Posted on Mar 24, 2015 in Chronology


1920 (17 Jan)

The first Navy airplane to fly in the Hawaiian Islands took off above Honolulu.

1920 (24 Jan)

The 4th Observer Squadron arrived at Luke Field. They received an aerial greeting from two flying boats, two DH and one Curtiss JN-4 land planes.

1920 (1 Feb)

The first commercial interisland flight took place. Pilot Charles Fern flew Olaf Thomason from Kapiolani Park to Maui for $150 round trip. On the way to Maui, the plane landed in a pasture on Molokai when the gas gauge indicated low fuel. The problem fixed, they flew on to Maui but could not locate the Polo Field so landed at the Kahului Fair Grounds. The return flight was uneventful and took 90 minutes.

1920 (6 May)

The 3rd and 21st Balloon companies arrived from Ross Field, California. The 3rd at Fort Shafter. The 3rd and 21st were demobilized on May 12, 1927.

1920 (30 June)

The first night flight over Oahu was made by Army Capt. Robert Oldys.

1920 (30 Sept)

The U.S. Navy received a $1.5 million appropriation for expansion of Ford Island facilities.

1920 (2 Oct)

The 21st Balloon Co. moved from Fort Shafter to Fort Kamehameha.

Early 1920s

Emergency landing strips (two or more pastures or fields) were established on all islands, and stocked with gasoline and water.


The first air-sea and air-mountain rescue searches took place with Luke Field planes.

1921 (March)

First radio transmission truck-to-plane.

1921 (1 July)

The Hawaiian Air Depot was established as a branch section of the Hawaiian General Depot in Honolulu. Initial personnel consisted of Major John B. Brooks and one enlisted man.

1922 (6 Feb)

Clearance for Wheeler Field was begun on land south of Schofield Barracks, by a detachment of 20 men. Construction of hangars and storage tanks was completed by June 30, 1923. This second airfield on Oahu was named in honor of Major Sheldon H. Wheeler, commander of Luke Field from November 4, 1919 to July 12, 1921, when he was killed in a crash.

1922 (15 Mar)

The 23rd Bombardment Squadron arrived at Luke Field.

1923 (30 April)

Act 109, Session Laws of Hawaii 1923, made provisions “concerning aeronautics and to make uniform the law with reference thereto and repealing all laws inconsistent therewith.” This act was approved by Governor Wallace R. Farrington, and covered such items as sovereignty of space, lawfulness of flight, damage to land, dangerous flying, licensing of aircraft and airmen, hunting from aircraft and provided penalties for violations.


Charles Stoffer flew cargo from Honolulu to Molokai, Maui and the Big Island where he did barnstorming rides.

1924 (Apr-Sept)

First Pacific crossing by air—first round world flight—first westward crossing of Atlantic (Seattle point of take-off and return; flight did not go via Hawaii).

1925 (31 Aug-10 Sept)

The first attempted flight from San Francisco to Hawaii was made by Cdr. John Rodgers of the U.S. Navy, in the PN-9 No. 1 seaplane on Aug. 31, 1925. The flight was forced to land at sea due to lack of fuel shortly before 4 p.m. on September 1. Lost at sea for 10 days in spite of an extensive air and sea search, Commander Rodgers and his crew rigged a sail from the wing fabric and set course for the island of Oahu.  After covering about 450 miles by sail, they were sighted on September 10 by the submarine R-4 10 miles from Kauai. The 1,841.12 statute miles flown from August 31 to their forced landing was accepted by the F.A.I. as a new world airplane distance record for Class C seaplanes that remained unbeaten for almost 5 years.

1925 (29 April)

Act 176, Session Laws of Hawaii 1925, appropriated $45,000 for the acquisition and improvement of an airport and/or landing field on the Island of Oahu . . . within a reasonable distance of Honolulu. The amount so appropriated not to be expended until the sum of $20,000 had been raised by private subscription and paid into the Territorial Treasury. From these funds an area of 119.3 acres of land and 766 acres under water was acquired from the S. M. Damon Estate as an airport site for the sum of $27,410. The Territorial Legislature appropriated $27,410 to purchase 119.3 acres of fast land just west of Keehi Lagoon and was for the first Territorial airport. A small area was cleared and the airport was dedicated on March 21, 1927.  The airport was named for Commander John Rodgers who made the first flight to Hawaii in 1925.

1925 (29 April)

Act 176, Session Laws of Hawaii 1925 also appropriated $10,000 for 100 acres at Hilo.

