This extremely rare silent film shows the 1927 Dole Air Race from Oakland, California to Honolulu Hawaii. The race was one of the most tragic episodes in aviation history, costing ten human lives and destroying six aircraft. More on this below:
The Dole Air Race, also known as the Dole Derby, was a tragic air race across the Pacific Ocean from northern California to the Territory of Hawaii in August 1927. Of the 15-18 airplanes entered, eleven were certified to compete but three crashed before the race, resulting in three deaths. Eight eventually participated in the race, with two crashing on takeoff and two going missing during the race. A third, forced to return for repairs, took off again to search for the missing and was itself never seen again. In all, before, during, and after the race, ten lives were lost and six airplanes were total losses. Two of the eight planes successfully landed in Hawaii.
Inspired by Charles A. Lindbergh's successful trans-Atlantic flight, James D. Dole, the Hawaii pineapple magnate, put up a prize of US$25,000 for the first fixed-wing aircraft to fly the 3,870 kilometers (2,400 mi) from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii, and US$10,000 for second place.
The race began on 16 August 1927. The fifteen competitors were seen off by a crowd estimated to include 75,000 to 100,000 persons.
The starting line-up included:
Pabco Flyer, a Breese-Wilde Monoplane, NX646, flown alone by Livingston Gilson Irving
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
Dallas Spirit, a Swallow Monoplane, NX941, flown by William Portwood Erwin and navigated by Alvin Eichwaldt
The initial take offs were plagued with trouble. Oklahoma took off first just before 11am. The crew would eventually abort the flight over San Francisco with an overheating engine. She was followed by El Encanto, which had not cleared the runway before she swerved and crashed. Pabco Flyer lifted momentarily into the air, then crashed some 7000 feet from the runway. Their crews were not hurt. Golden Eagle took off smoothly and flew out of sight. Miss Doran succeeded in taking off, but circled back and landed less than ten minutes later. Then Dallas Spirit returned to Oakland. Aloha and Woolaroc took off uneventfully, and Miss Doran succeeded on her second attempt. Pabco Flyer also tried and crashed a second time.
Woolaroc flew a great circle route flying at 4,000 to 6,000 feet of altitude. The navigator Davis used sextants and smoke bombs to calculate course and wind drift. They were greeted in Hawaii and escorted by a Boeing PW-9 out of Wheeler Field. Goebel and Davis won the race in 26 hours, 17 minutes, earning them the US$25,000 first prize. Aloha arrived in 28 hours, 16 minutes, earning Jensen and Schluter the US$10,000 second prize. Neither Golden Eagle nor Miss Doran were ever seen again.
The search for the Golden Eagle and Miss Doran was aided by three submarines, USS R-8 , USS S-42 , and USS S-46 . After repairing Dallas Spirit, Erwin and Eichwaldt joined the search leaving Oakland for Honolulu. Neither were seen again.
Woolaroc survived and is on display at the Woolaroc Museum in Oklahoma.
This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD. For more information visit http://www.PeriscopeFilm.com