Since I'm standing in for Dave, I thought I'd do a "today in history" Diary and write about something I learned happened today, back in 1927. There was only one Dole Air Race, which in one way was a success and yet held so much tragedy. Join me over the Orange Itzl for more details.
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August 1927, James D. Dole (of Pineapple fame), decided to have an aerial race from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. He put up a prize of $25,000 for first place and $10,000 for second place. When the race was announced this was set to be the first trans-Pacific flight in history, however, by the time the race took place that record had already been beaten twice.
On 28 June, about a month after Dole posted the prizes, Air Corps Lieutenants Lester J. Maitland and Albert F. Hegenberger flew a three-engine Atlantic-Fokker C-2 military aircraft from Oakland Municipal Airport to Wheeler Army Airfield on Oahu in 25 hours and 50 minutes.Many people said that didn't count because it was a military flight and this was a civilian race. But then
a young airmail pilot named Ernie Smith and his navigator, Emory Bronte, in a monoplane called City of Oakland and only 27 feet long, made a lurching takeoff on the rutted Oakland field on July 14. And then, out of gas, they crash-landed in a thorn tree on the island of Molokai 26 hours and 36 minutesStill, the race went on. 15 planes signed up, only 11 qualified to actually fly the race. Of those, three crashed before hand, resulting in three deaths. Not exactly a good omen.
By August 16, only 8 aircraft were left to begin:
Pabco Flyer, a Breese-Wilde Monoplane, NX646, flown alone by Livingston Gilson IrvingThe problems for this race didn't end before its beginning however.
Woolaroc, One of two modified Travel Air 5000 aircraft, NX869, flown by Arthur C. Goebel and navigated by William V. Davis Jr.
Oklahoma, a Travel Air 5000 sister ship of Woolaroc, 'NX911, piloted by Bennett Griffin and navigated by Al Henley
Aloha, a Breese-Wilde 5 Monoplane, NX914, flown by Martin Jensen and navigated by Paul Schluter
El Encanto, a Goddard Special metal monoplane, NX5074, flown by Norman A.
Goddard and Kenneth C. Hawkins, which was heavily favored in the pre-race odds
Golden Eagle, the prototype Lockheed Vega 1 monoplane, NX913, flown by Jack Frost and navigated by Gordon Scott
Miss Doran, a Buhl CA-5 Air Sedan, NC2915, flown by Auggy Pedlar, navigated by Vilas R. Knope, and carrying Mildred Doran (the only woman to fly that day)
Dallas Spirit, a Swallow Monoplane, NX941, flown by William Portwood Erwin and navigated by Alvin Eichwaldt
El Encanto crashed on takeoff, the crew was unhurt, however the plane was totaled.
The Pabco Flyer crashed in a marsh, was retrieved and tried a second time only to crash again, never leaving California.
The Golden Eagle took off smoothly and flew off towards Hawaii to great cheers from the crowd.
The Miss Doran took off successfully but returned less than 10 minutes later for repairs. She did manage a successful launch the second time and followed the Golden Eagle towards Hawaii.
Both the Oklahoma and the Dallas Spirit took off fine, but had to return to the start, one with a tear in the fuselage and one with a problem with the tail assembly. Neither attempted a second launch that day.
Both the Aloha and the Woolaroc took off successfully.
So out of 8 competetitors, 4 were in the air, 4 were back at the starting point. The next day the race was over, and the winners were:
Goebel and Davis got their first in Woolaroc. It took 26 hours, 17 minutes, and won them Dole's $25,000.
Martin Jensen and Captain Schluter got there [in Aloha] in 28 hours, 16 minutes, and won $10,000.
The Golden Eagle and Miss Doran were never heard from again despite three submarines being launched to look for them, both were lost at sea somewhere between California and Hawaii. The Dallas Spirit's crew fixed the tail assembly and took off three days later to make the trip and to look for the lost planes. They were never heard from again.
The Miss Doran:
The Golden Eagle:
The Dallas Spirit:
10 lives were lost in the process of this race, in pursuit of the glory of being numbered among the first of the trans-Pacific flights between California and Hawaii (as well as the prize money I'm sure). Was it worth it? Perhaps the survivors thought so, and maybe even the more adventurous among the lost.