Barbados has a long history in aviation which dates back to March 1913 when Otto Schmidt gave Barbadians their very first experience. Schmidt’s plane was not flown into Barbados, but rather had been shipped to the island by the steamer S.S. Ocamo from Demerara and assembled in country. Otto brought his aircraft to Barbados in a box, he assembled the aircraft on the greens of the Garrison, then he took off in a French designed aircraft from the Garrison Savannah. Hence; Schmidt Gate at lower end of Dayrells road to the Garrison. When he had finished his demonstrations he packed his aircraft into the box and they both shipped out.

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British aviator Bill Lancaster (1898 - 1933, left) and Australian aviator Jessie 'Chubbie' Miller (1902 - 1972) standing in front of their two-seater Avro Avian, 'Red Rose'
British aviator Bill Lancaster (1898 – 1933, left) and Australian aviator Jessie ‘Chubbie’ Miller (1902 – 1972) standing in front of their two-seater Avro Avian, named ‘Red Rose’

Second Flight in Barbados

Barbados’ second encounter with aircraft and aviation came on Good Friday, March 30, 1929 when Captain William Newton Lancaster landed his British Avro-Avian “Red Rose,” airplane at the Rockley Golf course in Christ Church. Lancaster had flown from Guadeloupe to Barbados, which was part of a 10,000 mile route from New York to South America and then back to New York via Mexico. Lancaster’s journey was a test of endurance for the “cirrus” engine with which the plane was outfitted. Lancaster also wanted to win the gold medal in the Central Union Trust Corporation of America sponsored competition for the first airplane to complete the journey.

Micheal Cipriani

Trinidadian Michael Cipriani was the first to pilot who, in the early 1930s had become the first West Indian to use a privately-owned airplane for inter-colonial flight. In 1932, Cipriani advised the local Government of Trinidad that he would be traveling to Barbados from Trinidad for a week-end visit by way of Grenada and St. Vincent. Cipriani’s de Havilland Moth airplane, which was called “Humming Bird”, arrived in the island of St. Vincent on Friday, 29th July and continued to Barbados on Saturday, July 30th. Shortly after 9:30 a.m. the plane landed on an 80-yard strip which had been prepared by ex-RAF pilot Kirkpatrick Pile with the assistance of J. A. Skinner and Sidney Weatherhead at the Rockley Golf Course, Christ Church.

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de Havilland Moth
de Havilland Moth

On the following Sunday, co-pilot, J.R. Lickfold, gave a display of aerial acrobatics to a large crowd that had gathered at the Rockley Golf Course; performing several barrel rolls, a loop-the-loop and diving at the crowd, causing them to scatter. According to one bystander “if some of the people could have found crab holes, they would have crawled into them.”

Due to threatening weather conditions, the “Humming Bird” left Barbados at 1:45 p.m. on its return trip to Trinidad, arriving at 4:30 p.m. The return flight was solely piloted by Licfold, as Cipriani decided to spend a few more days in Barbados before returning to Trinidad by steamer. This event and the growing popularity of flying underlined the need for an airport and Seawell Plantation was bought for this purpose.

 

Darrell Lou-Hing is a retired pilot and avid aviation history buff
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