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Stinson Flight to Bermuda, 1930
from The Flying Boats of Bermuda by Colin A. Pomeroy
Added April 17, 2001

Stinson SM-1FS "Pilot Radio", Hamilton Harbor, Bermuda, April 2, 1930

On a family vacation to Bermuda in April, 2001, I learned a new piece of Stinson history that I had not seen recorded elsewhere.  The first successful aircraft flight to Bermuda from the United States occurred in April, 1930.  The plane was a Stinson SM-1FS "Detroiter".

I came across this footnote to Stinson history while reading a new book, "The Flying Boats of Bermuda" by Colin Pomeroy, published in 2000. For anyone interested in the history of aviation in Bermuda, particularly in the history of marine aviation, this comprehensive history is recommended.  The book details the early years of marine aviation in Bermuda, the years of civil flights in large trans-oceanic flying boats, the military presence during World War II, and even the last recorded marine aviation activity in Bermuda - a Cessna 172 on floats that flew in from Connecticut in 1987.

Mr. Pomeroy, a retired Royal Air Force Squadron Leader and airline captain, describes the first unsuccessful attempt to fly from the US to Bermuda in 1928 and then goes on to detail the first successful flight in a Stinson Detroiter in the following excerpt from his book:

    "It was to be almost another two years before a successful flight between the mainland and Bermuda was finally achieved, this being when the Stinson monoplane Pilot Radio, sponsored by a US radio station, made the crossing. (Ironically, despite satisfactory communications with other ground stations, the aircraft - allocated the wireless call sign 2XBQ - never established airborne contact with its sponsor.)  Pilot Radio was a customized Stinson SM-1FS 'Detroiter' aircraft, fitted with a 300 hp Wright J6 engine and mounted on a pair of EDO floats.  It had a top speed of 118 mph (190 km/hr), a cruising speed of 100 mph (160 km/hr) and a standard cruising range of 550 miles (880 km) - which, even in its modified state, left little margin for error.

    The crew, Captain Lewis Yancey (first pilot and lead navigator), Lieutenant William alexander (co-pilot) and Lieutenant Zeh Bouck (radio operator) set off from New York at 9.39 am (EST) on the morning of Monday 1st April 1930, planning to reach their destination in just eight hours.  However, stronger than forecast headwinds were encountered and, running short of fuel and with darkness falling, the fragile craft alighted on the sea some 60 miles short of Bermuda at 5.59 pm, having first advised one of the land stations monitoring its progress of this course of action.  The sea was calm and the unscheduled landing was more of an inconvenience than an emergency; nevertheless, the St George wireless station stayed on watch throughout the hours of darkness in case its help was needed and the Canadian Steamship Company's Lady Somers turned back to the landing position to assist if required but, finding no help was needed, resumed her passage to Halifax soon afterwards.

    At 6.45 am (Bermuda time) the next morning, Pilot Radio once more took to the air - itself no mean achievement in the heavy swell which had come up overnight - and after only 35 minutes Bermuda was sighted on the horizon.  The aircraft's fuel situation was by now becoming critical, so they put the seaplane down once more - this time off North Rock, where some fuel was obtained from the Darrell brothers who were out fishing at the reef.  At 7.15 am the little monoplane touched down at Murray's Anchorage, where further fuel was brought out from St George to aviators by Messrs E Tucker and W Meyer and, finally, the fourth touchdown of the epic flight was made at 8:00 am in Hamilton Harbour, after which Pilot Radio was towed to a mooring - initially by the 6 metre yacht The Thalia, but later by a harbour launch.

    Yancey, Alexander and Bouck had intended to return to New York in the seaplane.  On the morning of Saturday 5th April Major Kitchener, in whose Hinson's Island hangar it had been stabled, accepted an invitation to fly in the aircraft with Richardson; unfortunately on the after-flight inspection of Pilot Radio some damage was discovered in one of the stays joining the floats to the main fuselage.  This problem, which could not be easily resolved in Bermuda, coupled with the shortage of fuel of a suitable octane for the engine, gave the crew little option but to abandon the return flight and dismantle Pilot Radio for a return passage to the United States on the next Furness Line cruise ship."

Special thanks to Mr. Colin Pomeroy for his informative and entertaining book and for the permission to excerpt this piece on the flight of the Pilot Radio. If you would like to order a copy of the book, you can do so by contacting:

                 1.  For US $ orders: Print Link Ltd, PO Box HM 937, Hamilton HMDX, Bermuda.
                 The cost is $27.50, plus $5 air-lifted mail - please make your check payable
                 to Print Link Ltd.

                 2.  For sterling orders: C A Pomeroy, Pallington Lakes, Pallington,
                 Dorchester, DT2 8QU, England.
                 The cost is £17.25, plus £5 for airmail or £2 for surface mail. Please make
                 your cheque payable to C A Pomeroy.


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