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HNL 1930-1939


John Rodgers Airport 1935


A 1930 aerial photo of Rodgers Airport shows two runways and two hangars. One of the hangars is marked Inter-Island Airways. 



During the year, 40,000 cubic yards of coral was placed to grade and surface additional areas for the runway.  The cross-wind runway was widened from 100 feet to 250 feet and lengthened from 1,600 feet to 2,050 feet.  The main runway was widened from 250 feet to 550 feet and lengthened from 1,800 feet to 2,200 feet.


One thousand feet at the windward end of the main runway was brought to rough grade and needed only surfacing coral to complete a runway a total length of 3,000 feet.  The intersection of the two runways was increased and brought to a finished surface. This added greatly to the appearance and usefulness of the airport.


Eight hundred feet of wire fence was placed across the space between the two Inter-Island Airways hangars so that the public was effectively kept off the runways.   The macadam take-off strip was resurfaced during the year with a surface coating of bitumuls and fine rock.


Of the 40,000 cubic yards of coral placed, 10,000 cubic yards were from Ala Moana and loose coral collected from outcroppings in the airport; 30,000 cubic yards was quarried from one corner of the property; 22,500 cubic yards was excavated by contract and 7,500 by prison labor.


The prisoners did good work during the year and were depended upon for the further development of John Rodgers Airport as no funds were available to undertake further contracts. 


It was proposed to add to the width and length of the cross-wind take-off, cut off certain angles between intersections to increase the usable area, and complete widening of the main take-off though the placing of approximately 20,000 additional yards of coral. An attempt was made to obtain this coral from dredging


On July 12, 1930, Governor Lawrence M. Judd approved the first Territorial Airport Rules and Regulations.


A sum of $24,000 was spent on clearing and grading. Water and electricity were provided for $3,481.


Interisland Airways Ltd. and Hawaiian Airways Co., Ltd. were given permission to erect hangars with 20 year leases. An additional building was erected for $5,609. The U. S. Weather Bureau established weather reporting stations at Hilo, Laupahoehoe, Kuihoele, Maalaea and Port Allen. This was the first expenditure of federal funds in support of commercial aviation in Hawaii.



Act 17, as passed by the Second Special Session of the 1932 Legislature, abolished the Aeronautical Commission and transferred its duties to the Superintendent of Public Works, under whose jurisdiction the work on the airport was first started.


From 1932 to 1937 the Works Progress Administration lengthened Rodgers Airports’ runways, at a cost of $34,000.



December 1, 1932

Pan American Airways announced plans for service to Hawaii.


Andrew Flying Service inaugurated non-scheduled flights between the main airports, as well as the smaller airports that could not be served by the scheduled airlines.  One principal service of this carrier was to Kalaupapa Leper Settlement.


A gang of prisoners worked steadily at John Rodgers Airport cutting brush and weeds, blasting and grading coral, and keeping the runways in good shape.


In January 1934, six Navy P2Y-1 flying boats flew from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor in 24.5 hours. 



May 18, 1934

Women pilots formed a Hawaii aviatrix club.



With the development of air travel, development of suitable public airports was an increasing necessity.  Additional federal grants were needed to improve and enlarge the airport. Some funds were available to maintain the field, but with prison labor and FERA assistance, considerable improvements were made.


Inter-Island Airways, Ltd. used all of the Territorial airfields and five of them on a regular daily schedule with passengers and mail.  A rental charge was instituted in 1935 for building areas occupied by them. 


John Rodgers Airport was a coral-filled area with a paved runway for the prevailing wind.  The field housed the main shops of Inter-Island Airways, Ltd., and was patronized extensively by amateur fliers.  The Territorial airport custodian was housed at this field, and two hangars housed the planes used by private fliers and two aviation schools.  A concession was rented by the Territory for lunches and soft drinks.


The principal needs at the field were clearing and grading and additional paving.  Prisoners continued to maintain the field.  Buildings were rearranged on the eastern side so that future hangars could be built along the field and a roadway developed in the rear.  


