Port Washington Aviation History


Pan American's Sikorsky S-42B in Water, 1937

arch066The “Bermuda Clipper” had the Pan American number NC16735.

Pan American Document Describing Port Washington Airport, 1937


PORT WASHINGTON, U.S.A.                   PAA AIRPORT NO. B-335-4

REMARKS: Station operated by Pan American Airways – At present used as port of entry for U.S.A.-Bermuda services by Pan American Airways & Imperial Airways –

Image from the Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records, Archives and Special Collections Department at the University of Miami.

The Cavalier Flying Boat, c. 1930s

arch074This flying boat, manufactured by the Short Brothers and called the Cavalier (each individual plane was given a name that started with “C”) carried passengers between Long Island and Bermuda in the late 1930s until it was lost January 21, 1939 en route to Bermuda.  There were 10 survivors and 3 fatalities.

Photo from the collection of Willard Baker.

Imperial Airways' Cavalier, 1930s

arch073The Cavalier flying boat made journeys from London to New York to Bermuda from 1937 until 1939, when it made a tragic crash landing in the open sea.  Read an account of the accident here, from the February 6, 1939 issue of Time Magazine.

Plaque at Town Dock Commemorating 1st Commercial Flights Across Atlantic, July 9, 1939


To commemorate the achievement of the first commercial survey flights made across the North Atlantic jointly by Pan American Airways and Imperial Airways*

*Forerunner of British Overseas Airways Corporation

Piloted by Captain Harold E. Gray, the Pan American Sikorsky S-42B Clipper flying boat departed from Port Washington and arrived at Foynes, Ireland, July 9, 1937.

Piloted by Captain Arthur S. Wilcockson, the Imperial Airways Short ‘G’ Class flying boat “Caledonia” arrived at Port Washington on this date from Foynes.

Thus was pioneered the beginning of a new era in communications between the peoples of the world.

Erected by the Wings Club, 1969.

Photo courtesy of Will Wright.

William B. Atwater, c. 1930

fom182William B. Atwater, early Port Washington aviator, entered races, flew to Bermuda, and set speed records.

He also had a bit of legal trouble, according to this New York Times article from August 28, 1915:


Under a decision handed down yesterday by Judge Julius M. Mayer in the United States District Court, William B. Atwater of Central Valley, N. Y., the aviator husband of Lillian Platt Atwater, widow of Senator Thomas C. Platt, must either turn over $5,000 to Jacob A. Decker, his trustee in bankruptcy, by Sept. 1, or be committed to Ludlow Street Jail.

Atwater was adjudged guilty of contempt of court by Federal Judge Charles M. Hough last November for failing to comply with a ruling of Referee in Bankruptcy Walter C. Anthony of Newburg, requiring him to pay the $5,000.

Atwater’s defense is that he is practically penniless and cannot comply with the court’s ruling.  When examined before United States Commissioner Tallman he produced $4 and said that his wife had given it to him.  His only bank account, he said, is 59 cents, and his interest in his grandfather’s estate, which is small and depends upon his outliving his mother.  Atwater told Commissioner Tallman that aviation is his only means of earning a living, and that because his wife objects to it he has been doing nothing but looking after her estate, receiving only spending money from her for these services.  Judge Mayer in his opinion characterized Atwater’s testimony as “indefinite, unsatisfactory, and not worthy of belief.”

In 1912 Atwater made a trip around the world, accompanied by his wife, and made from 200 to 250 flights.  He received for these exhibitions, according t0 the referee’s report, between $60,000 and $100,000, which he asserts he turned over to his wife.

View of Hangars on Manhasset Isle, 1938

fom195View of Manhasset Bay, in front of Pan American hangar on Manhasset Isle.  Notice the flying boat that just landed!

The hangar floors were absolutely without a grease spot on them anywhere, the docks and floats were freshly painted, and a big signal mast with the national colors flying.  It was quite a handsome base altogether.

– William Masland

Munch & Romeo Flying Service Rates, 1937

COA999$60 for one lesson in 1937 — WOW!  That’s nearly $900 in 2009 dollars.  (Source)

'The Aviators March' By John Philip Sousa

Sousa_AviatorsLocal resident John Philip Sousa, the “march king,” composed “The Aviators March” in 1932 to celebrate the local citizen’s role in an exciting new era of technology and hope fo the future.

The sheet music was published by the Theodore Presser Company.

