The first successful aircraft flight to Bermuda from the United States occurred in April, 1930. The plane was a Stinson SM-1FS “Detroiter.”
According to “The Flying Boats of Bermuda” by Colin Pomeroy, published in 2000, there was an unsuccessful attempt to fly from the U.S. to Bermuda in 1928, and “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’ mounted on a pair of EDO floats. Power was from a 300 h.p. Wright J6 engine. It had a top speed of 118 mph, a cruising speed of 100 mph and a standard cruising range of 550 miles which, even in its modified state, left very little margin for error.
The crew, pilot Lewis Yancey, co-pilot William Alexander and radio operator Zeh Bouck set off from New York at 9.39 a.m. on the morning of April 1, 1930, planning to reach Bermuda in eight hours. Stronger than forecast headwinds were encountered. Running short of fuel and with darkness falling, the “fragile craft” landed at sea some 60 miles short of Bermuda at 5.59 p.m., having radioed that intent to Bermuda. The sea was calm and the landing more of an inconvenience than an emergency. Even so, the radio station at St. George stayed on watch through the night and the Canadian Steamship Company’s Lady Somers turned back from her course toward Halifax to assist if required but, finding no help was needed, resumed her passage.
At 6.45 a.m. Bermuda time, the next morning, Pilot Radio once more took off in a heavy swell and, after 35 minutes, Bermuda was sighted. The fuel situation was becoming critical, so they put down again, this time off North Rock, where some fuel was obtained from the Darrell brothers who were out fishing at the reef. At 7.15 Pilot Radio finally touched down at Murray’s Anchorage, where further fuel was brought out from St George. Finally, the fourth touchdown of the epic flight was made at 8 a.m. in Hamilton Harbour, after which Pilot Radio was towed to a mooring, initially by the sailing yacht Thalia, but later by a launch.
Yancey, Alexander and Bouck had intended to fly back to New York in the seaplane. However, on the morning of April 5, an inspection revealed damage to one of the float struts. The problem could not be resolved in Bermuda, so the return flight idea was abandoned and Pilot Radio dismantled for a return to the United States on the next Furness Line cruise ship.
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