A fascination with aeroplanes was prevalent after World War I.
A century ago, in 1920, the Walsh brothers, founders of the New Zealand Flying School, began an aerial tour flying their de Havilland D H 6 and Avro 504k F9743 aeroplanes around the North Island. Joy rides would be a feature of the tour, including Hastings and Napier.
On June 19, pilot George Bolt and a passenger attempted to fly in the D H 6 from Gisborne to Hastings, carrying the Napier mail – which would be the first mail to be delivered into Hawke's Bay by aeroplane.
Bolt, however, was forced to land at Waikari in a large paddock after the rocker arm of the magneto – a generator of high voltage that provides ignition to the engine through sparkplugs - had become stuck.
After repairs, the plane took to the sky the next day from Waikari at 9am, circling for 15 minutes before heading for Hastings.
An expectant crowd had gathered at Tomoana (present A&P showgrounds area). It was a hushed crowd, straining to hear the approach of the aeroplane, and at 10.15am a loud voiced cried out "there she is". At between 3000 and 4000 feet (914-1219m), in a cloudless sky, "the craft was seen riding as a rook and as graceful and as confidently as a sailing gull".
The average speed was 60-65mph (96-105km/h) hour for the 90-horsepower 8-cylinder RAF engine. The tank carried 30 gallons (113 litres) of benzine.
Leo Walsh of the New Zealand Flying School started a small fire to guide the plane down, which descended until "touching the ground as lightly as a bowl delivered on a green".
The awaiting crowd gave out a loud cheer and then took turns at shaking the hands of passenger and pilot.
The passenger, EM Hutchinson, was bombarded with questions. He remarked it was really cold up there even with two overcoats on and didn't feel sick by the swaying sensation. An air pocket had caused the aeroplane to rapidly drop 1000 feet but he didn't know about this until the pilot told him afterwards. He could not communicate to the pilot because of the noise of the engine and "felt quite deaf after his experience".
He then went off to wire his wife to say he made it safely to his destination.
After the mail had been handed over for delivery to Napier, a homing pigeon lent by Mr R C Sachs of Gisborne was released to carry a message to Gisborne announcing the safe arrival.
While the plane arrived safely, it appears the pigeon did not make it back home. Another pigeon was earlier released over Wairoa while in flight. It is thought this was the first time a pigeon had been used in connection with an aeroplane in flight. Pigeons were used by aviators in case of a mishap or accident in a far-flung place to send a message for help.
In the afternoon, the crowd had grown to more than 1000 people, and George Bolt charged people for joy rides - circling around Hastings, Havelock North and towards Napier.
A farm in Longlands became the base for more joy rides in the coming days, which were piloted by Captain (Richard) Dick Russell. The cost of a flight was five guineas – which is around $440 today.
In October that year, 26-year-old Captain Dick Russell flew the Walsh Brothers' 100-horsepower Avro aeroplane direct from Napier to Masterton in pouring rain, in high wind over the Wairarapa. The photo shown is likely this event taken as it was taken in Napier in 1920 by Selby D'Ath, a pupil at Napier Boys' High School.
Russell left Napier at 10.40am, arriving at Hastings 10.45 am, Waipawa at 11am, Dannevirke at 11.33am, Pahiatua at 11.37am and Masterton at 12 noon.
On November 11, Armistice Day, in New Plymouth, Russell set off for a flight in the Avro with passengers 42-year-old New Plymouth mayor James Clarke and 26-year-old chemist Kathleen Warnock.
While descending towards the racecourse the engine lost power, stalling at 200 feet (61m) and a gust of wind then put the aeroplane into a spin before crashing into a paddock short of the racecourse. All were killed.
New Plymouth went into mourning, with the town cancelling events.
Clarke was set to resign the mayoralty that night to concentrate on his business. He left a widow and two young children.
Warnock had just qualified as a chemist and was employed by a pharmacy.
Russell was the holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross for service during World War I in Europe in the bombing squadron. He joined the Walsh Brothers' flying school in August 1919.
Hastings mayor, George Ebbett, sent a letter of condolence to the widow of James Clarke and the town clerk of New Plymouth.
In October I will feature the first landing commercial strip and attempt at a commercial airline in Hawke's Bay, based in Hastings, complete with an extremely rare photograph.
• Michael Fowler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a contract researcher, and writer of Hawke's Bay history