Pan American Airways made its first flight to Hawaii April 16, 1935 in a Sikorsky S-42 seaplane in a time of 17.25 hours.  Juan Trippe had been seeking a Siberian route to the Far East but had to settle for an island hopping route via Hawaii. He outfitted the depot ship North Haven with 44 aircraft technicians and 74 construction specialists and enough supplies and materials to build two villages and five air bases for seaplanes.  In four months in the summer of 1935 Pan Am blasted seaplane landing areas at Midway and Wake Islands.   This ambitious precedent opened a route to Hong Kong and Shanghai via Manila and Guam. 



September 19, 1934

Inter-Island Airways received a contract from the U.S. Post Office Department to carry airmail between Honolulu, Maui, Hilo and Kauai.  The route was designated as Route 33. This was a very important milestone in air service to the neighbor islands.  The first air mail flight took place on October 8, 1934.

November 3, 1934

Charles Kingsford-Smith made the first eastbound flight from Hawaii to California as the last leg of his eastward crossing of the Pacific from Australia.   His single-engine Lockheed Altair aircraft Lady Southern Cross made the trip in 15 hours, a little over half what it had taken him in 1928.

November 16, 1934

Japan announced plans for air line service over the Pacific via Hawaii.

December 1934

An Australian twin-engine aircraft flying from California with a crew of three was lost at sea just short of Hawaii.

December 1934

Pan American Airways announced a plan to build four large Sikorsky Flying Boats for use on a proposed California-Hawaii­-Manila-China route.

December 27, 1934


When the ocean liner Lurline arrived in Honolulu Harbor on December 27, 1934 it carried Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Vega.  Speculation was rampant that she would attempt a flight to the Mainland, but she insisted that she was in Hawaii for a vacation and brought her plane to fly between islands.  Despite her denials, she departed from Wheeler Field on January 11, 1935 and flew to Oakland, California in 18 hours, 17 minutes arriving on January 12, 1935.  She was the first pilot to fly solo between Hawaii and the Mainland.

February 20, 1935

The Hawaiian Air Depot at Luke Field on Ford Island was outgrowing its facilities.  A total of 2,225 acres of land and fishponds adjacent to John Rodgers Airport and Fort Kamehameha was purchased by the United States Army from the Bishop, Damon and Queen Emma Estates for a new air depot and air base (Hickam Field) at a cost of $1,095,543.78.  It was the largest peacetime military construction project in the United States and went on through 1941. During 1935, a $1 million condemnation suit by lease holders of Watertown was filed.  The court ruled on December 9, 1935 that terms of the original leases were clear and contained a clause whereby interest in leaseholds ceased when property was condemned in public interest. 

April 16, 1935

Pan American Airways commenced survey flights to Hawaii with hopes of establishing regular trans-Pacific passenger service.  On April 16, 1935, the first survey flight took off from San Francisco Bay in a Sikorsky S-42 seaplane with Captain Musick, veteran PAA pilot, at the controls.  The flight to Pearl Harbor was made in 17 hours and 14 minutes. This flight was the beginning of an orderly development of Pacific air transportation.  Clippers were initiated into the Pacific via Hawaii, Midway, Wake, Guam and Manila to Hong Kong. Pan Am acquired both Sikorsky S-42 and Martin 130 flying boats with the S-42 arriving on April 17.  Survey flights followed to Midway, Wake and Guam and a ship with construction crews, materials and equipment to build seaplane bases and hotel facilities followed.

May 31, 1935

Hickam Field was dedicated.  It was named for Lt. Col. Horace M. Hickam, C.O., 3rd Attack Group, who was killed Nov. 5, 1934 at Fort Crockett, Texas.

November 22, 1935

Pan American Airways inaugurated regular trans-Pacific air service to Hawaii with a Martin M-130, the China Clipper, from Alameda, California to the Pearl City Peninsula in 21 hours and 20 minutes. This was the first scheduled air mail flight across the Pacific to go on all the way to Manila and Hong Kong.  Pan Am operations were conducted from a company base at Pearl City.  The first service was provided by Martin Clippers which were augmented in 1941 by larger Boeing Clippers.  Postmaster General Farley came from Washington to witness what he characterized as “the beginning of the most significant achievement in the development of air transportation.”


