Think fast. Where did the first Trans-Atlantic commercial flight take off? Where did the first US Trans-Atlantic Air Mail flight take off? What town was once known as "The Plymouth Rock" of American aviation? If you answered Port Washington and Manhasset Bay to all of these questions then you are right!
Grumman G-21 amphibian taking off from Manhasset Bay, 1937. Photo courtesy of the Port Washington Public Library.
To celebrate, commemorate and educate residents about our rich aviation history, the HarborFest Committee of the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce will present an "Aviation History of Manhasset Bay" photo exhibit in the Pride of Cow Bay Nautical Museum at the town dock. The exhibit is based on the Flight of Memory exhibit, book and CD-ROM compiled by curator Elly Shodell, oral history director of the Port Washington Public Library. "Aviation History of Manhasset Bay" will be unveiled on May 18 during the 12th annual HarborFest Dock Day and Craft Festival. It will present a pictorial history of Port's aviation history that spanned much of the 20th century. The sponsors of this exhibit are Fleet Bank, Foto-60 and KeySpan Energy.
Manhasset Bay's expansive size and deep yet sheltered waters, combined with Port's relatively flat landscape and close proximity to Manhattan, offered the ideal situation for seaplane operations, or "flying boats" as they were called at the beginning of the 20th century.
During the first half of the last century, Port was also the location for many airplane manufacturing plants that included such well-known aeronautical companies as Pan Am and Grumman.
Commercial traffic eventually evolved into more modern and smaller seaplane operations that shuttled commuters to and from Manhattan and offered charters and sightseeing tours. Due to reduced demand and rising fuel prices, active seaplane operations ceased in the early 1990s.
Special thanks go to Elly Shoddell and Linda Fischer, consulting archivist at the library for their invaluable assistance in making this exhibit possible.
Be sure to visit the exhibit while at HarborFest or afterwards. The exhibit will be on display until next year's HarborFest celebration. The Flight of Memory book and CD-ROM can be purchased at the library for $14.95 and $20 respectively.