Handley Page "Atlantic" Harbour Grace's First Aviators
Aviation History dates back a long way in Newfoundland's vast history. In Harbour Grace it dates back to as early as 1919, when names such as Hawker and Grieve, Brown and Alcock played an important role in flying across the not so forgiving Atlantic Ocean.
The Handley Page's Atlantic was a British built bomber ready on the day the war ended. It was the largest biplane in the world. It was shipped from Britain to Newfoundland in crates by boat, railed to Harbour Grace by train, and wheeled to where St. Francis School is today. The reason so much trouble was taken for this monstrosity of an airplane to get to Harbour Grace was because it was one of the best places from which to launch a transatlantic flight.
In some 105 crates, the Handley Page Atlantic was on the field. People
stated some of the crates were big enough to be houses. The mechanics
assembled the 14-ton aircraft with anticipations that this would be the
first plane to cross the Atlantic. Piloted by Rear Admiral Mark Kerr she
had a max air speed of 105 mph, but averaged out to about 90.
Admiral Kerr had the dream of being the first non-stop transatlantic flight
pilot, unfortunately, his dreams were shattered on June 14, 1919. It was
on that fateful day that Capt. J. Alcock ant Lt. Arthur Brown had successfully
completed the voyage from St. John's, NF to Clifton, Ireland in 16 hours
and 12 minutes. Although, their dreams of being the first were gone, they
still held their dreams of crossing the great ocean�but not from Harbour
Their flying pursuit came to a halt later in July. Following a crash,
the Atlantic was unable to complete the entire journey. Dreams of flying
from Harbour Grace were dormant for almost a decade.
The Airstrip "The Field of Dreams"
In the fateful year of 1927, just eight years after the monstrous Handley Page flight was discontinued, Harbour Grace was once again approached with the option of entering the conquest of the Atlantic Ocean. Fred Koehler, a representative of Stintson Aircraft Corporation and Waco Oil, both located in Detroit, was in Newfoundland searching for a suitable place to launch his dreams of an around the world flight. During his visit he met John Oke, a resident of Harbour Grace, who led Mr. Koehler to where the airstrip is today.
One month after the proposition was presented an airstrip was completed in the north west end of the town. When completed the airstrip measured almost 900 yards long by 100 yards wide. In the duration of its use, eleven of the twenty contestants succeeded, one crashed outside of Ireland, four were unaccounted for, two crashed on take off, and two canceled their flights.
The successful crews earned their moments in our history, the lost planes and pilots may have been lost in the ocean, however they were not lost on the pages of history. The fame of making it was the driving compulsion for many of these men, and one woman that went the distance. One woman who captured a special place in many of our hearts is Amelia Earhart and for this reason she shall receive the highest honors in this book.
The Pride of Detroit First Flight on the Airstrip
Aug 27, 1927
The amazement of the people of Harbour Grace to see the Handley Page Atlantic, was a thrill, but the Pride of Detroit made its own moments in Harbour Grace's history. Just before suppertime (4:08 PM), the plane was visible in the air and about eight minutes later it touched down on the airstrip. Not as big as the Handley Page, but still impressive, the Pride of Detroit was a high wing monoplane with a wingspan measuring 46 feet long by 7 feet wide. The total length of the plane from nose to tail was 32 feet and fully loaded it weighed about 5050 pounds and could reach 131 mph in still air.
Although it was designed to be a mail and passenger carrier, the pilot William S. Brock and one passenger were off on a mission to beat the record for around the world flight. The dream of making it around the world was crushed when an engine defect was detected and fear of losing its single engine, the flight was canceled in Tokyo, Japan. The two figured that the longest ocean stretch of the journey, from Japan to Midway, was too dangerous.
After their heartbreaking defeat, the two men were talking about their journey. It was in this discussion that they came to figure that the Harbour Grace airstrip, completed only weeks before their arrival, was one of the finest in the world, and would make a major difference for future transatlantic flights.
Southern Cross First International Flight
June 25, 1928
The Southern Cross was the first plane to touch down on the Harbour Grace airstrip which had flown from Europe to North America via the Atlantic Ocean. Piloted by Kingsford Smith, the Southern Cross had successfully completed its voyage across the Atlantic and landed safely in Harbour Grace.
