The dense African continent, still a mysterious place in those years, was to be the backdrop against which this new exploit of Spanish Military Aviation would unfold, in an age when our aviators refused to allow the laurels on which they had rested year after year to wither. The task before them was neither easy nor accommodating; on the contrary, it was full of risks as it involved crossing the agonising peaks of the Atlas mountains, the immense unknown territory of the Sahara and the haunting jungle of the river Niger. And if in the first stage of the flight the plane had to bear indisputable hazards created by the unsparing altitudes and powerful turbulence that characterise them, the desert presented itself as a immense expanse of more than 2,000 km and twelve hours in the air, accompanied by its sandstorms, and in which the aviators would be unprotected in the event of a mechanical failure causing them to make a forced landing, with few possibilities of being found or of reaching somewhere where they might receive assistance, given the sparse population spread across the huge ocean of sand and the little guarantee of finding hospitality among the fierce Saharan tribes, veritable pirates of the desolate wastes. And even if they should manage to get past the desert flying south along parallel 15, there would still be dangers lurking; for a worse fate than suffering the hazards of the Sahara would be having to make an emergency landing in the dense equatorial jungle, where the plane would be submerged in thick vegetation and the aviators, assuming they had survived the crash, would be lost in this dark dense inferno, at the mercy of the unhealthy climate and hostile Nature.
In 1926, on the occasion of the extraordinary long-distance flight of the “Atlantis” patrol, it was thought that a land plane would be able to go through the same points in a single run, and so a Loring R-III biplane of national design and construction was the choice. This plane was transformed to give it a great degree of independence, and would be manned by group leader Barberán and by squadron leader Gonzalez Gil; but neither the fact that these crew members lacked sufficient experience, nor the modified version of the plane, nor the engine, made them drop the idea.
This was again put into operation by Captain Cipriano Rodriguez Diaz, as a result of Lieutenant De Haya and himself having beaten the world speed records cited in the previous section. As has been already stated, in order to carry out these tests and set record times that would not be beaten until 1935, they had used the Breguet XIX Gran Raid, number 71, of those built by CASA in 1927, in Getafe, confirming the excellent performance of the plane and the motor, as well as the capacity of both aviators to resist the tiredness caused by so many hours without changing posture.
Captain Cipriano Rodriguez and Lieutenant Carlos de Haya – at that time posted to the experimentation group and to the Military Aviation Material Service, respectively –, who were to be the principal figures in the flight from Madrid to Bata, studied and presented to the senior staff a detailed project which, after modifying some minor details, was duly authorised. The airmen immediately set about making preparations, establishing that the flight would be made to coincide with the December full moon, based on the fact that the previous weather reports collected had demonstrated that this would be the most favourable period for crossing a desert; this stage of the long-distance flight would be made at night to avoid the danger of sand clouds.
The Military Aviation Flight Protection Service was entrusted with doing the necessary work in order to be able to rely on the weather reports required to carry out the flight; these reports – falling into three classes: climatology, general synoptic situation and state of the route – gave the aviators apart from a very accurate description of the atmospheric conditions en route, a series of data that enabled them to prepare the flight with some guarantees of success.
They decided that the route they would follow would be as the crow flies, thus establishing the distance between Madrid and Bata at 2,468 miles – 4,572 km -. The navigation system applied would be by means of the stars, although simultaneously with inertial guidance, as it was problematic that the weather conditions might allow them to make the required observations of the stars. For navigation they had at their disposal two compasses – one of induction or the other magnetic – an anemometer, an altimeter, a Wimperis navigraph, 20 canisters of luminous smoke, drift meter, Coutinho course corrector,, a bubble sextant, three fixed chronometers that had been under observation for three months, a nautical almanac and special tables for rapid calculation of the position line. During the weeks before the flight, Captain Rodriguez, with his customary tenacity and meticulousness practised using the sextant, making numerous observations.
A few days before the dates considered most suitable for the long-distance flight, they decided that instead of setting off from Barajas in accordance with the original plan, the starting point should be the Tablada aerodrome, since if carrying a lot of weight it would be better to take off at sea level, while at the same time taking advantage of the runway that had already been prepared for the take off from the runway ‘Jesus del Gran Poder’. On the other hand, the fact that the distance would be reduced by 300 km was irrelevant as the flight was not aiming to achieve any records – in fact the distance set for this flight was greater than the intended distance to be covered by the 12-71. The objective, as defined by Commander Pastor , the director of Aeronautics, in a statement made to the press was: “To carry out a scientific flight to advance our knowledge of aerial navigation. To cover the distance between our country and its most distant colonies in a single flight. To demonstrate the capacities of our national Aeronautics. To conserve our prestige amongst the natives of Guinea who, in this way, will feel closer to the Metropolis.”
