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Mon, Oct 12, 2009

Hawaiian Airlines Welcomes Home First Airplane

A 1929 Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker Carried The Airline's First Passengers

Hawaiian Airlines recently held a special homecoming ceremony to welcome back the actual airplane that started it all for the company 80 years ago - a 1929 Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker.

The event Thursday featured congratulatory remarks from Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, a traditional Hawaiian blessing by Kahu Richard Kamanu, a hula performance, music by the Royal Hawaiian Band, and pilots and mechanics dressed in 1929-period uniforms. Among the attendees were family members of company founder Stanley C. Kennedy, Sr. and sponsors and volunteers involved with bringing this rare artifact of Hawaii aviation history back to life.

Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian's president and CEO, commented, "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."

Governor Lingle congratulated Hawaiian for its 80 years of service to Hawaii. "I'm honored to be part of this historical occasion welcoming back to Hawaii the Bellanca airplane that began the legacy of Hawaiian Airlines. The outstanding service that Hawaiian and its employees provide has not only made the company vital to our state's transportation system and Hawaii's economy, but has also established Hawaiian as a recognized leader in the airline industry."

Earlier this year, Hawaiian acquired the Bellanca, which had been grounded since 2000, from an aviation enthusiast in Oregon and initiated 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, manufacturer of the plane's vintage engine, International Lease Finance Corporation, and Global Aerospace Services.

Beautifully restored, the 80-year-old airplane now holds the distinction of being the only remaining Bellanca Pacemaker in the world that still flies.

The Bellanca's history with the company was relatively brief, but 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.

Company founder Stanley C. Kennedy acquired the Bellanca in September 1929 from the 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, he and family members flew on the newly purchased Bellanca from Delaware to San Francisco - a trip that took 28 hours flying time - from where it 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 planes that carried eight passengers and two crewmembers, and had a top cruising speed of 110 MPH. 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, 1930-31, 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 airplane was soon relocated to Alaska where it had a long career shipping cargo and delivering supplies to hunters and remote villages. In 1964, the plane was moved to Oregon where it remained before being acquired by Hawaiian for its return home to Hawaii.

FMI: www.hawaiianair.com

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