1926 (20 May)

The Air Commerce Act of 1926 established federal regulations regarding aircraft, airmen, navigational facilities and the establishment of air traffic regulations. Aircraft were required to be inspected for airworthiness, and were required to have markings placed on the outside of the aircraft for identification. Airmen were required to be tested for aeronautical knowledge and required to have a physical completed to insure their physical fitness. The federal government was required to build new airports, institute regulations that would address aircraft altitude separation, develop and maintain airways and navigational aids. The Department of Commerce Aeronautical Division would be responsible for overseeing and implementing this Act. The regulations would be known as the Civil Air Regulations (CARs). Today the regulations are known as the FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations).


First known reforesting of land area by planes from Wheeler Field.

1926 (10 April)

Photographs were taken of the Mauna Loa eruption on the Big Island by fliers of three Army planes.  They furnished valuable scientific information.

1927 (21 Mar)

John Rodgers Airport was dedicated. The principal speaker was the Honorable E. P. Warner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy. The field was named in honor of the late Commander John Rodgers, who had been Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Station at Pearl Harbor from 1923 to 1925 when he left to command the Navy’s historical flight between the West Coast and Hawaii.

1927 (27 April)

Governor Farrington signed Act 238, Session Laws of Hawaii 1927, which created a Territorial Aeronautical Commission to consist of not less than five or more than seven members to be appointed by the Governor. . . at least three members to be licensed aeronauts (or military aviators). Powers and duties of the Commission: (1) Preparation, promulgation and enforcement of rules and regulations governing aviation and allied activities. When approved by the Governor to have force of law. (2) Examining and licensing of aeronauts and aircraft. . . (3) Establishment and chartering of airways. . . (4) Exclusive control and operations of all Territorially owned or leased airports. The act appropriated $10,000 for expenses of the Commission for the biennial period 1927-1929. Appointed as commissioners were: Col. P. M. Smoot, HNG, Chair; A. W. Van Valkenburg, Herbert F. Cullen, Leo G. Fehlman, Will C. Crawford, Chester R. Clarke, and Cmdr. Victor D. Herbster, USN.

1927 (2 May)

Governor Farrington signed Act 257, Session Laws of Hawaii 1927, which appropriated the following sums for airport development: John Rogers, $75,000; Hilo, $25,000; Molokai, $5,000; and Maui, $15,000 for acquisition of land for an airport site.

1927 (29 June)

The first non-stop Hawaiian flight (Oakland to Wheeler Field) was made by Army Lts. Lester J. Maitland and Alfred F. Hegenberger in a Fokker C2-3 Wright 220. They flew 2,407 miles in 25 hours, 50 minutes, with navigation by directional beacons of San Francisco and Maui. They were awarded the Mackay Trophy for 1927 and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

1927 (16 July)

The first non-stop Hawaii flight by civilians Ernie Smith and Emory Bronte was made in a Travelair monoplane, the City of Oakland. The flight departed from Oakland and ended on Molokai after it ran out of gas and crashed. Smith and Bronte’s destination was Wheeler Field. Both survived the crash. A monument has been erected on Molokai in commemoration of this flight.

1927 (16 Aug)

James Dole, president of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company and a member of the National Aeronautic Association, sponsored a single engine plane race, the Dole Derby, from California to Hawaii. The prize was $25,000 to the winner and $10,000 to second place. Of eight finalist entrants, five were able to make the journey from Oakland Airport but only two made it to Wheeler Field. Art Goebel with Lt. W. T. Davis as navigator was the winner in a Travelair monoplane Woolaroc with Martin Jensen and Paul Schluter coming in second in the Aloha. The other three were lost at sea. The tragic results of this flight put an end to further attempts at the 2,400-mile over-water flight by single engine land planes until 1934.

1927 (15 Dec)

By Governor’s Executive Order, an area of 204.8 acres at Hoolehua, Molokai, was set aside for use as an airplane landing field. Between 1927 and 1942 the Works Progress Administration helped the Territory to enlarge and improve the field which was originally a dirt strip.

1928 (2 Feb)

Major Clarence M. Young, Secretary of Aeronautics, U.S. Department of Commerce, came to Hawaii to inspect aviation facilities and promote commercial aviation in the Islands.

1928 (5 Feb)

The Territorial Aeronautical Commission adopted a regulation requiring all privately operated landing fields to be licensed.

1928 (11 Feb)

The Territory dedicated Hilo Airport. Secretary of Aeronautics, U.S. Department of Commerce, Major Clarence M. Young was flown to Hilo for the dedication. The flight was made in the Army plane, Bird of Paradise by Captain Lowell Smith, who had commanded the around-the-world flight in 1924. The Army and Navy sent formations of planes to Hilo for the occasion. Hilo Airport was developed on land belonging to the Hawaiian Homes Commission.

