Supposedly gone are the days of experimental aviation. That era, which began in the 1920s and perhaps concluded with the breaking of the sound barrier in the 1950s, was one of extraordinary progress. Not only were machines pushed to their limits, but so were their human pilots. Thinking back to Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight over the Atlantic, we’re left with an image of a goggled pilot navigating by compass in a small, propeller airplane.
Well, fast forward to 2010 and consider the legacy of Alex Henshaw and the achievement of Steve Noujaim. One look at their achievements would indicate that this era might not be altogether finished…especially with a sponsor so focused on aviation pieces standing by. The “Cape Challenge” was originally completed by British pilot Alex Henshaw in 1939. The trip itself is gruelling. One is required not only to fly from London to Cape Town, South Africa, but back as well. Now, that wouldn’t be such a difficult challenge if there weren’t the additional restrictions of flying solo and using only a 200-horsepower aircraft.
In some respects, the “Cape Challenge” probably isn’t as difficult as Lindbergh’s flight. After all, the fact that he was flying over such an expanse of water meant that there could be no refuelling or resting. Mechanical problems would certainly have cost the aviator his life. On the other hand, flight over Africa probably wasn’t that easy either. Henshaw was forced to make use of very shoddy airfields. It’s unclear what conditions Bremont Watches sponsored Noujaim was exposed to, but Africa is still largely underdeveloped and empty. In other words, though it’s no longer 1939 or earlier, these adventures still come with a considerable degree of risk. Yet the tradition is certainly something which should be kept alive. In the end, a lot of the improvement in flight can be traced to those individuals who took such outrageous chances to do something that nobody else had ever done before.