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End of an Era: The Dorothy (1936)

The Harbour Grace airstrip hosted its last transatlantic aviator on Wednesday, October 28, 1936.

James (Jim) Mollison, the pioneer Scottish pilot, came to Harbour Grace flying his orange-and-green Bellanca monoplane, the Dorothy. It was reportedly named after his new romantic interest, actress Dorothy Ward.

Mollison’s career as an aviator began in 1923, when he joined the British Royal Air Force. At eighteen, Mollison was the youngest officer in the service.

He later became a commercial pilot in Australia, where he met his future wife Amy Johnson, herself an equally accomplished aviator. The two were quickly married, with media dubbing them ‘The Flying Sweethearts.’

Already with several speed records to his name, Mollison now aimed to become the latest aviator to break the transatlantic speed record. Shortly before 5:00 p.m. on October 28, the Dorothy was sighted over the Harbour Grace airstrip.

However, his arrival proved difficult. The plane accidentally skimmed Crow Hill during its descent. Only the pilot’s skillful maneuvering on one wheel ensured a safe landing.

A black and white photo of Pilot James Mollison on top of his aircraft, the Dorothy, at airstrip.

James (Jim) Mollison at the Harbour Grace airstrip, 1936.

After studying the weather reports, Mollison decided to remain at Harbour Grace overnight. Arrangements were made to refuel the Dorothy and Mollison proceeded to the Cochrane House.

At 5:10 p.m. the following afternoon, Mollison took off for London. Despite fine weather at Harbour Grace, Mollison faced a storm over the Atlantic, causing the wings of his plane to freeze. Averaging 160 miles per hour, the aircraft landed at Croydon Airport at 6:27 a.m. NT on October 30.

With this flight, Mollison shattered all the eastward speed records, becoming the thirty-second person to fly across the Atlantic and the first to fly directly to London without a forced landing en route.

Black and white photograph of a small crowd gathered around the aircraft, the Dorothy, secured at airstrip.

The Dorothy at the Harbour Grace airstrip, 1936.

Despite this record-breaking feat, only a handful of spectators watched as the Dorothy touched down. This underwhelming response captured the contemporary mood.

Simply put, daredevil, transatlantic aviation was no longer considered impressive. The flight of the Dorothy marked the end of an era for the Harbour Grace airstrip. Mollison would be the last transatlantic aviator hosted at the site.

Yellowed, hand written page from airstrip logbook listing details from Dorothy flight.

Logbook entry from Dorothy flight, 1936.