Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2018 issue
CHICAGO, ILL. – Surrounded in every direction by more than a thousand miles of deep blue ocean, Hawaii is one of the most isolated places on Earth. Traveling to and from this tropical paradise by air was once considered impossible. It wasn’t until the late 1920s, during the golden age of aviation, that American pilots attempted the first flights across the expansive Pacific. Facing severe turbulence, poor weather conditions, untested navigations and flimsy airplanes, heroic men and women risked everything to obtain that first bird’s eye view of the beautiful but distant island.
Race to Hawaii: The 1927 Dole Air Derby and the Thrilling First Flights That Opened the Pacific (Chicago Review Press; August 1, 2018) by Jason Ryan recounts the precarious trips that captured the nation’s attention-filled American spirits with exuberance and adventure during the early twentieth century. After two attempts by the U.S. military, pineapple baron James Dole decided to offer of a $25,000 cash prize to the first pilot to fly nonstop 26 hours straight, from the West Coast to Hawaii. The contest soon became nationwide entertainment and attracted a variety of contestants. Everyone from Hollywood stunt pilots to World War I aviators, to a Michigan school teacher and a Wall Street bond salesman, threw their hats in the ring for the grand prize. But the race resulted in chaos, with many pilots landing in the ocean, or worse. America watched and wondered who, if anyone, would make it.