilian airliner to fly non-stop from New York to Northern Ireland arrived at Nutt’s Corner on Sunday, September 12, 1954 at 8.37am, reported the News Letter.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 10:19 am
Aerial Picture of Aldergrove Airport from January 1981. Picture: Pacemaker Press
Aerial Picture of Aldergrove Airport from January 1981. Picture: Pacemaker Press

It was a Royal Dutch Airliner (KLM) Douglas DC4 and it made the crossing in 12 hours and 15 minutes.

The aircraft was convertible for passengers or freight. It has flown from Amsterdam to New York earlier in the week, and returned lightly loaded to Nutt’s Corner direct in order to pick up Ferrari cars which had been entered for the TT race at Dundrod which had been held that weekend, and their crews.

After a stop of two and half hours at Nutt’s Corner the aircraft took off for Amsterdam.

The News Letter noted that trans-Atlantic aircraft had used Nutt’s Corner previously, but scheduled and diversionary flight had all been from Gander, New Foundland, in Canada. KLM had added to the history of Nutt’s Corner with a direct flight from Idlewild Airport, which was later to be renamed in honour of assassinated US President Kennedy as John F Kennedy International Airport.

Another KLM airliner, a Dakota, flew direct from Amsterdam to Belfast on the night of Saturday, September 11, 1954, with special equipment for loading the cars on to the Douglas DC4. After loading this aircraft took off after a stop of less than an hour.

The News Letter reported: “Saturday was the busiest day at Nutt’s Corner this year. There were several charter aircraft arriving and departing and some of the regular services were duplicated. There was also an extra night airliner for London.”

Kind donation to new church

After the foundation stones of the new Methodist Church at Bloomfield, Belfast, had been laid on Saturday, September 11, 1954, an anonymous donor presented £1,000 to the building fund. The building was estimated to cost about £16,000, and the fund including the gift of £1,000 and offering on the Saturday that raised £940, had reached a total of £12,500.

The site of the church was at the junction of Grand Parade and North Road. Six years previously, noted the News Letter, huts had been acquired and had been erected temporarily by the congregation, who, at the ceremony on the Saturday were congratulated on their “enterprise and drive”.