On the 16th December, after giving the 12.71 a proper check for the long-distance flight, Rodriguez and de Haya made a test flight lasting four hours and were satisfied with the performance of the plane and the engine. On the morning of the 21st they flew from Madrid to Seville where they arrived after a pleasant two-hour flight, remaining in Tablada on stand-by until the weather conditions were favourable for the flight. The 12.71 was loaded and ready.
Although the weather was good for the flight on the 23rd, with some cloud over the Atlas Mountains, the wind, which was blowing quite strongly but normally on the runway, persuaded the aviators to delay their trip by one day, given that the forecast showed an improvement.
At 9 o’clock in the morning on Christmas Eve, the 12.71 was taken to the runway of Jesus del Gran Poder; there, its aluminium paint shining in the sun, with the emblems of the Military Aviation and the three records obtained by the plane and its crew the year before painted on the fuselage, it was placed in the take off position, with the skid placed on the auxiliary carriage of the two wheels that had been successfully used on the various occasions in which they had taken off with the Gran Raid carrying a heavy load.
The 12.71 was loaded up and ready for the enterprise; in the tank was enough fuel for thirty five flying hours, food provisions and correspondence for Bata and Santa Isabel and for the governor of the colony, as well as Madrid and Seville daily newspapers. The plane was also carrying a rag giraffe as mascot. On take off the plane’s load would be 4,265 kg.
Shortly after a quarter past ten, Rodriguez and De Haya, wearing overalls equipped with electrical resistances to keep them warm, made their way to the plane, accompanied by numerous colleagues and friends who were there to see them off. Both airmen were wearing around their necks the medallion of the Virgin of Loreto, a gift from the Seville Aero Club.
Still on the ground, they tightened the harnesses of their parachutes and got into the plane, with Captain Rodriguez in the back seat of the cockpit and De Haya at the front. The engine was started – it was already warmed up and tested – the pilots closed the cockpit, gave signals to remove the block, waved and began their take off. It was forty minutes past ten.
The sky was clear and there was good visibility; a mild wind blew from the North East. The carriage fell away when the plane had scarcely covered 200 metres and was taking to the air, amidst the enthusiastic shouts of the spectators, after a run of 800 metres. De Haya kept the plane close to the ground in order to gain speed, gently making the ascent when there was still some way to go to the end of the runway. At 10.41 on Thursday 24th December 1931, Rodriguez and de Haya, on board the Gran Raid 12-71, escorted by two light aircraft from the Seville Aero Club, began their adventure, setting a course for Utrera, a city they would fly over shortly after. The plane seemed lighter than could be expected for the weight that it was carrying and with the speedometer marking 120 km/h and a slight angle of ascent, it gradually gained height, having already covered nearly 1,600 metres as it passed over Grazalema, a little to the west of Cabezo del Moro which appreciably at the same height as the plane. One minute before noon, the 12.71 flew along the vertical of Estepona, at 2,300 metres and rising, and penetrated into the Sea of Alboran which could be seen below, blue and sparkling, hardly a ripple on the surface caused by the soft Levante wind; and there, above Estepona, the escorting light aircraft took their leave with long effisove cheers that were returned by Carlos de Haya. Captain Rodriguez reported their position by radio to Tablada, which they acknowledged, wishing the aviators good luck.
At 1.25 the plane reached the African coast, approaching it at the kabila of Bocoia, above Morro Nuevo, slightly to the west of the bay of Alhucemas where, six years before, both aviators had taken part in the operations that the Spanish Army, Navy and Air Force had made the first successful landing in the history of contemporary warfare, thus initiating the final chapter in the long Spanish campaigns in Morocco, where our soldiers had shed so much glorious blood. They had been flying for two hours forty four minutes when they cut across the 35th North parallel. Shortly afterwards, with the plane levelled at 3,000 metres they passed over Yebel Amekran, a mountain which, according to an old tradition of the Rif, “should it ever fall into the hands of the Infidel, the Christians would conquer the kabila of Beni Urriaguel and would rule over it for thirty years.”
