Pacific Monograph's I'll Fly to Hawaii

AUTHOR#: Burl Burlingame
PRICE: $9.95
PUBLISHER: Pacific Monograph
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken

Softcover, 5x6 inches, 144 pages

ISBN: 978-0-9629227-6-3

This is a neat book that basically tells the story of aviation in Hawaii. One doesn't really think about Hawaii when it comes to early aviation and while it started a bit later there than other places, there were people who were air minded and who saw the advantage that aircraft could provide.

In common with other parts of the world the first to take to the air were balloonists, though thanks to the pretty constant winds and terrain, ballooning did not become a staple. However, it was a start. With the coming of heavier than air flight, in 1910 the first aircraft arrived. This consisted of two Curtiss pusher types which were demonstrated by Bud Mars before he left the island and headed to Japan. This aroused interest and an increasing number of people brought a variety of types, mostly flying from the Honolulu area.

All of this aviation activity eventually got the military interested and in 1913, the Army brought aircraft to Oahu. These were initially floatplanes and their basing was quite primitive with the troops living in tents. The beginning of WWI and the eventual American involvement saw a considerable increase in both the number and size of aircraft flying out of Oahu.

During the interwar years, businessmen saw the benefit of aircraft when it came to inter-island commerce and a number of airlines started up. These would carry passengers and cargo, though the costs were considerably higher than going by ship. Early flying was also fraught with danger with the military estimating that about 40% of their pilots would be killed during their aviation career. It also saw an increase in the Navy's interest in aviation in the islands, which had started as just being the purview of the Army.

Record breaking flights of the 20s and 30s brought even more interest to Hawaii as several of the more famous around the world and trans-Pacific flights  staged through Hawaii. The 1930s brought a greater increase in the Navy's presence in Hawaii and the Army built a number of additional air fields, mostly on Oahu. Civilian fields were built on all the major islands as air travel became more popular.

WWII meant a greater concentration of military on the islands, particularly Oahu with the Pearl Harbor Naval base and the various USAAF repair depots. Many units due for the Pacific were established in Hawaii before leaving for the war zone.

By the time of the end of the war, air travel was becoming commonplace and so commercial aviation expanded considerably. As the Cold War drew to an end, many military bases that were so important during that time period were deemed excess and closed, with the airfields being turned over to local governments.

In this book, the author does a splendid job of telling the story of Hawaiian aviation. The book is obviously well researched and is one that I found interesting to read. There are great photos and fascinating stories of the early pioneers. Not surprisingly, the majority of the book focuses on the years leading up to WWII when aviation was still in its pioneering phase. After the war, aviation became more mundane and so only the important events are covered.

It all makes for a book that covers an aspect of aviation history of which few are aware. It is a fascinating read and one that I can highly recommend.

October 2016


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