Pictured: Pride of Detroit at Harbour Grace, August 26, 1927.
Photo courtesy of a recent donation to the Conception Bay Museum archives.
During the summer of 1927, Stinson Aircraft Corporation and Waco Oil were sponsoring an around-the-world flight. However, they had a minor problem: Newfoundland, an ideal waypoint between eastern North America and Europe, had no official airstrip.
Fred Koehler, a Stinson Aircraft representative, was promptly sent to Newfoundland, where he met John L. Oke, of Harbour Grace, on a train out of St. John’s. Oke suggested he knew just the spot: near Crow Hill, Harbour Grace, land where the grade and length perfectly suited an airstrip.
The townspeople considered the airstrip a worthwhile endeavour, a way to put Harbour Grace on the map during this frenetic era of transatlantic aviation. At public meeting at the Town Hall on July 25, a twenty-one-person committee was formed, the Harbour Grace Airport Trust Company.
Work began in earnest on August 8, 1927. With money and equipment from private investors and the Newfoundland government, local labourers clearcut an area measuring 4,000 feet in length by 300 feet in width. The work took finished on August 26, just in time for the arrival of the Pride of Detroit and pilot William S. Brock and Edward Schlee, president of Waco Oil. The two were attempting to break the record for the fastest round-the-world trip, set by Edward Evans and Linton Wells in 1926. Colonial Secretary Sir John R. Bennett welcomed the crew to Newfoundland. On arriving in town, Brock and Schlee praised the new airstrip as one of the finest they’d seen.
The pair spent the night at the Cochrane House, a popular overnight establishment for aviators in Harbour Grace. In the early morning, at 7:43 a.m., the Pride of Detroit left Harbour Grace and headed for Croyden, England, the first call for their proposed round-the-world flight.
Read more about the Pride of Detroit on our ‘Aviation in Harbour Grace’ blog.