The landing in Harbour Grace was not an intentional one as, after flying for about 32 hours, Smith realized that his fuel supply would not carry him to New York. Smith and his crew spoke of a splendid trip until they neared Cape Race. It was around that area that they came upon dense fog and their compass started to give them trouble.
They landed in Harbour Grace and the crew spent that night at Cochrane House, ate breakfast, packed a lunch, and then departed for Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York. They were welcomed by the Mayor of New York and a couple of days later they met the President at the White House.
Kingsford Smith may have had the fame, but he lacked money, so he sold his plane to get married back home in Australia.
Columbia The Second Coming
September 23, 1930
The third time the Columbia made her presence known in Newfoundland, she also marked the second time in Harbour Grace. Like the other time the Columbia was here, there was a delay again,bad weather.
After two long weeks, the weather became favorable and the Columbia left for England. After a long flight the Columbia landed.
Before departing, Mr. E.L. Oke let the pilot, Errol Boyd, borrow a brass pistol that Boyd had engraved before he returned it to Mr. Oke. The engraving is:
"This very pistol was loaned to us by E.L. Oke of Harbour Grace and was carried on the first Canadian flight from Canada to England, October, 1930 in the airplane �Columbia' by Captain Boyd and Lieutenant Connors"
Liberty First Visit
June 24, 1931
Otto Hillig, a German native lost out on a ride in the Graf Zeppelin to his homeland. After suing for $100,000 and settling out of court for an undisclosed amount, he would still have to wait another 2 years before he could return to his homeland.
He purchased a newer model of the Columbia and named it Liberty. That venture cost him $25,000. After he and his pilot, Holger Horiis, made many blind trips, placing brown paper over the windows so nothing could be seen, they figured they were ready for the Atlantic.
They arrived in Harbour Grace and stayed there two days before jumping off for their final destination, Cressel, Germany. Germany, in spite of fog and bad weather, had to be placed at the end of the priority list. They had to land in many places along the way, but after a trying flight, they were welcomed on the other side by some 100,000 people. There were two new milestones set in the field of aviation as this flight marked the first American to land in Denmark and the first Danish Aviator.
Although the Liberty set a new milestone on the pages of aviation history, its story is only half told. The other half of the Liberty's story is yet to come in So Close, So Far Away.
Winnie Mae Breaking All the Records
June 23, 1931
How can any book concerning aviation history be complete without including the accounts of the Winnie Mae? This flight is probably the most famous since Brown and Alcock conquered the Atlantic for the first time. Winnie Mae's claim to fame comes from the desire to do things faster than they were ever done before.
The crew of the Winnie Mae arrived at 10:42 and they were gone again within four hours. Wiley Post, pilot and Harold Gatty, navigator wanted the record for around the world in the shortest time. At the time the record was held by the Germans with their Graf Zeppelin's ability to do it in 21 days.
The famous flight these two men took was from New York to Harbour Grace; Chester, England; Hanover, Germany; Berlin, Germany; Irkutsk, Siberia; Solomon, Alaska; Edmonton, Alberta; and finally back to New York.
This endeavor took 8 days, 15 hours, 51 minutes and the total distance covered was 16,000 miles. The actual flying time was 4 days, 19 hours, and eight minutes and a new record for going around the world was achieved.
Justice for Hungary Let's not forget The Hungarians
July 15, 1931
Two Hungarian aviators arrived in Harbour Grace on July 13th, 1931, from New York. They were on their way to Hungary in their plane Justice for Hungary. After a two-day delay, Capt. George Enders and Lt. Alexander Magyar were off to Hungary.
They hoped to make Budapest, Hungary in 26 hours of flying. With the exception of flying through a dense blanket of fog with storms ravaging at the plane for about three hours over the Atlantic, the flight went well. About 12 miles away from their destination, fuel started to run out, forcing them to land. The propeller and one of the wings were damaged in the crash landing, but neither of the two aviators were injured.
