HISTORIC FIRST FLIGHT PUTS CRANBROOK ON MAPS
The whole town turned out to watch Capt. Ernie Hoy land his “Jenny” on the old Cranbrook golf course the afternoon of August 7, 1919.
And Cranbrook’s name will always hold its place in the annals of aviation history because of that 90 minute refueling stop made during the first flight through the treacherous towering Rocky Mountains.
Sponsored by the Vancouver Daily World, Lethbridge Herald, Calgary Herald and Golden, B.C., Hoy’s first attempt to take his 90 h.p. Curtiss JN4 through the mountains from Vancouver ended in failure when he was turned back by fog on August 4, 1919.
The second departure was made three days later at 4:13 a.m. and about three hours later Hoy landed in Vernon to (p16) make his first re-fuelling stop. The “Jenny” had a range of four hours with her 40 gallon fuel supply.
Three hours from Vernon Hoy made another stop for gas at Grand Forks and from there landed in Cranbrook, near the site of the Bluebird Inn at 2:05 in the afternoon.
More than 3,000 people greeted the first world war veteran as he stepped from his plane – after regaling the crowd with aerobatic stunts.
Hoy presented Mayor Cameron with the first air mail letter received in Cranbrook.
The Cranbrook Herald of August 7, 1919 made this comment about future air mail service in Canada: “It is pleasing to notice that Cranbrook is alive to the potentialities of the air service and is willing to do all it can to promote this new transportation method. A mail route by aeroplane will undoubtedly be established between Victoria, Vancouver and Calgary and finally a transcontinental service will be established with Cranbrook on the main line.”
Hoy left Cranbrook at 3:35 but not before the golf club had treated him to lunch.
In an interview with the Herald, Hoy said the reception for him in Cranbrook was “in point of numbers and enthusiasm the best accorded him thus far on his trip. Cranbrook had a perfect landing place, he had seen nothing to equal it since he left Miniu Park, Vancouver.”
On the way to his next stop Capt. Hoy flew over Wycliffe, Kimberley and Fort Steele treating the residents there to what may have been their first glimpse of an airplane.
While flying through the Rockies in Lethbridge the inimitable captain cleared the bush in Crawford Pass by 150 feet, the “Jenny” was unable to reach an altitude above the mountains.
Hoy landed in Bowness park in Calgary by the headlights of hundreds of cars and gasoline flares provided by the 5,000 Calgarians who turned out for the occasion.
The entire flight from Vancouver to Calgary took 16 hours and 42 minutes, 12 hours and 34 minutes of which was actual flying time.
On his return trip August 11, Hoy met with misfortune in Golden.
While taking off from a small field near the town, Hoy crashed after swerving to avoid two small boys who had suddenly darted in front of the moving plane.
The plane was destroyed but Hoy emerged from the pile of splinters without a scratch.
The remains of the trusty “Jenny” were shipped to Vancouver while Hoy returned by train with the mail he had hoped to deliver in Vancouver by air.