The exploits of Holger Hoiriis must be the best-kept secret in Delaware aviation. Did you know, for example, that the Danish-born airman once flew a Bellanca Pacemaker nonstop to Europe, and on landing, fell fast asleep on the ramp?
Hoiriis came to America in 1924 at age 23, took flying lessons on Long Island, bought an airplane, gave rides for $1.50 and soon owned several biplanes. In the Catskills, he befriended a successful photographer, Otto Hillig, who had money and a passion for planes, but didn't know how to fly. The pair bought a Pacemaker from Bellanca and flew to Florida to find clouds and fog in which to practice instrument flight.
There in Ormond Beach, Florida, Holger met his future wife, Eldred Boynton of Wilmington, a graduate of Friends School. But the friendship had to wait - Holger and Otto had another idea: Destination Denmark.
On June 24,1931, the pair took off from Newfoundland in their red and white Pacemaker, with the name "Liberty" painted on its fuselage. They carried 600 gallons of gasoline with 3,150 miles to go. They encountered squalls, strong northerly winds, and ice. Finally, they spotted land, but after three more hours of flying, realized that they had drifted to Spain. Hoiriis turned north. With nightfall closing in, he landed at Bremen, Germany Having done all the flying, Holger fell asleep under a wing and was carried off the field.
Next day, arriving at Copenhagen, Holger and Otto were greeted by scores of planes, 100,000 Danes, plus royalty bearing the nation's highest honors for heroes. On return to the United States, they were mobbed by hordes of crowds.
Holger married Miss Boynton, resumed barnstorming, then joined Air Services at Bellanca Airfield as an instructor and Bellanca Company as a test pilot. He was a pioneer pilot in All American Aviation's mail pickup service, and in 1939 demonstrated the world's first night pickup service at Bellanca Field.
With war approaching, Hoiriis was named first commander of the Delaware Wing of the Civil Air Patrol. But he died suddenly on August 7,1942, from a relapse of typhoid fever, leaving his wife Eldred and three daughters: Elsie and twins Karen and Lelia. Karen Hasek and Lelia Hunt live in Ohio and New Jersey, respectively.