93 Years: Hawaiian Airlines Celebrate Iconic Plane

Last week, Hawaiian Airlines celebrated the birthday of a very special member of their team – a single-engine Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker, which introduced air travel within Hawaii back in 1929.

Front view of Hawaiian Airline's Bellanca.
The Bellanca – the plane that introduced commercial air travel to Hawaii in 1929 | © Hawaiian Airlines

Get Your Lei On: Hawaiian Airlines Celebrate Iconic Plane with Lei Ceremony and Cake

Thursday 6th, October marked the anniversary of Hawaiian Airlines‘ most beloved aircraft – the Bellanca that introduced the possibilities of air travel to the island of Hawaii. On the morning of the anniversary, the plane was brought from storage at Honolulu’s Castle and Cooke Aviation to the tarmac for public view. Once displayed, the airline’s staff members brought out decorative lei to place over the Bellanca’s propellers to show their gratitude for its service and to honour this moment in history.

Described as the airline’s ‘crown jewel’, the plane is still used to deliver sight-seeing tours – just like it did in 1929. Speaking on the importance The Bellanca has in Hawaii’s Aviation industry as well as the culture, Community, and Cultural Relations, Director Debbie Nakanelua-Richards had this to say:

“Hawaiian Airlines (formerly named Inter-Island Airways) was the first to introduce flight to the people living in these islands, who were traditionally ocean-faring people. This aircraft allowed us to weave our company into the history of aviation and the history of these islands.”

The Bellanca: A Brief History of Hawaii’s Prized Plane

It all began with a vision from a businessman. Stanley C. Kennedy wanted to introduce the airline sector to Hawaii, which at the time relied on ships as the mode of transportation within the island. After convincing the board of the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company to venture into the promising sector, the island gained its Bellanca.

Hawaiian Airlines celebrate iconic plane with a large, rectangular birthday cake. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELLANCA!!" is written in cursive on the cake's top.
It was a truly happy birthday for the plane as staff even produced a birthday cake | © Hawaiian Airlines

On October 6th 1929, after being purchased from a Delaware-based manufacturer, the Bellanca took to the skies. 76 Local people have been whisked away on sightseeing tours around O’ahu in the five-passenger monoplane, where the possibility of travelling by air became more and more desirable.

Between 1930 and 1931, over 12,000 passengers experienced travel by air across the islands, where the scenic views could be experienced at a new height for three dollars per person. The plane’s service was cut short, however, because in 1933, it was sold and transported to Alaska, where it transported fuel, bear cubs and village supplies.

The period between 1940 and 2009 saw many events occur, such as the renaming of Inter-Island Airways (to Hawaiian Airlines), the Bellanca crashing into a lake and its eventual re-acquirement by the airline. By last 2009, the beloved aircraft was deemed airworthy after a successful flight from Hawaii to Washington and back.

Looking to the Future Does Not Mean Forgetting the Past

Speaking on the relevancy of the Bellanca, their current fleet and the importance of remembering their roots, Director Nakanelua-Richards had this to say:

“The Dreamliner (Boeing 787-9) is on the horizon for our company’s future, and that’s where a lot of us are focused, but when we come here, we are stopped and reminded of our beginning – of where we’ve come… Sometimes we get caught up in thinking about the future but being in front of the Bellanca reminds us that we come from humble beginnings – that the people behind our 93-year-history were truly pioneers.”

From everyone at Travel Radar – Hau’oli lā hānau, Bellanca!

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Kirsty Atek
Kirsty Atek
Kirsty Atek is a visual artist based in London who is interested in sustainability.


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