Alan R. Hawley

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Alan Ramsay Hawley
Sgt. Clarence Blair Coombs (1888-1944) and Alan Ramsay Hawley (1864-1938) in 1918.jpg
Sgt. Clarence Blair Coombs (1888-1944) and Hawley in 1918
Born(1864-07-29)July 29, 1864
Perth Amboy, New Jersey
DiedFebruary 16, 1938(1938-02-16) (aged 73)
Manhattan, New York City
EducationTrinity School
OccupationPresident of the Aero Club of America
Parent(s)Peter William Radcliffe Hawley (1829–1884)
Isabella Meritt (1838–1904)

Alan Ramsay Hawley (July 29, 1864 – February 16, 1938) was one of the early aviators in the United States. In 1910, he won the national race with his balloon America II along side his aide and life-long friend Augustus Post. Hawley was the first passenger to fly in an airplane from New York City to Washington, D.C., in May 1916. He was the president of the Aero Club of America from 1913 to 1918.[1]


He was born on 29 July 1869 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to Peter William Radcliffe Hawley (1829–1884) and Isabella Meritt (1838–1904). He attended the Trinity School in New York City before becoming a stockbroker with his brother, William Hawley, until he retired in 1912.[2]

Before becoming interested in aeronautics, Hawley was a pioneer in the automobile movement, at the time when the car was an exceptional thing. He was also a founding member of the Automobile Club of America.

He learned to pilot a balloon from 1905 to 1906. He held the Aero Club of America's pilot's certificate No. 7, issued in 1907.

On January 1, 1907, he ascended with Major James C. McCoy in a 35,000 cubic foot balloon Orient in St. Louis, Missouri.[3]

On April 22, 1907, he ascended over a mile in his balloon with Arthur T. Atherolt.[4]

He entered the 1910 Gordon Bennett International Balloon Race with Augustus Post and they left the grounds of the Aero Club of St. Louis at 5:45 p.m. on Monday, October 17, 1910, in their balloon America II. The balloon had been specially constructed in France for this race and was owned by Major James C. McCoy. During the flight they took watches of three hours each, "one sleeping and one watching the statiscopes, aneroid, and other instruments" (sic). A recording barograph (altimeter) kept a precise log of their altitude during the flight. They reached altitudes of 5,000 meters (16400 ft) above the altitude of St. Louis, their 0 altitude reference point. St. Louis is at 140 meters (465 ft) above sea level. 46 hours later, at 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday, 19 October they landed in the middle of the wilderness in Quebec, Canada, about 58 miles (93 km) north of Chicoutimi. They had been forced to land because of a storm. They were on a hillside at some 1,500 feet (460 m) altitude and had traveled 1887.6 kilometers (1,173 mi) from St. Louis. They had traveled at an average of 50 kilometres per hour (30 miles per hour). The next day they traveled south towards the last inhabited area they had passed over. Hawley was slowed by an ankle twisted just after landing. For the next three days they walked, sleeping under their blankets at night and eating a bare minimum of food. They eventually came upon a trapper's hut, at the edge of Lake St. John, which was not occupied at that moment. They rested there for a day, after which two French Canadian men out on a hunting trip arrived and agreed to help them. The trappers took them to Saint-Ambroise-de-Kildare, Quebec. Once there, they sent telegrams to family and the Aero Club to let them know they were alright. The message Hawley sent to his brother read: "Landed in wilderness week ago, fifty miles north of Chicoutimi. Both well —Alan." Their telegrams ended searches which had various parties had started, looking for them around the Great Lakes. Clifford B. Harman, a wealthy amateur aeronaut and aviator, had offered $1,000 to anyone who found Hawley and Post, dead or alive. On the evening before their telegrams were sent, Harmon had increased the reward to $7,000.[5]

Hawley was the first passenger to fly in an airplane from New York City to Washington, D.C., in May 1916. The flight was in a battle plane and delivered petitions to the United States Congress and Woodrow Wilson urging the training of 2,000 aviators. At that time the number of aviators was limited to sixty, by law, which was considered sufficient for the US Army. As a result, President Woodrow Wilson authorized the creation of the Aerial Reserve on July 13, 1916.

He died of coronary thrombosis on February 16, 1938, at age 73 at his home, 400 Park Avenue.[2]


In 1916 he flew to Washington, D.C., from New York City to demonstrate the feasibility of carrying mail by air. Earlier experiments in carrying mail by air had been done, but no regular air mail service existed in the U.S. yet. The trip took 187 minutes, and they flew at an average speed of 78 miles per hour. Alan Hawley was a passenger in the plane flown by Victor Carlstrom. They carried a heavy load of newspapers which represented the "mail". Two years later a regular mail service was established between New York and Washington, D.C., the first in the U.S. The first official mail flight left on May 15, 1918, from New York to Washington, D.C., with a stop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


  1. ^ "Alan Ramsay Hawley". Early Aviators. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  2. ^ a b "Alan R. Hawley, Balloonist, Dies. Missing a Week With Post on Record Flight for Bennett Air Trophy in 1910. Former Aero Club Head. Leader in Civil Aviation One of Founders of Automobile Club of America An Automobile Club Founder Set Mark of 1,173 Miles Leader in Civil Aviation". The New York Times. February 17, 1938. Retrieved 2012-09-17. Alan Ramsey Hawley, whose record balloon flight with Augustus Post in 1910 won them the James Gordon Bennett trophy and the acclaim of a nation which had given them up for lost, died of coronary thrombosis yesterday afternoon at his home, 400 Park Avenue, in his sixty-ninth year.
  3. ^ "New York Aeronauts Sail From St. Louis. Alan Hawley and J. C. McCoy Make Ascension Successfully. Land Sixty Miles Away. Aero Club Committee Inspects Suggested Sites for the Projected Contest Next October". The New York Times. January 2, 1907. Retrieved 2012-09-17. Prominent New York and St. Louis men interested in aeronautics witnessed the start of a successful ascent from Second and Rutgers Streets here this afternoon, when Alan R. Hawley and J. C. McCoy of the New York Aero Club filled the big 35,000 cubic foot balloon Orient, and sailed off toward the northwest. ...
  4. ^ "Fast 80-Mile Ride In A Big Balloon. Alan R. Hawley of the Aero Club Makes a Notable Ascent, Rising 1 2-3 Miles. Sunburned By The Trip. Aerial Car Reaches Speed of 30 Miles an Hour and Runs Alongside a Big Cloud. Landing in the Mud". The New York Times. April 23, 1907. Retrieved 2012-09-17. Alan R. Hawley who was selected ...
  5. ^ "Airmen Lost In Canadian Wilds. Alan R. Hawley and Augustus Post of the Balloon America II. Still Missing". The New York Times. October 23, 1910. Retrieved 2012-09-17. Practically every inhabited spot in Middle Canada from the islands of the Great Lakes to the Arctic Circle, however isolated, is, or within forty-eight hours will be, alert to ascertain the fate of the aeronauts who drifted away from St. Louis last Monday aboard the balloon America II. in the international race. ...

Further reading[edit]

  • Flying, volume VII, number 11. December 1918. Published by Flying Association, New York.
  • A Record Voyage in the Air by August Post. In Robert U. Johnson editor, The Century Magazine. Vol ??. Pages 451 to 470. Published by The Century Company, New York.
  • City Of Flight: The History of Aviation in St. Louis by James J. Horgan. The Patrice Press. ISBN 0-935284-35-4
  • Blue Ribbon Of The Air, The Gordon Bennett Races by Henry Serrano Villard. Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 0-87474-942-5

External links[edit]