As early as 1897, the first attempt was made to reach the North Pole by aircraft, when a Swedish explorer and three other set off in a balloon had crashed. By then the North Pole had been crossed by a three-engined Fokker monoplane, the Josephine Ford. It carried Lt. Commander (later Rear-Admiral) R.E. Byrd with Floyd Bennett as pilot. The plane left Spitsbergen on 8 May 1926 and after twice circling around the Pole, returned to base after having flown 2,500 km. Four days later on 12 May, the Pole was crossed again, this time by an airship, the Norge, commanded by the veteran explorer, Roald Amundsen. A year later an airship, the Italia, crashed on yet another Arctic flight and whilst searching for survivors Amundsen lost his life. In 1927 Byrd set up a base at Little America in the Antarctic. He was now ready to set out on an attempt to cross the South Pole. From four aircraft available he selected a three-engined Ford and, with Bernt Balchen as pilot and two other companions, took off on 28 November 1929. The plane circled the Pole, then, after being airborne for nineteen hours, touched down again at the base. Byrd thus had the honour of being the first man to fly over both Poles.