Inter-Island Airways began replacing its nine-passenger Sikorsky S-38 amphibians with larger Sikorsky S-43 amphibians.  In 1941 this equipment was replaced by Douglas DC-3 landplanes. In the change over to DC-3s and to demonstrate the safety of land planes in over-water flying, the first three DC-3s were flown in formation from San Francisco to Honolulu.  The flight was made in 14 hours, 52 minutes.  Due to the size of the planes, and when the last of the S-38s were phased out, air service to Lanai ceased.

December 1935

Planning was initiated for seaplane runways in Keehi Lagoon.



The Department of Public Works requested the Commissioner of Public Lands to procure 66.22 acres of land to enlarge John Rodgers Airport.  The land acquisition provided two runways, 4,000 and 3,500 feet long.  The runways were paved 300 feet wide with 100 feet of grading on each side.  Considerable work was done by the Work Progress Administration (WPA) in the extension of the runways at a cost of $8,733.14 for materials, $24,973.33 for labor or a total of $33,706.47.  The Territory applied for 100,000 gallons of crude oil from Pearl Harbor to lay on the runways to reduce the dust. 


No further construction was contemplated at Rodgers Airport until the location of a Seaplane basin could be decided upon.  Dredgings from the basin, if located near John Rodgers Airport, could be used for the improvement of the field.


In 1937 a U.S. Department of Commerce official inspected Hawaii airports. A sum of $200,000 was appropriated for improvements.


The Territorial Legislature set up an Airport Fund from aviation gas taxes. 


A 3,000 foot concrete runway was constructed at nearby Luke Field on Ford Island.  


In 1937 Amelia Earhart attempted an around the world flight in a Lockheed Electra. She started by flying from Oakland to Wheeler Field. This leg was flown in a record 15.75 hours. As she prepared for the next leg, the plane was moved to Luke Field which had a smoother runway for a takeoff with a heavy fuel load.  On takeoff she blew a tire and the plane was badly damaged.  She went back to San Francisco by boat and later tried the around the world flight by a different route and was lost between New Guinea and Howland Island in the Pacific.  Stories still linger about whether she had been on a secret mission to spy on the Japanese bastion at Truk and whether she perished in Guam or on a remote atoll in the Marshall Islands. 


In 1938 the Chief Inspector of the Bureau of Air Commerce, USDC rated John Rodgers Airport as the worst in the islands.



October 21, 1936

Pan American initiated regular six-day weekly passenger service between San Francisco and Manila via Honolulu.


There was a large increase in interisland travel. Interisland Airways had operated for seven years with S-38 amphibians without accident. They were now flying four S-43 aircraft which carry 16 passengers each. Two S-38s were used for charters and flights to smaller airports.



The Department of Public Works requested $300,000 from the 1939 Legislature to continue construction of airports with the cooperation of the Works Progress Administration. However, no appropriation was made.  The only funding available was from the Aviation Gasoline Tax of $13,599.43.


Pan American Airways paid no aviation gasoline tax since its inception, claiming they purchased fuel in California and consumed it outside of the Territory in Inter-State and Foreign Commerce.  Therefore they claimed exemption. The question was referred to the Territorial Attorney General for an opinion.


During the fiscal year, $1,076 was spent at John Rodgers Airport. No construction was undertaken on the field awaiting approval of the Keehi Lagoon Seaplane Basin Project.  The U.S. District Engineer report on the seaplane runway was approved by the Chief Engineer U.S. Army and forwarded to Congress for funding.


Inter-Island Airways, Ltd. made 3,347 flights during the year, carrying 24,482 passengers.



September 15, 1938

Hickam Field was officially activated.  The Hawaiian Air Depot began its move from Luke Field with approximately 600 men.


Marguerite Gambo opened a flying school at John Rodgers Airport and built a hangar adjacent to the Inter-Island Airways hangar.


The K-T Flying Service began operating from John Rodgers Airport.

January 23, 1939

Luke Field was made a sub-post of Hickam Field.

June 16, 1939

Inter-Island Airways was awarded a CAB Certificate of Convenience and Necessity, in accordance with the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, to operate as a scheduled carrier between the existing terminals on its route.  The certificate was later amended to allow operation between the major airports on all of the islands for the purpose of carrying passengers, cargo and air mail.


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