Sunday, November 29, 2015         


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82 years ago, Hawaiian Air made its first interisle trip

By Erika Engle


Buried amid the hubbub and traffic snarls of APEC Leaders' Week, Hawaiian Airlines turned 82 years old Friday, the much-ballyhooed 11/11/11.

The airline's inaugural interisland flight on Nov. 11, 1929, actually was flown under the banner of predecessor Inter-Island Airways, and was a three-hour trip from Honolulu to Hilo in an amphibious biplane. The trip included a Maui layover.

The airline's first pilot left a legacy that remains in Honolulu.

If you have ever traversed the airport area under the H-1 viaduct, you have likely passed Elliot Street — named after Charles Irving Elliot, who for reasons unknown was called "Captain Sam," according to Keoni Wagner, Hawaiian's vice president of public affairs.

"He was with the airline from the beginning" and, after his retirement in 1951, had the street named after him by the state House of Representatives in 1964, "on our anniversary, Nov. 11, 1964," Wagner said.

In its earliest days the airline used two Sikorsky S-38 amphibious biplanes, each with a capacity of eight passengers and two crew members. Despite a passenger load that was tiny by today's commercial airline standards, the company carried 10,000 passengers its first year.

By 1934 the airline introduced mail service, and in 1942 it became the first in the United States to gain federal certification for scheduled air freight service.

Hawaiian's first flights under the Inter-Island name actually were overland, using a six-seat Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker aircraft. Flights were inaugurated to introduce Oahu residents to air travel because "in those days not many people had ever flown," Wagner said in a 2009 interview.

That very same plane was found, restored and again sent aloft for the airline's 80th anniversary two years ago. It flies about a dozen times a month, taking Hawaiian Air employees and their families for rides.

The planes at that time were named for the Hawaiian isles, as was Molokai, believed to be the one shown in the photo.

Inter-Island was renamed Hawaiian Airlines in 1941, and now, with considerably more planes, they are given Hawaiian names of "either constellations or celestial bodies," Wagner said, "the point being that these were the heavenly bodies that guided voyagers in ancient times."

Hokupa‘a, the name for Polaris, or the North Star, was given to Hawaiian's newest Airbus A330-200, Wagner said.

Reach Erika Engle at 529-4303,, or on Twitter as @erikaengle.

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