When Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan Accidentally Flew to Ireland Instead of California

Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan
Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan / Keystone/GettyImages

American aviator Douglas Corrigan earned the nickname "Wrong Way" on July 17, 1938, when he filed a flight plan from Brooklyn to Long Beach, California—but ended up in Ireland.

"Wrong Way" Corrigan eventually returned to the U.S., went in front of news cameras and admitted his "mistake" while grinning broadly. But of course, he knew what he was doing all along—and his flight was a daring feat. Corrigan had modified his plane for the intercontinental flight, using knowledge he picked up while helping build Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis a decade earlier. Corrigan had been denied permission once before to fly from New York to Ireland, so his "mistake" was a clever (albeit dangerous and illegal) way to make the journey.

Corrigan made the flight in a plane he called Sunshine. The plane had a leaking gas tank, no radio, and no parachute. He carried "a couple boxes of fig bar cookies" and some gum for sustenance. The flight lasted 28 hours. After his arrival near Dublin, his pilot's license was suspended...but only for a few weeks.

Upon Corrigan's return to the States, the New York Post printed a giant headline backwards, declaring: "HAIL WRONG WAY CORRIGAN." A more legible right-way subhead read: "MILLION CHEER MADLY IN WELCOME TO FLYER." Corrigan became a minor American hero, endorsing "Wrong Way" products, writing a memoir, and starring as himself in the movie The Flying Irishman. Here's Corrigan the year after his famous flight, arriving in Newark to cheering crowds:

Corrigan appeared on TV's To Tell the Truth 19 years after his flight. In the clip below, he shows up around the 16:50 mark.

Douglas Corrigan lived in California until his death in 1995. All hail Wrong Way Corrigan!