1924 Seaplane

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 18:08

Stamped on back: Photo by Ming Yuen Hongkong

Handwritten note on back:

The A.P.C. Launch "Gretchen" towing Zanni's machine (Fokker with Napier "Lion" 450 h.p.) to the mooring buoy.

Hongkong 22/9/24

Gwulo photo ID: EN041

Date picture taken
22 Sep 1924



Going North Regardless of Conditions

After once disappointing Hong Kong, Major Pedro L. Zanni descended from out of the clouds yesterday afternoon after circling the city flew straight for his landing place and made a delightful descent on the stretch of water between Stonecutter and Laichikok. His is probably continuing his flight today to Foochow and will then make for Shanghai.

First advices stated that the airmen would arriving about 1 p.m., but a cable received here at mid-day stated his probable time of arrival would be 3 p.m.. Actually, he was only a few minutes behind that time. Several launches were out at Laichikok awaiting him and at precisely 3.15 p.m. a mere speck in the sky was seen, by the more keen sighted, between Green Island and Lantau.

First Sight

Soon the speck became distinguishable as a machine, and the watchers saw it make for Victoria. In the haze the seaplane then disappeared against the dark background of the Peak, but in five minutes it appeared again coming from the direction of Yaumati. It was evident that Major Zanni had an excellent idea of his whereabouts, for he flew straight to Laichikok Bay, passed it, turned approximately over Gin Drinker’s Bay and landed up-wind at exactly 3.25 p.m.

After the machine came to rest the steam launch Gretchen went alongside and a rope was thrown to the mechanic and the seaplane was towed about half a mile into the bay and tied up to a buoy, one of those used by both the American and British fliers.

Travelling Light

It was somewhat amusing to see the aviators disembark. No one travels “lighter” than a world flier and the Major’s luggage was contained in a modest weekend case while engineer Felipe Beltrame carried all his requirements in his hand! A dinghy took them off and brought them to the Gretchen where they were heartily congratulated on reaching Hong Kong safely. Major Zanni smilingly received all the kind words showered upon him, meantime enjoying a cigarette. He underwent the usual rapid fire of camera shutters and gave an interview to the pressmen assembled on the launch. He speaks no English, but through the good offices of the Peruvian and Mexican Consuls, acting as interpreters, he kindly described his trip from Hanoi, a distance of over 600 miles.

He took off from Hanoi at 8.40 p.m., as his new machine was behaving very well. The journey he described as very pleasant with visibility good. Approaching Hong Kong he found the wind was strong and the visibility not quite so good. The altitude maintained for the whole journey was between 500 and 1,000 metres.

Difficulty in Seeing Hong Kong

On account of the surrounding hills, he stated, Hong Kong was not visible until he was passing over Lantau. His only trouble he remarked was finding his landing place. He flew over the city and then, guided by charts which had been sent to him at Hanoi from Hong Kong, made straight for Laichikok. Asked about his future plans, Major Zanni stated he hoped to leave for Foochow today, possibly not till the afternoon as the machine would require an overhaul and tanks refilling.

Zanni smiled when he was questioned as to how the trouble in North China would affect his flight. It depends he said on what he heard from the Argentine Consul-General in Shanghai. “But until the Chinese Government prevent me from continuing my flight I shall proceed regardless.” He added that he might possibly touch down at Peking on his journey and smilingly refused to make any comment on the possibilities of successfully completing his project.

Major Zanni is evidently pleased with his new machine and remarked on its satisfactory flight from Hanoi, its first trip in the hands of the world flier. It is a Fokker biplane fitted with floats with a Napier engine of 450 h.p. The Major is by no means a young man; of medium height and spare he looked exceptionally fit. His greying hair shows him to be not on the sunny side of forty. He has a ready tongue and an equally ready smile. His companion on the great adventure is the chief mechanic of the aviation section of Argentine’s military establishment.

Thanks for the help with the location, and the extra information about the flyer. I see I'd mis-read his name - corrected now.

IDJ has previously told us about the Portuguese flyers who arrived to a great welcome in June 1924, just a few months before Mr Zanni.

How much longer were these arrivals considered big news events? I guess that within a few years the arrival of planes from overseas would become routine.

1924 was a significant year for “World Flyer” arrivals in Hong Kong.

US ARMY World fliers (American) Round the World-first successful attempt

McLaren & Plenderleith (British) Round the World attempt - unsuccessful-flight terminated in Aleutian Islands

de Beires & Paes (Portuguese) from Lisbon to Macau-flight terminated on HK-China border

Zanni (Argentine) Round the World attempt-unsuccessful but reached Japan

However, the colony was not their target destination, all were just passing through. All the 1924 arrivals except the Portuguese were flying aircraft capable of landing on water and used the sheltered waters between Stonecutters island and Laichikok.

The Portuguese had crashed near the HK-China border and arrived in Kowloon unexpectantly by train.

In fact, there were no defined flying fields in Hong Kong until 1924 when Harry Abbott started using what he called ‘Kowloon City Field’ for his aviation activities, later to become the site of ‘RAF Base Kai Tack’.

Newsworthy long-distance and record-breaking attempt flyers arrivals and departures continued until 1938, some achieving multiple full-page spreads describing their flight’s progress and adventures in detail with pictures.

Unfortunately, relatively few photographs other than poor microfilmed newsprint images have survived of these flyers actually in Hong Kong which makes David’s Zanni aircraft picture so rare. Images of the 1924 US Army fliers and the McLaren aircraft are on this site courtesy of Henry Ching

Thanks for the extra detail - surprising to see how long they were still newsworthy events. We take it all for granted now.

Here's the photo of the McLaren aircraft:

1924 British attempt to fly around the world
1924 British attempt to fly around the world, by Admin


And the American pilot: 

1924 American Round-the-world flyer arrives in HK
1924 American Round-the-world flyer arrives in HK, by Admin