The first crossing of the Pacific by air was accomplished in 1928 by Australian pilot Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, copilot Charles Ulm, navigator Harry Lyon and radio operator James Warner flying the Fokker trimotor monoplane “Southern Cross.”
Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith (1897–1935) also made the first nonstop flight across Australia, the first eastward crossing from Australia to the United States, the first flights between New Zealand and Australia, and set a record of 10.5 days on a flight from Australia to London.
His historic flight across the Pacific in 1928, which traversed 7,389 miles in 83 hours and 21 minutes, was flown in four stages: Oakland to O‘ahu, O‘ahu to Kaua‘i, Kaua‘i to Fiji, which was at 3,180 miles the longest flight over open water up to that time, and Fiji to Brisbane, Australia.
The great significance of Smith’s flight was that it proved that great distances could be flown safely over water in dependable aircraft.
As a result, trans-Pacific commercial flight became possible, and Hawai‘i became acknowledged as a mid-Pacific springboard to other lands.
Kaua‘i was essential to the flight’s success, since it possessed Barking Sands airfield, the only airstrip in Hawai‘i long enough for the “Southern Cross” to take off with the heavy, 1,300-gallon-fuel load it needed to fly nonstop to Fiji.
The condition of Barking Sands’ 6,000-foot runway at that time was fairly good — solid ground covered with sand and Bermuda grass, but with a few holes, so Kekaha Sugar Co. Manager Lindsay Faye provided plantation equipment to fill the holes with sand and stones and grade the airfield, and plantation workers volunteered for the work.
On June 2, 1928, the “Southern Cross” flew from Wheeler Field, O‘ahu to Barking Sands, landing at 5:57 p.m. to refuel, tune-up and continue on to Fiji the next morning.
Fuel and oil had previously been shipped to Barking Sands in 50-gallon drums.
On June 3, flags were staked out along the runway at 100-yard intervals, and at 5:20 a.m. the “Southern Cross” took off for Fiji, while 2,000 people from all over Kaua‘i watched.