Hawaiian Airlines has welcomed back the actual aircraft that the company used to begin flying 80 years ago, a 1929 Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker.
Earlier this year, Hawaiian acquired the Bellanca Pacemaker, which had been grounded since 2000, from an aviation enthusiast in Oregon and began an ambitious restoration project at Port Townsend Aero Museum in Washington to return the plane to flying condition for the company’s 80th anniversary on November 11.
Support for the restoration was provided by many volunteers both from within and outside the company, and by sponsors Pratt & Whitney (the manufacturer of the plane’s engine), International Lease Finance Corporation and Global Aerospace Services.
Beautifully restored, the 80-year-old aircraft now holds the distinction of being the only remaining Bellanca Pacemaker in the world that still flies.
“For everyone who has ever worked for Hawaiian, the Bellanca is our ancestry and the history of pioneering aviation is in our DNA. It’s part of what makes Hawaiian special, and a big reason why we are celebrating our 80th anniversary this year, a milestone that many of the world’s iconic airlines never reached,” says Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian’s president and CEO.
The Bellanca’s history with the company was relatively brief, but Hawaiians says its impact was overwhelmingly important to the success of Inter-Island Airways, renamed as Hawaiian Airlines in 1941. In effect, the Bellanca helped get Hawaii’s people used to the idea of traveling between the islands by air, says the airline.
Company founder Stanley C. Kennedy acquired the CH-300 Pacemaker in September 1929 from Bellanca’s factory in Newcastle, Delaware. Kennedy believed people in Hawaii would more readily accept the revolutionary concept of air travel between the islands if they could see and experience the wonders of flight above Honolulu.
To prove his faith in flying, Kennedy and family members flew on the newly purchased Bellanca from Delaware to San Francisco, a trip that took 28 hours flying time. From San Franmcisco, the aircraft was shipped to Honolulu.
On October 6, 1929, Kennedy began offering sightseeing tours over Honolulu to great fanfare. Piloted by Captain Sam Elliott, the company’s first pilot, the Bellanca carried 76 passengers that first day with an additional 5,000 people coming to John Rodgers Field to watch the flights.
Kennedy’s marketing strategy worked. On November 11, 1929, the company launched scheduled air service using two Sikorsky S-38 amphibian aircraft that carried eight passengers and two crewmembers, and had a top cruising speed of 110mph.
The inaugural flight from Honolulu to Hilo, with a stop on Maui, took more than three hours. The first flight to Kauai was made the next day and all the islands were soon receiving air service on a regular basis. The company has been serving Hawaii continuously ever since.
The Bellanca was never used for interisland flights. Over the next two years, 1930 and 1931, the company continued to use the Bellanca for Honolulu sightseeing tours to help promote air travel, carrying more than 12,000 people total at a cost of $3 per person.
By 1933, the Bellanca was rarely being used and, having served its intended purpose, was sold. The CH-300 was soon relocated to Alaska where it had a long career shipping cargo and delivering supplies to hunters and remote villages. In 1964 the aircraft was moved to Oregon, where it remained before being acquired by Hawaiian for its return home to Hawaii.
Renowned for its endurance and range performance, the single-engine Bellanca carries a pilot and five passengers and has a maximum speed of 165mph and range of 675 miles. The plane is 8 feet 4 inches tall, 27 feet 9 inches long, has a wingspan of 46 feet 4 inches, and weighs 2,275 pounds empty.
Hawaiian Airlines was the United States’ highest-ranked carrier for service quality and performance in 2008 in the 19th annual Airline Quality Rating study. Hawaiian has also led all U.S. carriers in on-time performance for each of the past five years (2004-2008) and has been an industry leader in fewest misplaced bags during that same period (ranked number 1 from 2005-2007 and number 2 in 2008) as reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The airline will mark 80 years of continuous service for Hawaii on November 11, 2009. Hawaiian is the state’s biggest and longest-serving airline, as well as the largest provider of passenger air service to Hawaii from the state’s primary visitor markets on the U.S. mainland.
Hawaiian offers nonstop service to Hawaii from more U.S. gateway cities (10) than any other airline, as well as service to the Philippines, Australia, American Samoa, and Tahiti. Hawaiian also provides more than 160 daily jet flights within the Hawaiian Islands.