The plane was flying at an overland speed of 135 km/h, having to make a drift correction of 3 degrees to compensate for the wind; a little later they flew over the first foothills of the Atlas Mountains, covered in the Spanish part with pine forests, amidst which slightly to the right of the route Yebel Tigiduin stood out, with its peak at 2,450 metres, and the large dark patch of the centenarian Cedar forest of Ketama. There, where the peaks of the mountain range reach up to above 2,000 metres, the air turbulence was considerable. The city of Tazza passed below them, and then, as they headed towards the south, the surface of the land began to get smoother, while the countryside began to get sparser, with fewer and fewer forest patches and more frequent barren rocky ground which alternated with occasional spaces barely covered with rough vegetation and grass where herds of goats and rams were grazing. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, as the pilots reached the vertical of Colomb Bechar whose buildings reflected the sun that was already hanging low on the horizon, they decided to eat some cold meats and a bar of chocolate. From the moment they had stabilised the plane at 3,000 metres, as soon as they had entered the African continent, Cipriano Rodriguez had been operating the controls, the two having decided that during the night De Haya would bear the brunt of the piloting and therefore he needed to rest.
Dusk fell just as the Spanish airmen were entering the Sahara, flying between two lights in the immense loneliness of the desert. At half past five the navigator estimated that they had cut across the 30th parallel; they had just left behind them to the right the city of Igli and it was already night when they saw the bright lights of Beni Abbés. The flight was proceeding normally and the navigation was by means of inertial guidance as the sky, overcast, hid the stars from view. The ground over which they were flying was practically flat and rose up to an average height of 600 metres, and although the superior height of the desert – mount Tahat, 2,918 metres tall, in the Hoggar massif – would have been further to the east of the 12-71 route, Rodriguez made the decision to ascend 500 metres, maintaining the flight level at 3,500 metres.
At 7.35, some lights seen on the ground which were identified by Cipriano Rodriguez as Raggan, told them that they were well on course and that they were travelling at a ground speed of 161 km/h, crossing the meridian at 0 degrees and leaving it to the west.
The sky remained overcast and at 9.17 Rodriguez calculated that the 12-71 was cutting across the 25th parallel, and some lights that they made out with difficulty announced to them that they were flying over Ualién and that they had deviated slightly to the right. Consequently, Rodriguez decided to reduce the heading by 4 degrees to correct the slight drift observed.
The aviators were flying near the legendary town of Hoggar which was some 250 km away to the east. There, in the mysterious mountainous massif that reaches its highest point in mount Tahat, live the Tuaregs (Those whom God has abandoned); one of the greatest dangers that is a constant feature of the Sahara. In Timanraset, the “only true permanent town”, lived the French administrator at that time.
At half past ten the aviators intersected the Tropic of Cancer, which they celebrated with a small snack and a cup of coffee. An hour and a half later, at exactly 12 midnight, the Spanish plane flew over the other important mountainous massif in the centre of the Sahara, El Adrar de los Iforas, a town populated, like Hoggar, by the Imugar (Free Men), who reject the name Tuareg here and call themselves Tamasechk. El Adrar de la Iforas is a mountainous zone with a surface area of 125,000 square kilometres and peaks that rise from 600 to 1,000 metres. The capital is Kidal and the French administrator resides here. The Tamasechk are as cruel and bloodthirsty as the other Imugar.
The pilots celebrated Christmas Eve toasting with a glass of cognac. Later on, Captain Rodriguez would say about that moment “ Christmas Eve spent in the air? Ah! Nothing to wax poetically about. No visibility and consequently without the lyrical element of the stars. We confined ourselves to celebrating it with a glass of cognac”.
The midway point of the route was determined by the navigator at 1.25 on Christmas Day; they had travelled 2,156 km in nineteen hours and forty four minutes, flying at an average speed of 146.34 km/h. Cipriano Rodriguez took over the controls to allow De Haya to rest a while, and that while lasted until 4 o’clock in the morning. At 4.37 the navigator established that they were on parallel 15 and meridian 5 East, having left the desert behind them and now flying over the savannah and beginning to notice signs of approaching the jungle of the Niger, a river famous in antiquity, rival to the Nile, to which pagan superstition attributed a heavenly origin.
