Shortly after the First World War, the U.S. Navy announced that it would establish a record for the most people ever to fly on an aircraft. Fifty men climbed aboard a tri-motor NC-1 on Nov. 27, 1918 at Rockaway, New York. The aircraft took off and landed successfully. Newsmen had counted the 50 getting onboard and took photographs as they were getting off.
They discovered to their astonishment that there were 51 men photographed getting off. An investigation revealed that machinist's mate Second Class, Harry D. Moulton, disappointed at not being picked for the flight, had sneaked aboard an hour early and hid among the gasoline tanks. Moulton won the distinction of being the first stowaway in aviation history.
The first east-to-west flight across the Atlantic was made by the British dirigible R-34 under the command of Major George Herbert Scott - the man whom Scott Place in Gander is named after. It departed East Fortune, Scotland, July 2, 1919, and arrived in New York on July 6. The weight was so critical that crew member William Ballantyne was told he couldn't be part of this historic flight.
Mr. Ballantyne was bitterly disappointed and decided to go along anyway. He hid high in the girders between two gasbags. That was fine until the gas escaping from the automatic pressure valves made him so sick that he had to scramble down and find another hiding place. This time he hid in the keel, but was soon discovered. When he was discovered there was nothing to do but to throw him in the Atlantic or put him to work. He pumped gas for the remainder of the flight.
The German Do-X made its maiden flight on 25 July 1929. Then the record-breaking flying boat took off on Oct. 21, 1929 with 169 people on board and flew for one hour. The 169 people consisted of 10 crew members and 159 passengers, nine of whom were stowaways.
During the Ferry Command days of the Second World War, Elizabeth Drewery, a British civilian, climbed into the nose-wheel compartment of a Return Ferry Service Liberator (B-24) just before it took off from Prestwick. She was incredibly lucky because the aircraft didn't climb to an altitude where oxygen would have been required. The Liberator landed at Gander and Drewery remained hidden. She was finally discovered at Dorval in Montreal.
It's not clear why she was so determined to risk her life in that manner. One report said she wanted to train as a pilot and knew she'd have a better chance in Canada. Apparently she got the pilot training too late in the war to join the Air Transport Auxiliary.
Another stowaway story was told during Ferry Command days. Leading Airwoman Marion Darling from Massachusetts had joined the RCAF and was stationed at Gander. Her husband was in Europe and she was determined to join him. She hid behind some baggage on a flight to Britain in an attempt to join her husband overseas. Reports said she got a job with RCAF Overseas Headquarters but the RCAF posted her husband elsewhere. Little heed was given to the plea of husband and wife.
Jack Caldwell - the inspiration for Caldwell Street in Gander - wrote in his memoirs that one day after taking off in his float planer, he realized there was something wrong with the way the aircraft was behaving. The tail was heavy and despite trimming the aircraft and doing everything else he could think of, it would not fly level. He found the problem when he landed. Stowed away in the back of the aircraft was a frightened man who had been trying to get home to see his family.
I heard the following story about stowaways a few years ago:
Three Newfoundlanders and three mainlanders are travelling by train to a conference. At the station, the three mainlanders each buy tickets and watch as the three Newfoundlanders buy only a single ticket. "How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?" asks one of the mainlanders. "Watch and you'll see," answers one of the Newfoundlanders.
They all board the train. The mainlanders take their respective seats, but all three Newfoundlanders cram into a restroom and close the door behind them. Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets.
He knocks on the restroom door and says, "Ticket, please."
The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on.
The mainlanders saw this and agreed it was quite a clever idea. So after the conference, the mainlanders decide to copy the Newfoundlanders on the return trip and save some money. When they get to the station, they buy a single ticket for the return trip. To their astonishment, the Newfoundlanders buy no tickets at all.
"How are you going to travel without a ticket?" asks one perplexed mainlander? "Watch and you'll see," answers a Newfoundlander.
When they board the train the three mainlanders cram into a rest-room and the three Newfoundlanders cram into another one nearby. The train departs. Shortly afterward, one of the Newfoundlanders leaves his rest-room and walks over to the rest-room where the mainlanders are hiding. He knocks on the door and says, "ticket please."