Learn more about aeronautical sheet music at http://www.sil.si.edu/ondisplay/Music/intro.htm, a digital exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution’s Bella C. Landauer Collection.

Eddie Harrington & Friends at Jamaica Sea Airport, 1930

EH1930(l. to r.) Al Meadows, John Martin, Bob Leib, Edward Harrington in front of American Eagle with OX-5 engine.

Photo from the collection of Edward Harrington.

Ward Davidson, Jr. With His Family, December 1931

fom188Ward Davidson, Jr. (right) was one of Port Washington’s youngest aviation enthusiasts at the time.  By the 1930s, entire families had become “airminded.”

John T. McCoy Painting of 1939 Dixie Clipper

McCoy_DixieClipperCaption reads: “Dixie Clipper completes first transatlantic passenger flight / New York to Lisbon, Portugal, June 29, 1939 / Boeing B-314”.

This flight had left from Port Washington the day before, captained by R. O. D. Sullivan, with 22 passengers on board.

From Pan American’s “Historic First Flights of Pan American Clippers” series.

Passengers Board a Sikorsky S-42B, June 12, 1937

arch67Photo from the estate of Willard Baker.

TWA Ford Tri-Motor

arch583Photo from the estate of James Wilkie.

Port Resident, Capt. Eddie Harrington, c. 1930


Bermuda Air Cruises Brochure, 1938 [Front Cover]


Bermuda Air Cruises Brochure, 1938 [Inside]

bermuda_inside<<Click on image to enlarge>>

Left: “CRUISE RATES INCLUDE not only transportation from Port Washington to Hamilton and return but also, for the cruise period, a single room with bath for one or a double room with bath for two, and meals, at your choice of leading Bermuda hotels.  Accomodations superior to those provided by the cruise rate may be had on payment of corresponding supplement.  Transfers between New York and Port Washington, between Hamilton and the hotel, and other incidental expenses not included. . . . CRUISE ITINERARIES, DATES AND FARES provide for accomodations only for the time stated and are”

Continues on Right: “subject to alteration and additional charges for any detention found necessary to the proper carrying out of arrangements or for any other cause.  All arrangements for hotel accomodations, ground transport or conveyance are made by the Carriers only as agents and only upon the condition that neither of suchcarriers shall be liable for any injury, damage, loss, delay or irregularity occasioned either by reason of any defect in any vehicle, or through the act or default of any other party engaged in carrying out the arrangements of the Cruise or otherwise in connection therewith, or of any hotel proprietor or servant.”

Bermuda Air Cruises Brochure, 1938 [Inside Flap]

bermuda_flap“The NEW Travel Hit!”

“NOT JUST A CRUISE, not just the treasure isles of Bermuda, not alone the fact that you travel there by air (in 5 hours from New York) but all three put together . . . AIR CRUISES to BERMUDA.  Where could be found a more perfect combination, a more perfect vacation?

“A typical itinerary takes you out of New York (Port Washington) aboard America’s giant ocean-going flying boat, the U. S. A. Bermuda Clipper or Great Britain’s ocean airliner, the R. M. A. Cavalier.  Reclining in the easy comfort of your sky-chair first come colorful aerial vistas of continental coastline, ocean and fairy castles in the clouds; next that famous ‘300 mile luncheon’; and in a few minutes less than 5 hours aloft you are in old-world Bermuda.

“Simultaneously gayest and most simple, quaintest and most comfortable, Bermuda is they playground of the north Atlantic.  Waft by the ocean’s cool breezes in summer, by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream in winter, the islands abound in opportunities for sport, for gaiety and for relaxation.

“There is so much time to spend . . . because so much time has been saved in transit!  Almost all is yours to be passed on the glistening beaches, at golf, sailing, fishing, or in leisurely trips over the Islands.  And whenever you plan to return you are whisked back to New York within another five hours.

“Cruises from 7 to 16 days, cruises within 2 thrilling flights and more than 94 per cent of your time to spend in Bermuda.  And all for little more than it costs to live at home.  Where else an equal travel treat?  Where else a more delightful vacation?  Glance at the itineraries outlined within, choose your cruise, then call your travel agent for details and your ticket.”

Bermuda Air Cruises Brochure, 1938 [Back Cover]

bermuda_backTop plane: Pan American Airways’ U.S.A. Bermuda Clipper
Bottom plane: Imperial Airways’ R.M.A. Cavalier