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The Ill Fated Dole Air Race of 1927

The fateful foggy morning at the Oakland Airport greeted up to 100,000 spectators who had gathered to watch the start of the much publicized race which was originally planned to be the first aircraft flight across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. 

By the time the race actually began on the morning of 16 August 1927, two manned flights had been made in the few months prior.  On June 28th, Army Lts. Maitland and Hegenberger flew from Oakland to Wheeler Field on Oahu in a Fokker C-2 Tri-motor in 25 Hours and 50 minutes.   On July 14th, Smith and Bronte flew their Travel Air monoplane from Oakland enroute to Wheeler Field to be the first civilians to make the flight.  They crashed landed on Molokai in a kiawe (mesquite) thicket short of their intended destination.

A total of 15 crewmembers in eight aircraft took off in sequence by drawing straws

The order of departure was:

1.  OKLAHOMA,   a Travel Air 5000  with Bennett Griffen and  Al Henley as crew departed at noon.  They aborted the flight after 45 minutes due to engine problems and returned to land, giving up their attempt.

2.  EL ENCANTO,  a Goddard monoplane with Army Lts. Hawkins and Goddard were next.  They crashed on takeoff.  They were reportedly overloaded with fuel and abandoned the race.

3.  PABCO PACIFIC FLYER, a Breese 5 monoplane with Maj L. G. Irving as pilot.  He aborted his first attempted takeoff and crashed on his second attempt an hour later, withdrawing from the field.

4.  GOLDEN EAGLE a Lockheed Vega 1 monoplane with Frost and Scott as crew was the fourth aircraft to depart.  The aircraft and crew were lost at sea and never found.

5.  MISS DORAN, a Buhl CA-5 Airsedan with J. Pedlar, pilot, V. Knope, navigator and the comely young school teacher Mildred Doran as a crewmember, departed at 12:34pm.   They returned after a few minutes with engine problems and after some maintenance, departed again at 2:30pm.  They too were lost at sea and never heard from again.

6.  ALOHA, a Breese 5 Monoplane with Martin Jensen, a former pilot for Lewis Hawaiian Tours as pilot.  The navigator was Navy Capt. Paul Schluter.  They departed minutes after 12:30pm and arrived at Wheeler Field 28 hours and 16 minutes later.  This was good enough to earn them second place and the $10,000 prize.

7.  WOOLAROC a Travel Air 5000 with Army Reserve Lt. Arthur Goebel as pilot and Navy Lt. William Davis departed at 12:36pm and arrived at Wheeler Field in 26 hours and 19 minutes, winning 1st place and the $25,000 prize.

8.  DALLAS SPIRIT, a swallow monoplane with Capt. Wm. P. Erwin  as pilot and Alvin Eichwaldt as navigator departed a minute after Wooloaroc  and returned due to fuselage damage.  In perhaps he saddest sequel, they took off 3 days later to help search for the previous missing crewmembers and then continue on to Hawaii.  They like the others, were lost at sea and never found.

Of the 15 souls entered that departed Oakland, seven perished.  Only two of the eight planes finished the race. 

In retrospect, they were all ill prepared for the perilous crossing, with a minimum amount of knowledge of aerial navigation and weather at altitude.  With no survival gear and only four aircraft with radio equipment, that any of them finished at all was a tribute to courage and a great deal of luck.

The photos in the gallery were scanned from the collection of W. K. Ogata

click on each photo to enlarge

Aerial at the start of the race

El Encanto after takeoff crash

Maj Livinston Irving, "Encanto" pilot

Maj Irving with wife and child

"Pabco" after takeoff crash

Frost and Scott of "Golden Eagle"

Crew of the "Miss Doran"

Crew of the "Dallas Spirit"

"Spirit of Dallas"

Martin & Schluter of the "Aloha"

Breese "Aloha"

Side shot of "Breese Aloha"

Davis & Goebbel, Winners of the race

Art Goebel & Wife

OC Griffith Collection

Art Goebel Autograph

OC Griffith Collection

Mildred Doran, Lost in 1927

OC Griffith Collection

Travel Air

OC Griffith Collection

Unidentified Airplane (Buhl?)

OC Griffith Collection