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<b>Down South, Out West</b><br><i>Sir Bob Harvey’s son Fraser walks New Zealand’s Karekare<br>Photo by Dana Edmunds</i>
Vol. 17, no. 5
October/November 2014

 

Casting the Net 
Story By: Roland Gilmore

 

In his aloha shirt and weathered baseball cap, Richard “Rick” Rogers doesn’t quite fit the mold of an archivist. In fact, there’s not a lot about him that fits any mold: A commercial pilot—he flew for Hawaiian Airlines from 1987 through his retirement in 2010—he’s also a diver, maritime researcher, historian, writer and illustrator. At various times he’s also made his living as a farmer, fisherman, flight instructor and small business owner.

 

But those are all stories for another time­—for now let’s get back to the pilot/archivist, which is the reason I’m visiting him today. Back in 2009, having heard that Rick was something of a “history nut” (Rick’s words), Hawaiian Airlines CEO Mark Dunkerley contacted him with a request to do some research on the company’s 1929 Bellanca CH-300. This was the plane that the airline’s founder, Stanley Kennedy Sr., had used to introduce Hawai‘i residents to flight. Five years ago, as part of the airline’s eightieth anniversary, the plane was being fully restored. One thing led to another, and Rick ultimately volunteered to bring order to the company’s chaotic collection of photographs, films, annual reports, advertising materials, internal correspondence and assorted memorabilia. In his spare time he pulled everything together into a well-organized collection and in the process became the company’s official archivist. Through that immersion he has also become one of the pre-eminent authorities on Hawaiian Airlines’ history. And so we met to talk about a distinct segment of that history: the airline’s expansion beyond interisland service.

 

These days it is hard to imagine that Hawaiian Airlines ever struggled to enlarge its route map. In the last three years alone, the airline has added Japan, South Korea, China and New Zealand to an international schedule that already included Australia, American Samoa and Tahiti. The airline now also offers nonstop service to Hawai‘i from more US gateway cities (eleven) than any other airline. Of course, these additions did not occur overnight, but compared with the airline’s early attempts to fly beyond the Hawaiian Islands, they have come at lightning speed: Though it began flying passengers within the Islands in 1929 as InterIsland Airways, Hawaiian Airlines’ first scheduled passenger flights to the continental United States didn’t take place until 1985, with scheduled international flights (to Tahiti and the Cook Islands) following two years later. The effort to establish those first flights spanned more than forty years and three generations of aircraft.

 

“Our history of trans-Pacific and international flight is actually three different stories,” says Rick. “Stan Kennedy Sr. made the first application for international routes with the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) in 1944—that’s how early this got started.” So early, in fact, that one of Kennedy’s proposed destinations, Manila, included stops on Palau and Chuuk (then known as Truk), neither of which had yet been liberated from Japan—this was a year before the war ended. When the Honolulu Advertiser first wrote of Kennedy’s plan in its July 10, 1944, edition, the story noted that Saipan—“whose conquest United States troops completed Saturday”—would be part of this same route. Another proposed route, to Shanghai, would include stops at Midway and Tokyo.

 

The challenges Kennedy faced were not limited to the war. Every new route within the United States required approval of the CAB, which also regulated pricing. Hawai‘i was still a territory, with congressional representation limited to a single nonvoting delegate in the House of Representatives. An Island-based airline simply couldn’t wield the same kind of bureaucratic influence as those based on the continent. Kennedy was a visionary and not one to give up easily. Writing about this era in Wings of History: Hawaii’s Incomparable Airlines, historian Peter Forman notes that in the first year of the effort, Hawaiian spent more than $80,000 to secure new routes, as compared with a $75,000 profit that year. By 1947 the total spent was more than $100,000.

 

It was a lot of traveling back and forth to Washington, a lot of expense and a lot of paperwork,” says Rick. “We’d almost get it and then someone would object—it was the heavyweights like United and Pan Am—and we’d have to start from square one. So in 1947 the board of directors called a stop to it. Stan was pretty down, and you kind of notice it in the company: The advertising became pretty boring for the next few years. It was like the wind had been taken out of our sails.”

 


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