Hawaiian celebrates 90 years

November 12, 2019
hawaiian 90th birthday
Passengers on Flight HA111 received commemorative copies of the 1929 newspaper announcing the first service. Photo: Hawaiian.

What began with $US5 sight-seeing flights using a Bellanca pacemaker CH-300 monoplane, moved into new territory on November 11, 1929, as two Sikorsky S-38 amphibian aircraft launched the first commercial air service connecting the Hawaiian islands.

The launch of the Inter-Island Airways flights to Hilo Airport on the Big Island and Ma’alaea Airport on Maui from Honolulu’s John Rodgers airport cut travel time from 14 hours by steamship to three hours and 15 minutes.

They also marked the start of a lineage that would culminate in today’s Hawaiian Airlines.

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The man behind the service, former naval aviator Stanley Kennedy, had used the Bellanca to firm up his proposition for commercial air service between the islands.

During the launch, which was caught on film, he told the assembled crowd “the air is now yours”.

“The foresight of our founder Stanley Kennedy to introduce Hawaii to commercial aviation forever changed the way we travel across our archipelago for leisure and business,”  Hawaiian Airlines chief executive Peter Ingram said during celebrations Monday to mark the 90th anniversary.

Colorful uniforms from the past. Photo: Hawaiian

Today it takes about an hour for a modern jet to cross the water between islands and that is not the only change in the past 90 years.

Inter-island Airways carried 13, 043 passengers in 1930, its first calendar year of operations, compared to 12 million carried by Hawaiian in 2018 on a network that now includes US mainland and international gateway cities.

A fleet of three Sikorsky S-43s began transporting cargo throughout Hawaii in 1943 with the first US cargo certificate.

Today, Hawaiian carries up to 92,000 tonnes of goods across its network.

And almost half of the workforce at the airline,  which conducted the first scheduled commercial US flight by an all-female crew back in 1979, is women.

The airline began its 90th birthday celebrations with a “plane pull” fundraiser near the former john Rodgers airport site that raised $US33,000 for local non-profit organization Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

A flight between Honolulu and Kahului, designated HA111, saw flight attendants wearing vintage uniforms distributing copies of the November 11, 1929, Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper announcing the first flights.

Each guest was also handed a birthday card with a gift of 90,000 HawaiianMiles. This is enough for two roundtrip flights between Hawaii and the mainland or up 12 neighbor island flights.