By August 1927, the entire world had its eyes on the race. dole derby. And it was not for less, aviators, sailors and enthusiasts intended to meet an ambitious goal: take to the air, cross the Pacific Ocean and cover more than 2,400 miles to go from Oakland, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii.
The idea was put on the table by the billionaire James Dole, who inspired by the revolutionary triumph of Charles Lindbergh -the pilot who crossed the Atlantic Ocean from west to east in 1927- and influenced by two reporters, announced the first transoceanic race of the history.
For a prize of 25,000 dollars -just over 115 million Colombian pesos in current currency- for first place, and 10,000 -just over 46 million- for second place, more than 15 aircraft registered in the competence; however, of that number, four took off from Oakland and only two completed the jump to Hawaii, according to ‘Honolulu’ magazine.
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The Dole Derby promised to be an aerial conquest of the Pacific Ocean, but it ended up becoming much more than that: with deaths, accidents and disappearances.went down in history for being a deadly, lethal and tragic competition.
a bad omen
The Dole Derby was, from the start, a foretold tragedy. The bad omens were there and the chances that the race would result in disaster, too.
The first red signals came quickly from the hand of George Covell and RS Waggener, two participants who perished during a flight to Oakland from San Diego, according to the Pan Am page, which preserves the legacy of the world’s most important US airline during part of the 20th century.
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The next day – August 9, 1927 – Arthur Rogers, a British pilot contestant on Dole, also succumbed to death. He didn’t even make it to Oakland for the competition when he was the victim of a test flight that ended in tragedy.
As the days to kick off the Dole Derby approached, the bad news kept coming: another plane, called the ‘Pride of Los Angeles’, skidded off the runway and crashed into the marshes of San Francisco Bay. , when trying to land in the Californian city. Unlike their companions, the three crew members did manage to escape unharmed.
The countdown of the transatlantic race advanced, but the number of disqualified also. One day before the race, three other contestants said goodbye to the dream of winning the juicy prize -some because they abandoned the effort and others because they did not arrive-; while one more participant, ‘Miss Peoria’, had to step aside because she did not have adequate fuel to cover a 2,400-mile journey.
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This way, By the morning of August 16, of the 15 registered aircraft, only eight remained. And of this number, half were crewed by men with extensive experience in military flight. So what could have gone wrong?
Jack Frost, a former Army Air Service pilot, took control of the first Lockheed Vega, christened the ‘Golden Eagle’, while Gordon Scott participated as its navigator.
Livingston Irving, on the other hand, was looking for victory in the competition riding a ‘Pabco Pacific Flyer’; while World War II veteran Bill Erwin was going for the same goal, only piloting the ‘Dallas Spirit’.
Another of the ships prepared to leave that cloudy morning in August 1927 was ‘Aloha’, piloted by Martin Jensen and the navigator Captain Paul Schluter. Added to the list is the aircraft led by Bennett Griffin and navigator Al Henley, and ‘Woolaroc’, commanded by Art Goebel and navigator Bill Davis.
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By far the most eye-catching ship was ‘Miss Doran’, whose nominal captain was Mildred Doran, a 22-year-old American teacher.
An aerial conquest that ended in tragedy
Against all odds, the day of the long-awaited race arrived. On August 16, 1927, fog engulfed the Oakland airport and with it the eight small planes lined up in a semicircle as they prepared at the head of the runway to take to the skies, cross the Atlantic Ocean and reach Hawaii. That was the goal, the objective, the longing, but not everyone was able to fulfill it.
“Fifteen men and a girl were busy in their rickety boat, tending to last-minute details, adjusting failed engines and flimsy control cables. A crowd of 75,000 to 100,000 people crowded along the wooden fences, the cold breeze failing to dampen their anxious excitement,” said Jane Eshleman Conant, editor of ‘San Francisco Call-Bulletin’, regarding the previous moments. at takeoff
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In the midst of hundreds of spectators, camera flashes and overwhelming emotion, the planes took off around 11 in the morning. First did ‘Oklahoma’, flown by Bennet Griffin and then ‘El Encanto’, which wobbled in the air, dipped a wing and rolled on the ground due to low fuel load.
The ‘Golden Eagle’ also left the runway with an apparently perfect takeoff. ‘Miss Doran’ did the same and as she climbed she let Mildred see waving out the window-she later had engine problems, but on the second takeoff attempt she was able to recover-. That left ‘Aloha’ and ‘Woolaroc’ aircraft which took off without incident.
#OTD in 1927: Beginning of the Dole Derby Air Race, to cross the Pacific Ocean from northern California to the territory of Hawaii. The event was known by the accidents surrounding it. In all, before, during, and after the race, 10 lives were lost and 6 airplanes were destroyed. pic.twitter.com/rPNxIjV1Wx
— Air Safety #OTD by Francisco Cunha (@OnDisasters) August 15, 2021
According to Pan Am, the ‘Pabco Pacific Flyer’, commanded by pilot Livingston Irving, did not take off and therefore had to be returned to the starting line. There, her crew worked tirelessly to repair the damage to her tail skid. But once they tried again, the result was worse: she ended up stuck.
Although ‘Dallas Spirit’ managed to take off, it had to return to Oakland with the fabric torn from the fuselage; while ‘Oklahoma’ aborted its flight over San Francisco due to engine overheating. By this time, only four of the original eight planes were headed for Hawaii: in order of departure, they were ‘Golden Eagle,’ ‘Aloha,’ ‘Woolaroc,’ and ‘Miss Doran.’
a bitter triumph
26 hours and 17 minutes after taking flight, Art Goebel and the navigator Bill Davis arrived in Honolulu in ‘Woolaroc’ to obtain the prize of 25 thousand dollars, according to the specialized magazine ‘Historic Wings’.
Two hours later, ‘Aloha’ arrived with pilot Martin Jensen and captain Schluter, to claim second place in the competition. His mark was 28 hours and 16 minutes.
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The hours passed, but the ‘Golden Eagle’ and the ‘Aloha’ never arrived. Had they run out of fuel? Had they crashed on the horizon? The magazine ‘Honolulu’ points out that, due to the lack of news about the aircraft, around 100 sampans -type of ship-, 40 planes, more than 50 warships, commercial vessels, submarines and seaplanes were deployed to undertake such a search relentless as useless.
Despite the efforts, the coordinated operations did not produce results. The planes could not be found and, in addition, the race left a balance of 10 deadaccording to the magazine cited above.
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VALERIA CASTRO VALENCIA
#air #race #wrong #accidents #crashes #missing #persons
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