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Its' a Boat! Its a Plane! Its a Surfboard!
December 4, 2012 4:41 PM   Subscribe

If you've ever been to Hawaii, chances are that you've passed through the John Rodgers Terminal at Honolulu International Airport without giving it a second thought. The great-grandson of distinguished American Commodores John Rodgers and Matthew Perry; John Rodgers was the second American naval officer to fly for the United States Navy and a submarine commander in WW1; but what earned him the honour of having the airport named for him was the amazing and inspiring first open-ocean flight to Hawaii.

Much more detail from this fascinating site here.

In the best tradition of the Navy, Commander Rodgers refused to leave his craft until she arrived at her destination. They had flown and sailed the plane to Kauai and since all danger of missing land was past, Rodgers and the crew throught they could sail the plane into Ahukini Harbor, and so informed Osborn.

“No! Stand by in case we miss the harbor,” Rodgers called back. He consulted his men while the submariners now looked more suspiciously upon Rodgers. (Discussing it later in Honolulu, Osborn told Connell, “We were about to come on board to take you people off physically. We thought you were out of your heads!) “They could hardly be blamed,” Connell states, “because we had 10 days beards, were dirty and our clothing was torn.”
posted by PareidoliaticBoy (6 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Thanks for posting. My dad is an aviation nut and will love this.
posted by Jess the Mess at 5:39 PM on December 4, 2012

Gotta admire the sheer tenacity and guts of those early aviators, Jess ...

The weight of the fuel kept the plane from getting “on the step,” when the long awaited take-off was attempted by PN-9 No. 1. Lieutenant Connell was at the controls, helped by Pope. They made one run across the Bay, but were unable to get the seaplane into the air, turned around for another try. To decrease weight, previous to their takeoff, the crew had gone through the ship with a fine tooth comb and tossed out things like parachutes and equipment,” Connell recalled.

The Navy craft skimmed at least four miles atop the shallow water before finally lurching into the air. “We were so heavy,” Connell recalls, “we had to go 40 miles before we could climb to 300 feet.”

Incredibly, they were relying on the Trade Winds to give them the range they needed. Had the normally reliable winds been present, they would have made it the entire distance.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:11 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anyone know whatever happened to that aircraft, the PN-9 No. 1? I've searched but come up empty. Seems like that thing should be in a museum.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 8:33 PM on December 4, 2012

"The plane was subsequently repaired for return to service, but did a repeat performance while on a flight to South America. Engine problems forced it down on the Caribbean, where pilot Byron Connell and crew drifted for several days before being rescued. Dwight Messimer, author of the 1981 book about PN-9's flight, 'No Margin For Error,' recalls that because the towing distance to shore was too great, the plane was ignobly sunk by gunfire as a hazard to navigation." (via Wikipedia).
posted by soda pop at 11:40 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Holy mackeral, that's amazing stuff. We got to go to Hawaii last year and I was struck by two things:

First, on a human scale (for this human, anyway) the Pacific is a tremendously gigantic place. Second, Hawaii is much, much more remote than I ever realized, even after years of daydreaming over maps. The feats of navigation that let people cross it and get to various places frankly boggle my mind.
posted by jquinby at 7:24 AM on December 5, 2012

soda pop: ""the plane was ignobly sunk by gunfire as a hazard to navigation." (via Wikipedia)."

Thanks, soda pop! That's a shame, but them's the breaks.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 12:46 PM on December 5, 2012

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