The flight was the first transatlantic voyage for Hungary, and soon became a symbol of the trials and tribulations that they have suffered for many years. At the airport in Budapest, about 100,000 people gathered to greet their new found heroes.
The Lady Peace / Great Silver Fleet Hard Luck, Happy Ending
Sept 20, 1936
It is hard to tell the story of the Lady Peace without telling the story of Capt. Rickenbacker and his plane, Great Silver Fleet. Although the Atlantic had been beaten many times, there still had not been non-stop return flight from New York to Europe. Capt. Merrill and Harry Richman set out to be the first to accomplish this feat.
The two set out for their historic journey aboard the Lady Peace. They made the Irish Coast in record time, but a shortage of fuel forced a landing at Wales. The 18-hour flight set a new record.
On the return back from Whales, Capt. Merrill was noted to say that he had reservations at a restaurant that evening in New York. Somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland an empty tank was mistaken for a full one. They were forced to crash-land in a bog, just outside of Musgrave Harbour, Newfoundland.
News soon got back to Capt. Rickenbacker, a well-respected pilot and WWI ace. Capt. Rickenbacker took it upon himself to take his Great Silver Fleet DC2 in aid of his aviator brothers. The Great Silver Fleet, the largest plane to visit Newfoundland had to land in Harbour Grace. Harbour Grace is a fair distance from Musgrave Harbour so he chartered a boat from Carbonear to bring the supplies to the downed plane.
The Lady Peace was repaired on the beach, which they also used for the runway. Hopping from Musgrave Harbour to Harbour Grace, the Lady Peace added to the highest number of planes to ever visit Harbour Grace. In addition to the Great Silver Fleet and the Lady Peace, there were three news planes from New York and Boston. About a week later, the first return flight was completed.
The Century of Progress What's In a Name
July 5, 1932
1931 saw many changes, one of these was the time it took to fly around the world. The famous Winnie Mae set the newest record at 8 days. Not satisfied with the record, Jimmy Mattern and Bennett Griffin set out to break it.
The pair of aviators, flying through thick fog, flew over the airstrip and circled for about 4 hours. When they finally were able to land they stayed only enough to refuel their plane and eat before they were in the air again.
The next port of call was Berlin, Germany where they landed 18 hours and 45 minutes later, they landed. On their landing another piece of history was made�they were the first to fly the Atlantic nonstop to reach Berlin. Beating the Winnie Mae's time by 10:43, the hopes were high as to The Century of Progress's chances of beating the infamous record.
The next leg of their journey was to Moscow. With an anticipated nine-hour flight ahead, The Century of Progress was off again. When the plane had not arrived, some feared the worst. As luck should have it, they were found alive without serious injuries in a Siberian bog. Although they were making good time, the crash into a bog forced them to cancel the remainder of the flight. One can only speculate as to what the new record could have been, but history favors what was, rather what could have been.
Amelia Earhart A Woman Who Needs No Introduction
May 20, 1932
I have always detested playing favorites, but this is an extraordinary exception. Of all the people to ever climb into the cockpit and fly an airplane, Amelia Earhart may very well be the one that every person knows by name. There have been many articles over the years that salute the first woman of flight; this one's ours.
To be precise, it was only luck that Amelia Earhart was the first woman to cross the Atlantic. Both Mabel Boll (Columbia) and Mrs. Frederick Guest were contemplating the cross before Earhart. Mabel Boll's story is included in a following article entitled "Columbia, A Little Competition for Miss Earhart", while her children talked Mrs. Guest out of her venture.
A team searching for a woman to ride along, for a publicity stunt, scouted Earhart who was working as a social worker in Boston. At the age of 29, she already had the interest in flying. Bad weather that lasted nearly two weeks delayed her to fly the Atlantic. Flying in a hydroplane, Friendship, they broke two new grounds at one time.
Amelia was the first woman to fly, as she put it, as a "slightly below backseat driver." She was not able to even speak loud enough to be heard over the engine of the plane. In addition to being the first woman to fly the Atlantic, even as a passenger, it was also the first hydroplane to make it across the Atlantic.
