Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Always in the air": Orakei's Falcon Airways

Image from Flight magazine, via Flight Global Archive.

A chance sighting in Elizabeth T. Jackson's history of Orakei, Delving into the Past of Auckland's Eastern Suburbs, Section 2, of a paragraph on Squadron Leader J. D. Hewitt who operated a commercial flying service called Falcon Airways caused me to try to find out more about him. Especially after Jackson wrote:

"Mr. Hewett who had been decorated for gallantry in the First World War is said to have known all the "tricks of the trade" and chose his elevated starting point so as to gain the advantage of uplifting air currents as he flew over the cliff tops. Often he arrived back over Auckland in the dark but this did not worry him; he simply shone a torch over the side to find the power lines near his aerodrome and landed without effort." (p. 43)
James Duff Hewett was born 18 January 1891 at Kihikihi in the Waikato region. He served in France during World War I with No. 4 and No. 23 squadrons, the latter squadron also that in which Sir Charles Kingsford Smith served. Hewett was decorated during the war with the Croix de Guerre with Palm. He joined the N.Z.A.F. in 1924, and in 1927 he bought one of the first Gypsy Moths seen in New Zealand. This appears to have been the craft he used for his Falcon Airways, up until 1934 when he entered the MacRobertson Air Race which took place in October that year, in celebration of Melbourne's centenary. He flew with Cyril Eaton Kay of Auckland (1902-1993) -- but the two men, in the DH 89 Dragon Rapide Tainui finished last.

Hewett died in late 1955, at his Northland home, aged 64.

According to Jackson, Hewett enjoyed plenty of patronage for his early air service from off the Orakei cliffs in the 1930s, "for his yellow moth is said to have been 'always in the air'."

1 comment:

  1. They had such an untouchable attitude, those early pilots, and they set such high benchmarks in daring and accuracy that for a long time afterward other pilots seemed somehow lacking.