1928 (31 May)

Squadron Leader Charles Kingsford-Smith of Australia made the first Trans-Pacific flight from Oakland, California to Brisbane, Australia via Hawaii and Fiji in 83 hours and 21 minutes. The flight from Oakland to Wheeler Field, Oahu took 27 hours 30 minutes. The aircraft was a Fokker F­10 with three new Wright J-5 engines. The navigator, Harry Lyons was from Honolulu and the radio operator, James Warner was another American, thus the effort was somewhat international.

1928 (7 July)

The Honolulu Star Bulletin printed a map of the islands showing a total of 13 landing fields. Of these, seven were Army fields. They were as follows: Kauai (3)—Barking Sands, Port Allen and Wailua; Oahu (5)—Luke Field, Wheeler Field, John Rodgers Airport, Waimanalo (Bellows Field) and Kawailoa (Haleiwa); Molokai (1)—Hoolehua (Homestead Field); Hawaii (3)—Hilo, Upolu Point (Suiter Field), and South Point (Morse Field); Lanai (1)—Lanai City Airport. Maui at this time did not have an officially designated airport although two sites had been proposed. There had been six separate attempts to launch an interisland air service in the past three months.

1928 (July)

Major C. C. Moseley conducted a survey of air fields for Western Air Express and reported unfavorably due to insufficient length of available airport runways.


An airport at Upolu on the Big Island was commissioned.


An airport at South Cape was constructed.


An airport at Barking Sands was constructed.


Bellows Field in Waimanalo was constructed.


Burns Field, Kauai, was used as a landing facility by the U.S. Army Signal Corps and the U.S. Army Air Corps. A Signal Corps reservation adjoining the airstrip housed personnel operating a communication station on the airfield.


The Territory spent $25,000 on airport development at John Rodgers Airport. The first runway was oriented at about 45 degrees and paralleled the shoreline for 1,000 feet.


Of the several proposed interisland air services, the field narrows down to two contenders: Hawaiian Airways and Inter-Island Airways. Hawaiian Airways after erecting a hangar at John Rodgers Airport and making survey flights with a small tri-motor Kreutzer monoplane, ran into organizational difficulties and ceased operations.

1929 (5 Jan)

Charles H. Dolan Jr. was appointed to the Territorial Aeronautics Commission.

1929 (30 Jan)

Inter-Island Steam Navigation Co. announced the formation of a subsidiary company, Inter-Island Airways, with the following officers: Frank C. Atherton, President; Gaylord P. Wilcox, Charles R. Hemenway, Arthur H. Armitage, Alexander G. Budge and John W. Waldron, directors; and Stanley C. Kennedy, manager.

1929 (1 July)

First delivery by air of the Honolulu Star Bulletin to Maui.

1929 (1 Oct)

$75,000 was spent on improvements to the airstrip at John Rodgers Field, enlarging it to 2,050 feet by 300 feet.

1929 (29 Oct)

Inter-Island Airways made two pre-inaugural flights to Hilo. These were made by Lt. Cover and C. I. Elliott flying two of the company’s Sikorsky S-38 amphibians carrying passengers.

1929 (8 Nov)

Fifty one Army and Navy seaplanes flew in formation over Honolulu in celebration of Air Day and the inauguration of the new interisland air service to begin November 11, 1929.

1929 (11 Nov)

Interisland air travel was initiated by Stanley Kennedy, a WWI aviator who acquired two Sikorsky S-38 Amphibian aircraft and initiated direct service from Honolulu to Hilo (3 times a week) via Maalaea, Maui, and Port Allen, Kauai (2 times a week). Later, service was added to Molokai. The S-38 carried eight passengers and the Chief Pilot was Charles Elliott. Interisland Airways was a subsidiary of the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company. Fares for the various routes were: Honolulu to Molokai, $17.50; Honolulu to Maui, $20; Honolulu to Hilo, $32; and Honolulu to Kauai, $20.


A number of small flying schools were established, among them the Hawaiian Aeronautical Industries at John Rodgers Airport, with W. D. Cannon, Chief Pilot. At Ward Airport on Ala Moana, Capt. Griffin and Lt. Anderson conducted an operation known as Western Pacific Air Transport.


Newton Campbell, 18, a student pilot at Ward Airport, received the first civilian private pilot license issued by the Department of Commerce in Hawaii.


The first airplane to be built and successfully flown in Hawaii was constructed by a young aviation enthusiast, Glenn T. Belcher, later to become first chairman of the Hawaii Aeronautics Commission established by the 1947 Legislature.