FARGO — This Wednesday marks the day to go the wrong way and be proud (and maybe a little defiant about it). Wednesday, July 17, is Wrong Way Corrigan Day.
Pilot Douglas Corrigan earned the nickname Wrong Way Corrigan in 1938 when he told authorities he would be flying from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Long Beach, Calif. However, onlookers were puzzled when Corrigan's plane, which took off to the west, made a 180-degree turn into the clouds. Twenty-eight hours later, Corrigan landed in Dublin, Ireland, stepped out of his plane and said, "Just got in from New York. Where am I?"
He claimed he got turned around because of a navigational error, and said heavy cloud cover obscured landmarks and low light caused him to misread his compass.
However, not many people were buying it — and not just because of the visible smirk on his face when he spoke of the trip. He didn't appear to be someone who would make such a silly mistake. He was a skilled mechanic who had helped build Charles Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis" and he had just modified his own plane to handle a transatlantic flight.
In 1935, he applied to fly from New York to Dublin with that plane, but the Bureau of Air Commerce rejected his application to make the flight because they deemed his plane "unsound for a non-stop transatlantic trip." The organization did authorize it for the shorter cross-country trek from New York to California.
His accidental trip to Ireland was ruled a deliberate violation of the rules. His pilot's license was immediately suspended and he was put on a ship back to the United States. But by the time the ship docked back in New York, the suspension had run out and he had become a bona fide aviation celebrity.
He met autograph seekers with a twinkle in his eye. An estimated 1 million New Yorkers, seemingly looking for a little levity during the tough economic days of the Great Depression, lined lower Broadway for a ticker-tape parade for the man who appeared to have thumbed his nose at authorities and refused to take no for an answer. In the years to come he suppressed a wink or two when he started endorsing "wrong way" products, including a watch that ran backwards.
He retired from flying in 1950. However, in 1988 he was excited about participating in the golden anniversary of his "wrong way" flight. He died on Dec. 9, 1995, never admitting that his flight was anything but an accident.
Other holidays this week
- Monday, July 15: Get Out of the House Day
- Tuesday, July 16: Corn Fritters Day
- Wednesday, July 17: Peach Ice Cream Day
- Thursday, July 18: Sour Candy Day
- Friday, July 19: Daiquiri Day
- Saturday, July 20: Moon Day
- Sunday, July 21: Junk Food Day