Although Friendship never departed Harbour Grace, Amelia's presence was still well known here. Just five years after the first solo transatlantic flight, she attempted the great feat. With the famous Antarctic pilot, Bernt Balchen, and her mechanic, Eddy Gorski, Amelia departed New Jersey. Stopping at St. John, NB, to spend the night, Balchen took the controls again, but only as far as Harbour Grace.
She went to Archibald's Hotel to rest. She left the hotel with a can of tomato juice and a thermal bottle full of Rose Archibald's soup to drink while flying the Atlantic Ocean.
Just about four hours off the coast of Newfoundland, the plane started to develop problems. The exhaust manifold broke clear as flames shot violently through the vent. If the threat of being burnt to death before the plane crashed wasn't enough, the altimeter malfunctioned and she had to complete the trip without any knowledge of how high she was flying. On top of this, there was a lightening storm that she had to fly through.
She made a safe landing in Ireland, where she received many honors, including the American Congressional Medal of Honor, which she was not presented with until she arrived back in the USA. Amelia's trip was the third one of its kind, that is solo from America to Europe, and the first one completed by a woman. Being very humble, she wanted all prize monies to be donated to the unemployed women of America.
The transatlantic flight was not the end of Amelia's flying career. She had broken other records before taking the ultimate challenge, to be the first person, man or woman, to circle the earth at it's widest point; the Equator. Such a feat had never been accomplished, but Amelia was to attempt it with her $80,000 twin engine Lockheed Electra, fitted with all the modern technology. This plane was the most advanced civilian airplane in the world.
The trip would have made history if all had went well. Everything, however, did not go as planned and she still made history. There are speculations that she crashed some 100 miles from a small spit in the Pacific Ocean, there are others that say that Amelia was captured by the Japanese. There are two different stories concerning the Japanese, the first is that she was held captive and then released after the war, the other one is that she was captured and executed.
To this day, no one knows for sure what happened during that flight and it is possible that the events will forever remain a mystery. What we do know is that she went missing testing the limits of human bravery and endurance. We know that because a woman wanted to be a daredevil like so many men have done before her, she shall live forever on the pages of books like this one.
It is tragic to see the first woman of flight to have so much controversial material surrounding her life. As for the people who believe in the conspiracies that have no evidence or proof, it is a shame that they must tarnish her good name and drag her face through the mud of deceit. Some speculate that her crash was actually suicide. Amelia was very humble and did not want the attention that she was receiving as she broke records and dared to fly where no man has flown before.
Although her plane may lie somewhere on the bottom of the ocean, her name still sits atop lists of early pioneers in aviation.
Warsaw The Return of the Poles
June 28, 1934
The White Eagle's high-speed crash landing may have taught the Polish Adamowitz brothers a lesson in physics, but it did not lessen their spirit.
They landed safely in Harbour Grace to fuel up for the long trip. Although Warsaw was their final destination, they had to make one more stopover along the way in St. Andre, France before reaching their homeland.
The landing in Warsaw made them Polish heroes. Greeted by large crowds uncorking red wine, the brothers wanted beer.
Miss Dorothy The Last in Line
October 29, 1936
Many of the pilots throughout this book have had a claim to fame, and the pilot James Mollision's claim was that he was the last to use the Harbour Grace Airstrip as a starting point for a flight. From the Pride of Detroit to the Miss Dorothy, twenty brave pioneers attempted to cross the Atlantic. Some of these pioneers carved their niche over the Atlantic, while others found their peace in it.
Mollision, asking for a cigarette as he stepped out of the cockpit of the Miss Dorothy, was exhausted from the trip from New York. How he escaped the almost tragic landing on one wheel was beyond most spectators.
Spending the night at Cochrane House, who slept many pilots and dream seekers, Mollision departed for London the following afternoon, breaking records and becoming the first to fly to England without having a forced landing along the way. After being lifted from the plane, Mollision was overheard saying that he wanted a large scotch and soda, but because the local pubs were all closed in the mornings, he had to settle for a glass of ginger beer.