Shortly after half past six the horizon began to clear on the Eastern front and half an hour later the sun rose into a slightly misty sky faintly illuminating a landscape made up of a succession of low ridges in shades of ochre with isolated patches of vegetation and some dispersed villages. Rodriguez and De Haya celebrated the appearance of the sun putting an end to the long night, they prepared a light meal and Rodriguez was able to calculate their position at 8 o’clock cutting across parallel 10. A little less than two hours later, running perpendicular to the flight path of the plane, they saw the river Benue, the main tributary of the Niger which, large and flowing lazily, headed towards the West framed by steep arid-looking banks. The 12-71 intersected the river at the point of its confluence with the Katsina, which confirmed the calculations made by Cipriano Rodriguez locating the position of the plane slightly to the left of the route.
At 11 o’clock the plane was 540 km from Bata which, bearing in mind the speed of the 12-71 at that moment, meant that there was little more than three hours to go before achieving the long-distance flight. For the first time since Tauima had acknowledged receipt of the position report at 3.30 in the afternoon of the previous day, the aviators received a reply to the messages they had been sending every half hour; this time, although subject to a lot of interference and lacking in clarity, they confirmed that Fernando Poo had received their communication.
By then, they were flying over the equatorial jungle, immersed in a sea of vegetation that spread out in all shades of green ; here and there, fancifully scattered across the semi-uniform surface, there stood out gigantic trees that towered several dozen metres over the rest of the scene. Presently, almost in front of the pilots gradually appeared the vast mass of mount Cameroon, a colossus standing 4,070 metres high, rising up only a short distance from the coast at the back of the bay of Biafra. In spite of the sky being almost clear, it was enshrouded by a circle of clouds whose base was at around 3,000 metres, above which the cone of its peak stuck out menacingly.
The 12-71 reached the sea at 11.43 where the coast was covered in mangroves that carried the thick vegetation of the jungle right up to the very edge of the water; shortly afterwards, they were flying above the wide estuary of the Wuri at the far end of which inside one of the river bends was the city of Duala which passed under the pilots barely noticed them. For they had eyes only for the beautiful island of Fernando Poo, lit by the midday sun, all green and brilliant, standing out in the calm sea, rounded off by the majestic peak of Santa Isabel, at a height of 3,007 metres. In the centre of a semi-circular bay open towards the north, white and cheerful, dominated by the cathedral towers, lay Santa Isabel, the capital of the colony.
The plane headed south along the coastline, flying across the little island of Malimba, in the mouth of the river Sanaga; below them, a landscape of sea and jungle; to the left and to the right, respectively, sights different to anything the aviators had beheld until then. It was there, between the shoreline vegetation - amongst which the most notable elements were the coconut palms – and the sea, an interminably long beach of white sand stretched out, interrupted only by the outlets of numerous rivers. The 12-71 took little time to reach the mouth of the Campo, a river that formed the northern border of the Spanish territory. There, De Haya began the descent, enjoying, as they drew closer to the ground, the wonderful panorama offered by the Guinean jungle, crowned at intervals by huge silk-cotton trees and peppered with small clearings of green grass in many of which lay villages made up of a few huts. The plane, flying at 350 metres when it reached Bata at 1.45 in the afternoon, made a protocol circling manoeuvre over the town by way of greeting, a manoeuvre which enabled De Haya to search out an area of land suitable for landing, located in the south of Bata, next to the river Ekueku. This improvised aerodrome consisted of a wide flat clearing, covered with dense grass, a short distance from Bata and not further from the coast, beside the village of Iowé through which the course of the River Benito passed. The village limits were marked by white walls next to which a large amount of people were gathered in a group that was constantly growing as more and more, seeing the arrival of the plane, hurried out to the airfield. A smoke canister that was lit when the plane reached the Bata vertical and which was renewed until the plane touched down, indicated the direction of the wind, very slight, that blew in from the first quadrant.
At 1.52 in the afternoon the wheels of the 12-71 touched down on the smooth surface of Bata aerodrome. At that moment Captain Cipriano Rodriguez and Lieutenant Carlos de Haya had covered 4,312 km in a flight lasting twenty seven hours eleven minutes, at an average speed of 158.08 km/h.
The welcome that the aviators received in Spanish continental Guinea that Friday, on Christmas Day 1931 was extraordinary; you can be sure that not a single Spanish colonial in the territory was absent from the landing field. The Governor – who had come expressly from Fernado Poo – and the other authorities at the foot of the plane, received with great enthusiasm the Christmas greeting that the pilots had brought from the distant homeland for such an important calendar event. What great joy they expressed at being able to read the press from the Peninsular only day late. A large number of dark skinned villagers of both sexes and all ages acclaimed the Spanish officers who, although somewhat stiff after going for twenty seven hours without scarcely adjusting their posture, they did not feel very tired, and after a hot bath and a Christmas dinner served with little attention to formality at the house of the sub-governor, they were ready to receive the lavish hospitality that went on unceasingly throughout the whole week they remained in the colony.
