Ernest L Smith dreamt of becoming the ‘Lindbergh of the Pacific.’ But after the Army’s Maitland and Hegenberger reached Hawai‘i before him, he settled on becoming the first civilian to do so; Emory Bronte was his navigator. “The crowd of 10,000 that had assembled (and) watched intently ….” They took off from Oakland, California, in a single-engine Travelair on July 14, 1927. Aside from radio earphone problems, their 25-hour trip went well ….”
Then, came the sounds of their only engine sputtering and coughing; they were running out of fuel and calculated that only 1-hour’s fuel remained, but 4-hours of flying time to O‘ahu. They redirected to Molokai’s southern coast, headed for the softest looking clump of trees he could find and crashed in some kiawe. Pilot and navigator were shaken but unhurt except for scratches from the tree thorns. It was 8:47 am, HST, July 15, 1927. There was no prize money to be collected, the plane was unusable.