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Winning nearly US$240,000 flying to Cuba — Domingo Rosillo in 1913

10 June 2015

Winning nearly US$240,000 flying to Cuba — Domingo Rosillo in 1913

blog Domingo Rosillo plaque in EYW 20150516_093722

Commemorative plaque of Domingo Rosillo and his  historic flight from Key West FL to Havana Cuba— photo by Joseph May

The early days of aviation were dangerous and heady with new stunts and distance attempts being thought of and tried continually. Airlines were created and many promotions offered fiscal incentives. One of these monetary prizes was offered by the City of Havana to the first to fly from Key West FL to Havana Cuba and it was an attractive US$10,000 — which is today’s value would be very near US$240,000. Quite an attractive offer!

Rosillo flew a wing warping, all-rudder-no-vertical-stabilizer, fixed speed 50 hp Gnome rotary engine powered Morane-Salnier Monoplane in this historic flight. Flying with no compass, in a hazy sky which precluded him from seeing the first two of three Cuban Navy vessels strung along the route, Rosillo flew intrepidly on towards Havana (so he hoped). Without navigation marks he likely was unsure of his course and certainly could not know his speed over water but he did know he was flying longer than the 90 miles would have taken without a headwind— and he began to run low on fuel as well as oil, as well. After nearly twice the amount of anticipated flight time he spotted the third of the three vessels making smoke guiding him into Havana, fame and fortune.

Bust of Domingo Rosillo in the Key West International Airport — photo by Joseph May

Bust of Domingo Rosillo in the Key West International Airport (artist unspecified) — photo by Joseph May

Domingo Rosillo's flight license — photo by Joseph May

Domingo Rosillo’s piloting license — photo by Joseph May

The Key West International Airport recalls this intrepid aviator with a display in the departure terminal as well as a faithful interpretation of his aircraft marked by Cayo Hueso (Anglicized to Key West) on the right fuselage side and Habana (how Havana is spelled in Spanish) on the left fuselage side. The displays and aircraft are remarkable as well as pleasing to see on this charming isle.

Interpreted Morane-Salnier Monoplane as flown by Domino Rosillo as seen on Key West International Airport — photo by Joseph May

Interpreted Morane-Salnier Monoplane as flown by Domino Rosillo as seen on Key West International Airport (“Cayo Hueso” meaning “Isle of Bones” but Anglicized to “Key West”)— photo by Joseph May

Interpreted Morane-Salnier Monoplane as flown by Domino Rosillo as seen on Key West International Airport — photo by Joseph May

Interpreted Morane-Salnier Monoplane as flown by Domino Rosillo as seen on Key West International Airport  with an emphasis of the 50 hp Gnome rotary engine — photo by Joseph May

Interpreted Morane-Salnier Monoplane as flown by Domino Rosillo as seen on Key West International Airport — photo by Joseph May

Interpreted Morane-Salnier Monoplane as flown by Domino Rosillo as seen on Key West International Airport  (“Habana” being Spanish for what the English call “Havana”) — photo by Joseph May

Interpreted Morane-Salnier Monoplane as flown by Domino Rosillo as seen on Key West International Airport — photo by Joseph May

Interpreted Morane-Salnier Monoplane as flown by Domino Rosillo as seen on Key West International Airport  (no ailerons and no vertical stabilzer, wing warping and full rudder) — photo by Joseph May

Domingo Rosillo plane leaving the airfied at Trumbo Point on May 17, 1913 fro the first flight to Cuba. The plane is a small dot. From the Monroe County Library Collection.

Domingo Rosillo’s Morane-Salnier Monoplane plane departing the airfield at Trumbo Point, Key West on May 17, 1913 for Havana Cuba. His aircraft is the a small dot in the image’s center and note the large crowd witnessing the attempt — Monroe County Library System archive photo

Domingo Rosillo land his plane in Key West in 1913 after a test flight before he made the first flight to Cuba. From the Art and Historicak Society Collection.

Domingo Rosillo landing his Morane-Salnier Monoplane in Key West sometime before mid May in 1913 after a test flight in preparation of his flight attempt to Cuba — from the Art and Historical Society Collection Monroe County Library System.

Domingo Rosillo standing by the X with his plane in Key West 1913.  Dewey Riggs Collection.

Domingo Rosillo (marked with the “X”) standing by his Morane-Salnier Monoplane in Key West during 1913 — Dewey Riggs Collection Monroe County Library System photo

A postcard with Domingo Rosillo and his firt flight from Key West to cuba. From the Monroe County Library Collection.

A commemorative postcard of Domingo Rosillo’s flight from Key West to Havana Cuba — Monroe County Library System archive photo

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