Back in Spain, where the general feeling was one of great preoccupation at not having received news from the 12-71 during the whole day of the 25th, the anxiety increased until the early hours of the 26th when the company Transradio received a telegram from Santa Isabel which read: ”At two o’clock yesterday afternoon landed Bata airfield 12-71 flight piloted by Rodriguez and De Haya, affectionate reception by authorities, Spanish and native community, ovation for success of flight. Aviators arrived in perfect health. Great satisfaction for good weather during journey.” The arrival of this piece of news delighted the Spanish countrymen who although accustomed to hearing of the successes of the military airmen did by no means celebrate less the heroic feats performed by these.
The Aeronautical directors received a telegram from the pilots which read: “At two o’clock in the afternoon we had a normal landing in Bata, having flown for twenty seven hours and ten minutes, and proceeded without incident as planned. Plane and engine in excellent condition. Check being made. Shall advise regarding date chosen for return. Respectfully yours. Rodriguez.” The Aeronautical director replied with another telegram saying: “ Captain Rodriguez and Lieutenant De Haya. Speaking for myself and for the Service, our most fervent congratulations and a brotherly hug for your triumph. Pastor.”
The success of this difficult and hazardous flight was due to a series of factors the most important of which were: the excellent performance of the engine and of the plane in general, a consequence of the quality standard to which both were made; the meticulous preparation of the long-distance flight on the part of two of the most scientific and technical pilots at that time, based on a rigorous meteorological study carried out by the Flight Protection Service; the right decision regarding the date and time for its initiation, for which the aforesaid study was fundamental.
One of the highest aeronautical authorities in the world at that time, Commander Emilio Herrera Linares, regarded as one of the foremost scientists in Europe for his mathematical work in aeronautical research, was to say: “As a Spaniard I am extremely gratified by the flight made by Rodriguez and De Haya. They deserve every type of praise for the difficult moments they have had to overcome. Fortunately they chose well when fixing the exact date for making the journey which afforded them the best possibilities of achieving success.”
The main actors in this flight diminished the importance of everything that made the exploit appear a spectacular adventure, as Captain Rodriguez explained to the reporters: “There is nothing historic about good flights. Everything proceeds normally. The execution responds to calculation and the adventure happens a simple consequence.” He did not forget to send a telegram to the chief of Flight Protection in which he said: “Captain Rodriguez to Commander Cubillo. The weather during the flight was exactly as predicted by the meteorological services. Well done and an affectionate greeting.”
On the 27th and 28th they made two flights over the continent, taking a series of photographs that would be of great interest to the colony’s authorities. On the 29th the plane underwent a check by Corporal Casiano Ferrer Perez of Military Aviation who had gone to Bata in advance to provide assistance to the pilots; they made the check and on the 31st everything was done; they found the plane in an excellent state but even so changed the filters and the spark plugs. At the outset of 1932 the 12-71 was ready to ready home.
Given the objective of the flight – to connect the Peninsular with the colony of Guinea in a single journey – had been achieved and consequently the long-distance flight concluded with success, and taking into account that the conditions of the Bata airfield did not allow the plane to take off with the weight required to make the home journey direct, this was planned in five stages: Bata-Niamey (1,520 km), Niamey-Bamako (1,068 km), Bamako-San Luis de Senegal (1,000 km), San Luis-Las Palmas (1,425 km) and Las Palmas-Madrid (1,775 km: total distance 6,788 km).
The 12-71 took off at first light on Sunday 3rd January. Despite the untimely hour, the aerodrome was crowded, both with whites and natives, all wanting to see the aviators off. It was a splendid morning, and after saying their farewells to all those present with a broad wave of their arms, they closed the cockpit, in which both pilots occupied the same positions as they had on the outward journey and, given that the plane weighed only 3,215 kg as it was carrying fuel for just 15 hours flight, it took to the air with ease amidst the enthusiastic reactions of the crowd. The 12-71 did a ceremonial circuit around Bata and passed over the airfield before heading directly for Fernando Poo, thus initiating the first stage of its return journey. It was a quarter past seven in the morning.