The Liberty So Close, So Far Away
May 13, 1932
Throughout history, all fields of adventure have one character who shined brighter than the rest. In the case of flying, there was Lou Reichers. Reichers departed New Jersey at 12:30 and his next stopover was Harbour Grace.
Of all the flights that were attempted in those pioneer days of aviation, the one that stole the limelight was the Liberty. Lou Reichers, the only pilot lucky enough to escape death, almost beat Charles �Lucky Lindy' Lindbergh's time in the solo race. On May 13th, 1932, just after eight thirty in the morning, Reichers, displayed the limits of man's bravery as he set out for his solo transatlantic flight from Harbour Grace to Bal-Dominal, Ireland.
At 9:10 p.m., after about thirteen hours of flying, the Liberty fell from the sky into the water just off the coast of Ireland. The luck of the Irish was really with Lou because the SS President Roosevelt was close enough to drop a life boat to fetch him from his downed plane. Reichers, surviving with minor facial lacerations and a broken nose, was put under the care of Surgeon Mulligan, Chief of Medicine abroad the Roosevelt.
There were many pilots in those early days that were not as lucky as Reichers and the accounts of the flights in the rest of this book do not share the same happy ending. Very few of the downed planes have been found to date.
Sir John Carling Harbour Grace Loses Their First Plane
Sept 7, 1927
Unlike the story on the Liberty, this one does not have a happy ending. On the list consisting of the Transatlantic casualties, the Sir John Carling was the first tragedy of the Harbour Grace airstrip. This story is one concerning Murphy's Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible time. From landing too fast and damaging the rudder and tail to digging a watery grave somewhere in the vast Atlantic, the Sir John Carling was a plane cursed with bad luck.
On September 5th, 1927, the Sir John Carling came into view from Harbour Grace. The plane was damaged upon landing and the crew decided to overhaul and refuel. While refueling, a fire broke out from a container of gas being placed too close to a lantern. The townspeople assisted in pushing the plane to safety.
The contenders in the Atlantic race were fueled by fame, fortune and glory. Every pilot who decided to fly the great Atlantic knew the risks and dangers, and the crew of the Sir John Carling was no different. After hearing that an earlier flight (Old Glory) went missing about 500 miles off Cape Race the same morning as their arrival, they decided to stay the night so repairs to the plane could be made.
The next morning, the people who saw them leave were the last people to ever see them, alive or dead. In the same week, a grand total of three planes went missing. Canada's Prime Minister, Mackenzie King was going to end the era of transatlantic flights from Canada due to the high mortality rate. Such actions were never taken, but even had they been, such action would not impact Harbour Grace as Newfoundland did not join Canada until 1949.
Gypsy Moth A Failed Attempt
Oct 17, 1928
Of all of the casualties that the Atlantic claimed over the years from man's desire to conquer new obstacles, the crew of the Gypsy Moth went too easily. "The Challenge of the Atlantic" seems to portray the image of a foolhardy venture on behalf of the Gypsy Moth.
Inspired by Alcock and Brown's flight that sparked an era, Lt. Commander Harry MacDonald wanted to fly their same path into England. After being delayed for three weeks, MacDonald departed Harbour Grace en route to England. The Dutch steamer Hartenburg spotted MacDonald about 700 miles off Cape Race.
Carrying only 20 hours of fuel, with storm situations brewing, the chances of making it were slim to none. The Hartenburg was the last to see MacDonald. Like many others, he and his plane were lost at sea.
The chances of not making it were always an ignored factor in travel, whether by plane, boat or car. Harry MacDonald, along with many others found out first hand how tragic these ventures could be when common sense was omitted from the equation.
Green Mountain Boy Another Tragedy
August 25, 1932
On Aug. 23, 1932, two brave Americans, Clyde Lee and John Bochon risked their lives to fly from Vermont to Norway. Running into a storm off the coast of Newfoundland crushed the dreams of an earlier flight that same day.
They spent the day overhauling their plane for their flight the next day. On the 25th, at the break of dawn, they departed for Oslo, Norway. Somewhere over the Atlantic they were lost. They carried 39 hours of fuel for a 30 hour flight, so running out of fuel was out of the question�unless the cap was not secured as in the case of Lady Peace.
