Gago Coutinho And Sacadura Cabral – Portuguese Aviation Pioneers

Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral, Portuguese aviation pioneers, the first to cross the South Atlantic Ocean by air, from March to June 1922 from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro.


Mozambique (1972) 1,000 Escudos (back) – Sacadura Cabral and Gago Coutinho

Carlos Viegas Gago Coutinho was born on 17 February 1869 in Belem (Lisboa). At age of sixteen he entered Polytechnic College to prepare for admission to the Naval Academy one year later.


In 1896, as the officer responsible for navigation at Pero de Alenquer he became an enthusiastic student of this science. In 1898, already a promising geographer, he began his work on colonial cartography, during which he met Sacadura Cabral. He worked on the Dutch-Portuguese border in Timor, in Mozambique and Angola and ended his geographer’s career in Sao Tome in 1918. After this, he became interested in flying, which led him to invent a false horizon for the sextant, making this instrument an effective and valuable tool in air navigation.


Mozambique (1972) 1,000 Escudos (front) – Portrait of Gago Coutinho

His flights to Madeira in 1921 and Brazil in 1922 proved just how brilliant he was. After the death of his friend and companion, he devoted himself to historical research into marine voyages, until his death at the age of 90 on 18 February 1959. During his lifetime he received various national and international honours and was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet after his retirement – a unique decision in the Portuguese Navy.

Artur de Sacadura Freire Cabral was born in Celorico da Beira on 23 May 1881. In 1910 he completed his studies at Naval Academy.


From 1890 to 1910 he worked in topography and hydrography in Mozambique, where he met Gago Coutinho. From 1910 to 1912, he worked on the Angolan border. Back in Portugal he applied to join the Naval Aviation and left for France in 1916, where he obtained his pilot’s licence. In 1918, he was appointed commander of Bom Sucesso Naval Center. In 1921 he made the first Lisboa-Funchal flight with Gago Coutinho. In 1922, again with the same navigator, he made the first crossing of the South Atlantic. In November 1924 he disappeared in the North Atlantic, together with mechanic Pinto Correia, while flying in a Fokker T3 he had picked in Holland for the Naval Aviation, in which he was planning to fly around the world. He was 43 years old when he died.

Source: Air Museum Alverca-Portugal