One hour thirty five minutes had passed when the plane flew over Santa Isabel and did a 360 degree turn by way of farewell gesture to the governor, continuing on towards the continent and gaining height to reach the coast at 2,500 metres, stabilising the plane at this level, passing without interruption from sea to jungle, from vast expanse of water to vast expanse of dense vegetation around the Niger delta with its labyrinthine branches which, forming innumerable leafy islands, searched for the sea. For nearly five hours they flew over the jungle which grew gradually sparser until disappearing, followed by the appearance of the river at times brimming over with water at times turbulent transformed into rapids, as it flowed through rocky almost desert terrain with hardly any vegetation and few villages or settlements.
At 6 o’clock in the afternoon, with dusk approaching, the 12-71 touched down at Niamey aerodrome after ten hours forty five minutes airborne. The pilots were received by a French commander and other officials, and a substantial crowd of blacks and whites who celebrated noisily the arrival of the Spanish plane. Rodriguez and De Haya stayed in Niamey, fêted by the authorities and by the French colony, until Tuesday the 5th when, at half past eight in the morning they took off for Bamako, on the first stage of the course of the Niger.
The flight took them at first over fairly uneven ochre-coloured terrain dotted with sparse vegetation; further on what few trees there had been began to disappear and the 12-71 found itself flying over rocky ground or flat plateaux covered with rough greyish grass.
Everything was normal until suddenly a sandstorm rose up which, as well as reducing visibility considerably, could also damage the engine, which still had 5,000 km to cover before the mission was completed. This prompted Rodriguez to take the decision to land in a very suitable area that was flat, and totally clear. It was 1.30 in the afternoon and they had flown 820 km in five hours.
The landing was perfect and the plane came to a halt after a short run. The aviators got out and confirmed the suitability of their position. Two hours later the sand storm has passed and with the sky now clear they began the takeoff manoeuvre with the intention of covering the 250 km that stood between them and Bamako, but when they had taxied for about 100 metres, still with the tail low, De Haya started to feel friction that was slowing sown the right wheel; he cut out the engine and it almost instantly jammed, forcing the plane into a ground loop on that side and driving the left plane into the ground. In the space of a few seconds disaster set in as the left landing strut which had been supporting the whole weight of the plane snapped. The long-distance flight had come to an end.
The aviators were a short distance from the native village of Korondongon, and no sooner had this accident occurred than a group of tall black men from that place arrived and from the first moment showed genuine hospitality, taking Rodriguez and De Haya – who had not suffered even the slightest of injuries – to their village, preparing for them a stew of fowl and giving them accommodation in the best huts in the village. At the same time they sent word of the presence of the pilots to the French post at Kutiala, some 80 km away, and a lieutenant came for them with a car. They remained guests of the chief officer of the post for three days. A team of French mechanics collected the 12-71, dismantled it and packed the pieces in boxes for its dispatch to Spain, and the pilots stayed in Kutiala and Korondogon until the operation had finished, whereupon they returned to Spain.
Since the departure of the 12-71 from Niamey, no news of its whereabouts had been received and in Spain there was growing concern, fearing for the fate of the aviators. While this was happening it has to be said that events were taking place in our country that were occupying the attention of the Spanish people. On the 31st December in the town of Castilblanco, the five Civil Guards that manned the post there had been killed in an outrageously cruel manner. Nevertheless, there were many who felt a great sense of relief when on the 6th a telegram was made public via Transradio which announced “Plane found on the 6th, 86 km from Kutiala. Kutiala 300 km to the east of Bamako. Aviators safe. A French column has left to pick up the Spanish pilots.”
This setback, suffered when success had already been achieved, tarnished the triumph considerably. When they arrived in Spain, outside aeronautical circles, hardly anybody recalled the enthusiasm that had been aroused when the plane reached Guinea. However, the newspapers gave the airmen a fair treatment and both the national and international press gave the flight the importance it deserved. The London Times, in its issue published on the 4th January 1932, reported that “Two Spanish aviators have succeeded in conquering by air the mysterious jungles of the African continent. From now on, it is to them we owe the opening up of a new military and civil route. Civilisation is in debt to them for this great service they have rendered. Their names shall be engraved in world history”.
Captain Rodriguez and Lieutenant De Haya died in combat during the last civil war; De Haya, in February and Rodriguez in October 1938. The former, on the Aragon front line; the latter on the Castellon front line. Rodriguez won a Military Medal and De Haya, the Laureate Cross of San Fernando.