‘Bud’ Mars brought the first airplane to Hawaiʻi and on December 31, 1910 staged an exhibition flight at Moanalua Park. Some 3,000 persons paid a dollar each to watch the flight which cost the promoter, EH Lewis, some $5,000. (Mitchell)
When Mars brought the biplane ‘Skylark’ to Honolulu and managed to get it into the air long enough to make several short exhibition flights from Moanalua Polo Field, the die was cast for Hawaii’s interest in and use of aircraft.
“Spectacular as these flights were, at the same time island men were going ahead in a quiet manner, laying the foundation for commercial aviation here.”
“The first airdrome (airport) was the Ward airport near the shore, not far from the steamship piers”. (1920s) (Noel; Flying Magazine, March 1930) It was just behind Kewalo Basin across Ala Moana on the Waikiki side of Ward Avenue. (Krauss)
“Announcing his desire to have permanent airplanes in our islands within sixty days of him stepping once again on Hawaii nei, EH Lewis landed in Honolulu nei on the morning of Friday of this past week with two pilots who will fly the two planes he purchased in America.”
“These men brought by Lewis are experts. The planes did not arrive with Lewis, but according to him, should there be no complications, the planes will arrive in Honolulu within 60 days.”
“The crafts can carry ten passengers at a time, and these will be the planes that fly regularly between Honolulu and Hilo and from Hilo back to Honolulu nei.” (Alakai o Hawai‘i, November 5, 1928)
“Ed Lewis, operating automobile tours on Oahu, early saw the possibilities of airplanes for sightseeing. For several years he operated ‘Lewis Air Tours’ with a number of small open cockpit planes flying from Ward airport on Ala Moana.” (Kennedy; Thrum, 1936)
“The company lasted only three years, but other tour services proved more successful. Interisland travel really picked up in the 1950s with the introduction of package tours, all-inclusive vacations that often included trips to Oahu’s neighbor islands.” (Smithsonian)
From this same airport two former army fliers named Anderson and Griffin started a flying school and a limited air service (Western Pacific Air Transport) between the islands.
Using two small craft, these pilots trained a number of fliers and at one time expanded their activities to the point where they carried newspapers from O‘ahu to Maui. After continuing their school for a year the pilots returned to the mainland and Ward airport was discontinued.
While these flights were taking place in the latter part of the 20s, the early part of the decade saw alert, progressive business men looking forward to the day when inter-island commercial flying would be feasible. Even at that time they recognized the coming need for island airports. (Kennedy; Thrum, 1936)
In 1929, Newton Campbell, 18, a student pilot at Ward Airport, received the first civilian private pilot license issued by the Department of Commerce in Hawai‘i.
However, some were concerned about the location of Ward Airport – repeated entries in minutes of meetings of the Territorial Aeronautical Commission complain of flights from there. Such as:
The “field so centrally located there would be considerable tourist trade … (However,) the type of flying done by Lewis Tours (mostly sightseeing flights) is very risky …”
“… not only because of the condition of the field but also because many more landings would be made daily than a transport plane operating for John Rogers Airport.” (Territorial Aeronautical Commission, February 18, 1929)
“(L)ast Sunday Mr Lewis’s plane was flying over the Aloha tower and the city at a very low altitude. Other complaints have also come to us about Mr Lewis’s activities. It was decided that a letter be addressed to Mr Lewis prohibiting the use of Ward Airport for any but emergency landings.” (Territorial Aeronautical Commission, April 29, 1930)
On July 1, 1929, a steamship line moved decisively to provide interisland flying. The Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company, Ltd., of Honolulu, announced possibilities of commercial flying between the major islands.
Two visiting airline representatives soon returned to the mainland and it looked like “competition” would be local, Ed Lewis and the steamship company.
Lewis gave way to his powerful competitor, saying, “There’s no room for two such companies.” Under the leadership of World War I Navy pilot, Stanley C Kennedy, president and manager of the steamship company, Inter-Island Airways, Ltd, was formed. (hawaii-gov)
Attention to aviation activity moved to John Rodgers Airport (dedicated March 21, 1927 and placed under the jurisdiction of the Territorial Aeronautical Commission – then, construction began.)
In 1929, a runway 250-300 feet wide and 2,050-feet long was completed as well as considerable clearing on the balance of the area.
Over the next few years, the facility faced various stages of expansion, on land and in the water – the layout included a combined airport and Seadrome, with seaplane runways in Keʻehi Lagoon adjacent to John Rodgers Airport.