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Wednesday, 25 November 2015 21:08

The first aviation stowaway or how to make throw overboard champagne by a Frenchman

1929, despite several flights since 1919, crossing the Atlantic by aircraft is still a dangerous endeavour. During the spring and summer of 1927, 40 pilots attempted various long-distance over-ocean flights, leading to 21 deaths during the attempts.


Bernard-Hubert 191GR "Yellow bird" - Old Orchard beach - June 1929

After Nungesser and Coli disappearance shortly before Lindbergh success, The French government decided in 1928 a ban over transatlantic flights attempts. But this will not stop Armand Lotti. He is the heir of a rich family, born in 1897. Despite the lost of his right eye after an hunting party, his enthusiasm for aviation is intact. Learning to fly with the help of Louis Bleriot and despite his inability to get his pilot license for medical reasons, he decides in 1928 to fund a transatlantic flight. He purchases the second Bernard-Hubert 191GR, painted in yellow and called l'"oiseau Canari" (the yellow bird") , an aircraft specially designed for long distance raid. 

With the ban decreed by the French authority, he will reach in secret the United Kingdom from where the aircraft will be shipped to the USA.
June 13th 1929, with more than 3900 litters of gas, air mails and champagne on board (Champagne to celebrate the future flight success), The yellow bird takes off laboriously from the Old Orchard Beach near Boston.

The crew is composed of Lotti (radio), Jean Assolant (pilot) and René Lefèvre (second pilot).


Assolant, Lefèvre and Lotti

old orchard

Before Take off

After a few minute of flight, one man emerges from the rear of the airplane, he was hiding in the tail, ignoring probably the consequence of his location on the aircraft's center of gravity...
Here I am ! he told to the stunned crew. His name is Arthur Schreiber, he is the first stowaway of aviation history and plan to write a book about his adventure..

Lefèvre wants to throw him overboard... The Yellow bird is more heavy and due to bad weather has to take a route more on the south than planned.. Finally they reach the heart breaking decision to throw away the mail and the champagne.. Arthur Schreiber will fly with them to Paris but Lotti makes him sign in flight an affidavit telling he renounces to monetary gain from his adventure...

Lotti Schreiber

After 29h22 of flight, the aircraft will finally land on the beach of Oyambre in the north of Spain. Two days after they will fly to Paris where they will do a triumphal entry.

Lotti and Schreiber have stayed friends all their life.

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Assolant, Lefèvre, Lotti and Schreiber

The Yellow bird cockpit



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