Golden Hind Unlucky 13
October 22, 1929
Cattle rancher by trade, pilot because he had the money, that was Urban Dietman's claim to fame.
In a small low winged monoplane, Dietman planned an initial transatlantic flight that would include a stopover in Greenland before pursuing his destination of London, England. Despite the fact that a flight from Texas to Winnipeg (1,725 miles) at the time was a world record for such a small plane, Dietman was convinced that he could make it across.
At Lester's Field, in St. John's, Urban Dietman's plane was christened Golden Hind. She was named after one of Sir Humphrey Gilbert's ships that sailed to Newfoundland in 1583. Dietman then flew his plane to Harbour Grace where he stayed for three days.
On the 22nd of October, the residents of Harbour Grace last saw Dietman. At least 17 lives to that date had been lost in 13 planes trying to cross the great vast Atlantic. Urban Dietman, ironically, made the thirteenth crash.
Royal Winsor First Flight Canceled
September 14, 1927
Of the 20 flights that used the Harbour Grace airstrip, either to launch their dreams or have them crushed, the Royal Winsor was the first to cancel.
Two men left Winsor, Ontario both with the expectations of reaching Winsor, England. With a stormy night in Harbour Grace and fog rolling in, it did not come as a surprise when the flight was canceled from Winsor, Ontario. The pilot, Schiller, a Canadian, and his navigator, Wood, an American, were heart broken that they had to abandon their dreams of conquering the Atlantic that year.
Before departing, back to Ontario, they flew over Conception Bay so a wreath could be dropped into the water. The wreath was to commemorate the lives of the pilots who failed to reach the other side by air. Although the reasons were undisclosed as to why the flight was abandoned, it is a sensible speculation that there were too many deaths that year due to carelessness.
Columbia A Little Competition for Miss Earhart
June 4, 1927
Just two weeks after Charles "Lucky Lindy" Lindbergh made his historic solo flight across the Atlantic, the Columbia was making its presence known. The Columbia's flight was from New York to Berlin, via Harbour Grace. It seems that women were getting the interest for flying because among the crew was Mabel Boll.
The Queen of Diamonds, as she was known in the social circles she was associated with, wanted to be the first woman to cross the Atlantic. Now don't get me wrong, Miss Boll was not the pilot. Mabel was just a passenger of the Columbia. For 5 days the Columbia occupied space on the runway while the crew waited anxiously for the notice from Dr. Kimball that the weather was favorable. It was in this duration that their attempts went in vain allowing a woman who stole our hearts a chance to race Mabel.
Amelia Earhart beat Mabel Boll in crossing the water by air. With this defeat, the trip was canceled and the crew returned home to America. Before leaving Mabel Boll made a donation of $500 dollars to the airstrip for future development.
City of New York An Embarrassing Moment
August 3, 1930
Not all the crashes that occurred in the duration of Harbour Grace's aviation history were over the water; one did not even make it off the runway. That plane was the City of New York.
Piloted by Harry Brown, the City of New York made a spectacular arrival from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, NY. Accompanying the pilot was John Henry Mears, and Tailwind, a terrier dog along for the ride. The actress Mary Pickford gave the dog to the aviators as a gift. With the exception of a little fog over Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island the flight was without incident. The trip from New York to Harbour Grace was completed in just over 8 hours of flying.
The next morning they wanted to get an early start. The field was lit up by flares and parked cars. A slight wind was blowing and to use this to their advantage they decided to take a diagonal approach for take off. The plane rose about ten feet and crashed. When the plane came to a standstill, both men got out, Brown was unhurt, while Mears complained of a shoulder injury. The dog was gone.
Immediately, Mears offered a $100 reward for the dog, which George Hunt of Harbour Grace received for returning it. The plane was damaged beyond repair and all valuables would be salvaged and shipped back to New York. At least three people of Harbour Grace salvaged their own souvenirs of the downed plane.
Although Mears did not get a chance to retrieve the record that he had sought, he was heard to say that he would return with a new plane. The people of Harbour Grace, however, never saw him again.
