The years preceding World War I were years when flying history was made. One of such "First Flight Adventures" took place when the Paris newspaper "Le Matin", in co-operation with the French Flying Club, offered a prize to the flyer who was the "First" on a flight from Paris to Peking. However, the route was changed because of the great risks involved in such a long flight and Cairo (Egypt) became the destination the French pilots made for - in two different ways - one by way of North Africa, the other via South-Eastern Europe, Turkey and Palestine. The team Doucourt-Roux left for Turkey from Paris on October 21st, 1913 and should have got to Palestine in the course of their flight; however, they never made it because their plane crashed at the foot of the Taurus Mountains on November 26th.
French air-ace of the time, Jules Vedrines followed after them on the way to the Holy Land and to Egypt, and even intended to go on from there to India and Australia. He left Paris in November in a "Bleriot Xl" plane, caused a diplomatic incident at the German border, was shot at when passing over Yugoslavia and landed at Istanbul on December 3rd, 1913. After being feted and wined there, he flew to Beirut from where he departed on December 27th, 1913 for Miqwe Yisrael near Tel Aviv.
There, the "First International Airport in Palestine" (having originally been prepared for Doucourt) was ready for him. However, strong wings forced the plane off its route and, as he did not have enough fuel for such an eventuality, he had to land on the beach near Tel Aviv. Needless to say the crowds who had waited in vain for his arrival at Miqwe Yisrael, were bitterly disappointed. When forced down at Tel Aviv, the plane's under-carriage was damaged but could be repaired speedily. Next day. December 28th, V6drines flew to Miqwe Yisrael where his arrival was officially celebrated. The following day he departed for Cairo and promised that on his return, by way of India, he would land at Jerusalem. However, two days after V6drines' departure, on December 31st, 1913 two other French flyers, Bonnier and Barnier landed their Nieuport plane there and thereby became the first "Air-Pilgrims" to visit the Holy City.
When, in 1924, British airlines combined and founded "Imperial Airways", the purpose was to connect the various countries in the British Empire with one another.
In 1931 the Company decided to start flights between Croyden airport, near London, and India, by way of what was then Palestine. On this regular flight sea-planes as well as ordinary-type aircraft were used. On October 21st, 1931 ,in the early morning hours the first of these planes, a Scipio-Short Sea-plane landed on Lake Galilee. Passengers were taken from Tiberias to Zemach airfield, on the southern shore of the Lake, and continued their flight from there on a regular plane via Baghdad.
After one of the sea-planes crashed in 1942, because of stormy weather, landings on Lake Galilee were discontinued. "Imperial Airways" sea-planes then landed on the Dead Sea and in Haifa Bay.
The de-Havilland DH-82A Tiger-Moth was the first aircraft purchased by the official Jewish institutions in Palestine in 1934, when attempts were made to establish a joint Jewish-British-Arab Flying Club, the "Flying Camel". Although this attempt failed, a follow-up club, the Palestine Flying Club (later to become the Aero Club of Israel) was set up as a wholly Jewish organisation backed by the "Haganah" and other Jewish national institutions. Later that year a decision was taken to acquire a de-Havilland Tiger-Moth biplane for basic flight instruction. Powered by a single
de-Havilland Gipsy-Major Mk. 1 engine, supplying 130 hp., this was able to reach a maximum speed of 175 km/h and a maximum range of some 490 kilometres. The DH-82A is 7.5 m long and has a 9 m long wingspan. It was directly developed from the DH-60T Moth and first flown at Martlesham in England in September 1931. Soon the new aircraft gained a reputation as being a highly successful design and it went into regular use with the Royal Air Force and with private civil flying schools in the British Isles.
In the autumn of 1934, a group of Palestine officials who dealt with immigration matters in Poland met with David Ben-Gurion, Head of the Jewish Agency, and obtained the necessary funds to acquire the Tiger-Moth, which arrived in October that year, flown by a British instructo-pilot named Grey. Registered under British marks G-ACYN and carrying serial number 3314, it began flying within the "Aviron" flying-school in 1936. Apart from being used as a civil trainer, G-ACYN was also used for military spotting purposes as well as national defence missions such as protecting groups of workers who were engaged in road and building construction in remote locations. In addition, the aircraft dropped essential supplies of food and ammunition to settlers, especially in the harsh winter periods. Such support missions were frequently flown to the newly established settlements of Negb~, Hulda and Hanita. In March 1938, the aircraft inaugurated the new landing strip near the Sedom Potash works. By the end of 1938 it was decided to enter the aircraft on the Palestine Civil Aircraft Register under the marks VO-PAN. However, this was abandoned following its crash in mid-1939 on a hill near the Afiqim Airstrip in the Jordan Valley. In December 1939 its registration expired and parts from the wreck taken from the site were used at Aviron Base at Afiqim.
In December 1934, the founder of the Naharaim Electricity Plant, Mr. Pinchas Ruttenberg, registered the first Palestine commercial airline - "Palestine Airways" - in London. With an initial capital of £20,000 - the company acquired a couple of British-made Short Scion 5-1 6, 6-seaters powered by two Pobjoy Niagara Ill engines with an output of 90 hp, which developed a maximum speed of 206 km/h over a maximum range of 630 kms. In August 1937 the Company began operations with a daily Lod-Haifa service, extended later that year to Beirut, Lebanon, thus inaugurating its first international service.
The two Scion aircraft (registration letters VO-PAA and VO-PAB) were soon transferred to the newly-constructed airfield of Tel Aviv (later named Sde Dov Hoz), north of the Yarkon river. With the acquisition of additional aircraft from Britain, "Palestine Airways" moved its entire operation from Lod airport to Sde-Dov. Apart from operating the scheduled services to Haifa and Beirut, it also undertook charter and air-taxi flights as well as the very popular sightseeing flights, particularly favoured by youngsters. With the outbreak of World War II, Palestine Airways ceased operations and in August 1940 its planes were impounded by the Royal Air Force for use as transport and communication aircraft.