The Deadly Air Race

Aviation in the 1920s could be a lethal business, as proven on 16th August 1927, when only 2 of the 15 planes that entered The Dole Derby - a $35,000 contest to fly from California to Hawaii - successfully reached their destination. 

The brainchild of pineapple magnate James D. Dole, the competition inspired the public imagination - and a crowd of 100,000 people - but claimed the lives of TEN participants.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the inefficient and dangerous aeronautics of the time; explain how winning team Woolaroc were able to distinguish themselves ahead of the pack; and reveal how the modern-day Dole company have distanced themselves from such provocative promotions… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Fifteen Planes Enter, Two Planes Leave - The Deadly Dole Air Race’ (Atlas Obscura, 2011):

• ‘Dole Air Race: The Daring and Pioneering Conquest Across the Pacific’ (STSTW, 2018):

• ‘Army Officers Hop Off For Hawaii’ (1927):

Image courtesy of San Diego Air & Space Museum

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The Retrospectors are Olly Mann, Rebecca Messina & Arion McNicoll, with Matt Hill.

Theme Music: Pass The Peas. Announcer: Bob Ravelli. Graphic Design: Terry Saunders. Edit Producer: Sophie King.

Copyright: Rethink Audio / Olly Mann 2022.

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