Gus Schaefer

Hawaii came up with another first in its aviation history in 1911, when Gus Schaefer of Honolulu built the first locally produced airplane. The designer-builder had originally intended to fly his airplane, but Mrs. Schaefer had other ideas. As a result, the experienced pilot Kenneth Gordon was hired to fly it. The former auto racer had been a pilot for three years. His experience included demonstration flights in Europe, the Orient, and the United States. After the Hawaiian venture, he intended to fly in Manila.
The airplane, named “Gig” by the pilot, was well tested in preparation for flying demonstrations. Gordon talked freely to the press about his flying prowess, explaining the “stunts” he intended to perform for Honolulu. Among other daring acts he promised a night flight over the city with Army and Navy searchlights following him through the air. Gordon distrusted monoplanes.

No record of the demonstration flight is known.

Gus Schaefer’s plane came into the news again on January 1, 1912. Burton H. Dryer, chief machinist’s mate on the USS West Virginia, explained his flying background to Schaefer and talked the builder into letting him fly the plane on a test run at Leilehua. Schaefer accepted the offer but warned the alleged pilot to follow Glenn Curtiss’ advice for single-plane and unproved airplanes: initially, fly just above the grass tops.

With the help of about 20 people, Dryer managed to get the airplane moving along the ground. At first, he followed instructions by staying low. Suddenly the plane was seen to lift abruptly upward. At about 40 feet elevation it went into a left turn, one wing dipped, and the plane hurtled to the ground. Dryer was removed from the wreckage and taken to Schofield Barracks’ hospital. The crumpled plane was hauled away. The seaman, not badly injured, was released from the hospital four days later and reported for duty on board ship.

Excerpted from the book Above the Pacific by Lieutenant Colonel William Joseph Horvat, 1966.

Terms & Conditions

Please read the following Terms & Conditions of Use carefully before using this website. You are required to expressly accept the following Terms and Conditions of Use, without any modifications, prior to each use of this website. The State of Hawaii Department of Transportation Airport Division (the “HDOTA”) may revise the Terms and Conditions of Use without any specific notice to you. The Terms and Conditions of Use posted at the time of your use of this website governs that use. If you do not agree with any part of the following Terms and Conditions of Use, you will not be permitted to use this website.

The images and other content, (the “Media”), on this site,, are protected under applicable intellectual property laws. Unless otherwise stated, intellectual property rights in the website are administered by HDOTA on behalf of itself and the State of Hawaii.


You are prohibited from using the Media for any commercial purpose. Any use, whether or not commercial, that may tend to degrade, tarnish the reputation of, or embarrass the content creator (photographer, videographer etc.), the State of Hawaii, or HDOTA is strictly prohibited.


The following are general examples of what Media may not be used for or in connection with. The following list is not exhaustive.

  • Taking or attempting to take Media for commercial, marketing, self-promotion, or novelty applications;
  • Taking or attempting to take any action that results in editing or altering images -cropping is acceptable;
  • Taking or attempting to take any action that compromises the website;
  • Taking or attempting to take any action that involves reprinting on coffee table books, garments, posters, mugs, or any medium.

You agree that, upon notice from HDOTA, you will immediately cease all use of the Media and, to the extent possible, remove all Media from any and all materials in which they appear.

Credit is required for each of the Media as specified on this website. Credit must be placed adjacent to any use of the Media.

You, your successors and assigns, agree to release, indemnify and defend HDOTA and the State of Hawaii from and against all costs, liability, loss, damage, and expense, including all attorneys’ fees, and all claims, suits, and demands therefor, arising out of or resulting from your acts or omissions under these Terms & Conditions of Use and your use of the Media.