Hawaiian Airlines keeping history alive with vintage airliner

Hawaiian Airlines keeping history alive with vintage airliner
Bruce Clements and Mark Dunkerley
Bruce Clements and Mark Dunkerley

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian Airlines started flying as Interisland Airways, giving aerial tours to get people used to being in the air. Wednesday, Hawaiian Airlines gave a few reporters their own aerial tours… in the same aircraft.

I wasn't going to turn down a chance to ride in a plane that was new when my 91- year-old father was ten. So photographer Rick Pike and I went to Honolulu International Airport to see them warm up the engine on a Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker. It started on the second try.

Say, who's that in the cockpit? It's Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian CEO and an experienced aerobatic pilot, infamous in the airline industry for having done most of the jobs in it.

With Dunkerley on our flight was Captain Bruce Clements, retired from flying Boeing 767's and now the chief pilot of the Bellanca, which after service in Hawaii spent decades in Alaska and even crashed once, only to be rediscovered, repurchased, and rebuilt by Hawaiian.

Clements isn't just a pilot, he's a mechanic.

"Are you ready to take off? Then let's go!"

The Bellanca took off in seconds. I'm serious. We used maybe a few car lengths of runway. Astonishing, until you're reminded that in 1929 your runway was very likely a field.

The plane is noisy. But Dunkerley muses that in 1929 the ride was probably better than the average car on the average dirt road.

"What we see below is so different from back then" I shout.

"Unimaginably so," Dunkerley shouts back.

We fly as far as Hanauma Bay, where stiff trades hurl the plane around. On the return flight we see a seaplane below us... some military jets... a submarine returning to Pearl Harbor.

And just as we're on final, we see a jetliner waiting for us to pass over. It's Hawaiian Flight 1, ready to leave for Los Angeles.

Dunkerley hopes to let Hawaiian employees fly on this plane and experience their eight-decade heritage. After that he hopes to use it for charitable events. Whatever happens to the plane, he says its living history and he wants to keep it flying.

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