He was born in Galveston, Texas and became infatuated with airplanes as a young man in the 1920s. He took flying lessons and learned everything about planes from the airplane mechanics that he could. He got a job working for the Ryan Aereonautical Company at it's San Diego factory. At the factory, he actually helped build Charles Lindbergh's plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, working on the wing assembly and the fuel system. Lindbergh's success inspired Corrigan to want to try a transatlantic flight of his own.
He practiced flying at every opportunity, delighting in daredevil stunts which annoyed his employers. For a time he worked as a barnstormer. In 1933, he bought a used 1929 Curtiss Robin OX-5 monoplane and began modifying it for a transatlantic flight, replacing the engines and adding fuel tanks. In 1933 he applied to the Bureau of Air Commerce for a license to fly across the Atlantic but was rejected because his plane was deemed unsound for a nonstop transatlantic trip. Over the next few years, he continued modifying his plane, which he named Sunshine, and applying to the government.
On July 9, 1938 he left California for New York to make another try. On the 27-hour flight to New York, his plane developed a gas leak. He decided that repairing the leak would take too long to meet his schedule, so he logged a flight plan to return to California on July 17. He took off from Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn headed east and kept on going.
He always claimed that the overcast sky and bad lighting caused him to misread his compass, and that he didn't realize he was going the wrong way until he was 26 hours over the Atlantic. He landed near Dublin, Ireland after a 28 hour 13 minute flight, hunched over in a cramped cockpit, gasoline leaking onto his feet, unable to see directly in front of him due to the additional tanks he had added to the plane, and with only a couple chocolate bars, two packages of fig bars and a quart of water to sustain him.
Considering the number of aviation regulations Corrigan had broken, he received a light punishment: a 14-day suspension of his pilot's license. He returned home by steamship to a hero's welcome.
During World War II, he tested bombers. He ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate on the Prohibition Party ticket. After the War, he worked as a commercial pilot for a small California airline. He retired from aviation in 1950 and bought an orange grove in Santa Anna, California, which he ran until his death in 1995.
To his dying day "Wrong Way" Corrigan insisted that his transatlantic flight had been an accident.
No one believes it.
Game and Story Use
- In a Pulp Era campaign, "Wrong Way" Corrigan would be an interesting NPC to meet.
- He would also make a good model for a brash, daredevil pilot and mechanic.
- Was his flight really a mistake? Or was he just rebelling against government red tape?
- Or perhaps he had a secret reason for needing to travel to Ireland that he took to his grave! Ooo! Spooky!