On February 10, 1926, Buenos Aires dressed up to receive the Plus Ultra, the first plane that managed to complete the journey between Europe and South America. Today, 95 years after the feat, the device, donated to Argentina by the Spanish King Alfonso XIII, survives in the Transport Museum of the Buenos Aires city of Lujan, where several experts work so that the passage of time does not dim its brightness. The streets, the traffic, the crowds exploded People had taken place on the northern waterfront of the city.

On the 9th they had already planted themselves there with their chairs enjoying the summer night to receive the Plus Ultra”, he says Santiago Garibotti, a pilot for 35 years and one of those in charge of the maintenance tasks of the machine, a Dornier Wal seaplane. In those years of incipient development of aviation, this event marked a historical and political milestone for the pride of Spain and moved Argentine society. A crowd watched his landing with emotion, a symbolic event for the thousands of Spanish and Italian immigrants who had long arrived by boat to the ports of Buenos Aires in search of a better future.

“Spain no longer had colonies in America and it was a way of contradicting those who thought in the world that it was a backward country. And they also raised Spanish self-esteem,” adds Garibotti, passionate about aviation and history. This major adventure even became a tango in the voice of Carlos Gardel himself: “The Plus Ultra left with swift flight, looking up at the sky towards the city of Plata. The entire world has shaken and enthusiasm is unleashed everywhere “sang the greatest star of the time. Paradoxically, the singer recorded La Gloria del águila a few years before a plane crash took him away forever in 1935.

With Commander Ramon Franco (brother of the dictator Francisco Franco) at the head of the project and the endorsement of the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923-1930) and Alfonso XIII himself, the seaplane took off on January 22, 1926, from the town Spanish from Palos de la Frontera, the same place from which Christopher Columbus had left when he discovered America in 1492.

With German technology but manufactured in Italy, the Plus Ultra (Beyond in Latin, the motto of Spain) had, in addition to Franco, three other crew members: Captain Julio Ruiz de Alda, Lieutenant Juan Manuel Durán, and mechanic Pablo Rada. Also, the photographer Leopoldo Alonso, who traveled only to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the first of the six stops (the others were Cape Verde, Fernando de Noronha, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, and Montevideo) of a 10,270-kilometer flight that lasted almost 60 hours and is considered the first between Europe and the South Atlantic made with a single plane (in 1922, the Portuguese Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral had made the first crossing to South America, but with three different planes).

The Plus Ultra flight was not smooth, but its crew solved the mishaps throughout the entire voyage, which was escorted by two boats to assist in the event of an accident. Once on land, they were received as heroes on their stops in Brazil and Uruguay, and Buenos Aires.
In fact, after landing in the Río de la Plata, the reception of the Argentines was “tremendous, with the doors of commerce closed and many factories”, recalls the Royal Academy of History. Next, the aviators were entertained at the Casa Rosada by President Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear and made a tour of several cities in the interior.

I tell it and it gives me chills. I would have liked to live that moment in which this machine arrives, which changed the history of the world and especially of communication “, says Viviana Mallol, director of the Enrique Udaondo Provincial Museum Complex, where the popular seaplane spends its days. Even though Ramon Franco tried to extend the trip to other parts of America, Madrid did not authorize it and Alfonso XIII decided to donate the Plus Ultra to Argentina, where it lasted for a while longer as a mail carrier.

The mythical propeller plane, with a wingspan of 22.5 meters and a length of 17.2, underwent a restoration in Spain in the 1980s and a replica was made that is in the Cuatro Vientos Air Museum (Madrid) before being returned to Argentina. Coinciding with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, both Garibotti and fellow pilots Cristian Gazali and Reinero Barral volunteered to work in solidarity to preserve the device. We gave it a few touches of paint where it had accidentally been skipped, always keeping the color of the plane, and we did a complete cleaning and enhancement “, says Garibotti about the plane, which no longer flies -” the engines have not been they startup, “he adds – but it still looks good.

Worse was the fate of the Plus Ultra crew members: while Duran died in an aviation accident shortly after returning to Spain, Ramón Franco did so on a combat flight of the rebel side in 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, and Ruiz de Alda was shot in 1936 by anarchist militiamen. Rada, who was faithful to the Republic, died in 1969 at the age of 77 after returning to Madrid, seriously ill, after three decades of exile in Venezuela.