“The Government pays tribute to Admiral Gago Coutinho, a native of São Brás de Alportel, in the district of Faro, when the centenary of the first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic is celebrated, one of the greatest feats in the history of air navigation”, said the Secretary of State for the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, André Moz Caldas.
The proposal, approved in several municipal assemblies of municipalities in the Algarve, arose from a movement of citizens who considered that the structure, inaugurated in 1965, should be named after the admiral who, in 1922, together with the aviator Sacadura Cabral, made the first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic in the seaplane “Lusitânia”.
For the crossing, carried out exactly 100 years ago, Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral tested an innovative process to know the position of an aircraft on the high seas, based on astronomical navigation techniques used on board ships.
To observe the height of the stars, they used the sextant, however, in order to be able to observe the stars in situations where the horizon line was not visible, Gago Coutinho adapted an artificial horizon system to a classic sextant, a device that would later be used for air navigation in the following decades.
Born in 1869, Carlos Viegas Gago Coutinho was appointed honorary director of the Portuguese Naval Academy in 1926, and distinguished as aviator pilot, having retired from military life in 1939.
He died in 1959, having become internationally known for the first air crossing of the South Atlantic, which connected Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.