W. Ben Stoddard

Three men were about to play an important part in Hawaii’s civilian aviation efforts. W. “Ben” Stoddard and Charles J. Fern had been fraternity brothers in college; Fern and Charles T. Stoffer were Army flying instructors who, discharged after World War I, decided to fly for a living.

Stoddard, in July of 1919, took a few flying lessons from Stoffer in Woodland, California, but didn’t finish the course. When his interest in flying cropped up again, Stoddard purchased a JN4D and asked Fern for flying lessons. After talking it over, the two elected to go barnstorming in California’s northern communities. But everywhere they went in the San Francisco Bay area, some flyer was already in place.

They decided “to go some place where nobody had been, and ended up in Honolulu,” according to Fern, who continued, “We brought the plane down on a ship and arrived December 19; I was test flying within a week. The commanding general of the Army stipulated that I had to pass some tests so Army flyers flew me a couple of times to give me an okay.”

Fern started barnstorming from Kapiolani Park in Honolulu on December 30, 1919, nine years after Mars’ first flight, carrying the first paying passenger in Hawaii since Ton Gunn. The cost was $10 a hop with $25 for stunt flying.” His Jenny had an OX5 engine which developed 90 horsepower and carried enough fuel for 2 ½ hours cruising or about 150 miles.

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

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