White Eagle The Laws of Physics
August 8, 1933
Two Polish brothers left New York with hopes of reaching Warsaw, Poland. The only stopover was Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. Not seeing the wind cone on the runway, the pilot landed with the wind instead of against it. The mistake of landing too fast caused them to make a crash-landing into the runway. The crash damaged their airplane beyond repair, resulting in a couple of heartbroken Poles. Benjamin and Joseph Adamowitz left with their plane on the S.S. Sarnia. Benjamin required stitches to stop the bleeding in his elbow, while Joseph was uninjured.
Dawn The Limits of Human Bravery
December 24, 1927
Last, but definitely, not least is the account of the Dawn. It is hard to say if the following story should be included as a Harbour Grace story or a Newfoundland one, but no doubt it should be included. On one very stormy Christmas Eve, a group of people tempted their fate against the Atlantic. Every person who flew, or was going to fly, the Atlantic knew the risk of not making it across. The thing about this story is, they never had a chance.
Crash landing in a barren snowed in field and freezing to death, or trying to cross the great Atlantic and die when the fuel runs out, these were the options of the flight crew and passengers of the Dawn. Such options came only after circling the Avalon Peninsula with hopes of finding the airstrip. Many of the flights scheduled that year canceled, some that ventured went missing. The Dawn is on that list of missing planes.
Appending the list of flying casualties the Atlantic has claimed with Oskar Omdal; pilot, Brice Goldsborough; navigator, Fred Koehler; responsible for location of Harbour Grace airstrip, and Mrs. Francis Grayson; passenger. The ocean did not take them easily, they were heard at many locations around the bay, as close as Clarke's Beach.
An airplane can only hold so much fuel and the flight from New York to Harbour Grace would have spent the best part of it. No one will ever know for sure what transpired in the cockpit of the Dawn on Christmas Eve. To attempt to fly across the Atlantic was suicidal and the probability of running out of fuel was increasing with each circle. Along with this, there also existed the possibility of crashing into the woods. However, for all intent purposes, the ocean did not want to be conquered that Christmas.
The Spirit of Harbour Grace
The Spirit of Harbour Grace was manufactured in 1943 by Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica, California. The plane was on charge to the United States Air Force effective January 11, 1943 and it served in North Africa until the end of the war in 1945. It was then purchased by Resort Airlines in the United States and later by Leeward Aeronautical Service and Lake Central Airlines as a C-47 Cargo Aircraft. In 1951 it was purchased by a Canadian company and modified as a DC-3 Douglas in California.
In 1953 the aircraft was purchased by Quebec Air and served with that airline until purchased by Roger Pike in 1977. It then served as a transporter of food and dairy products from Stephenville to Goose Bay under private registration. In 1983 Mr. Pike acquired ownership of Labrador Airways Limited and utilized the DC-3 based out of Goose Bay for the transportation of mail and cargo. The Aircraft was retired in 1988 and was restored to its present condition at Labrador Airway's Stephenville facility.
Due to their close association with the town, the Pike Family donated the plane to the Town of Harbour Grace in 1993. It now stands as a tribute to the important role which the town has played in aviation history.
The dirt strip is not used much anymore. The grass has grown over and to hear a plane in the sky is almost as foreign as a UFO sighting. Many dreams were accomplished and lost on the pages of history by those brave daredevils who went all the way. A lot has been accomplished in the previous century, now it is time to face a new one.
Harbour Grace's aviation history is just that now, history. To have a sense of where we are going, we must have a sense of our past. From piracy to aviation, Harbour Grace has its name on the pages of history in many diversified fields of interest.
There is no doubt about it, Harbour Grace was once a vital stopover for many flights across the Atlantic, some of the names mentioned here will live forever, while others may be forgotten in five minutes time. The Spirit may be dormant, but let us not act too hastily, because the Atlantic was not claimed until late in the first quarter of the last century, so lets see what the first quarter of this one brings.
The material herein was prepared under the direction of Harbour Grace Tourism - Youth Service Canada Grant (Human Resources Development Canada).
Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of its contents, the Government of Canada assumes no responsibility for accuracy or reliability of its contents.