During the early years of the air age, ushered in by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903, barnstorming was a highly popular activity. Pilots traveled about the countryside, appearing at county fairs, carnivals, and other events to give exhibitions of stunt flying and parachute jumping and to take up passengers in the novel and exciting airplane.
Charles J. Fern, Sr., from Madison Barracks, New York, a University of California graduate and a World War I pilot, arrived in the Islands in December of 1919. He and a partner, Ben Stoddard, barnstormed in Honolulu at Kapi‘olani Park, where they took up passengers for $10 for 10 minutes. Fern’s plane, a single-engine Jenny with a 20-gallon gas tank, had been brought to the Islands on a Matson freighter. Fern made the first round trip between O‘ahu and Maui in it and then flew to Kaua‘i, where he landed on May 8, 1920. On Kaua‘i, the daring young pilot again took up passengers for $10 each, flying out of Barking Sands beach and Kïlauea plantation.
Fern, Hawai‘i’s first commercial pilot, adopted Kaua‘i as his home. He worked briefly for McKee Sugar Co., then joined the Garden Island newspaper. Through his newspaper and radio station holdings, Fern promoted air travel as the wave of the future and urged Garden Islanders to support interisland flight and tourism. A prominent business and civic leader, Fern became known as “Mr. Kaua‘i”—his career stemming from his early barnstorming days.
By Helen G. Chapin