Paul Redfern

Paul Redfern (24 February 1902 – unknown).[1] In August 1927, Redfern became the first person to fly solo across the Caribbean Sea and the first to fly nonstop from North to South America[2] He has never been found or heard from since he was observed flying inland over Venezuela. Redfern's flight was twelve weeks after Charles Lindbergh made his historic flight from New York to Paris. In 1929, Lindbergh came close to skimming the sands of the Sea Island, Georgia, beach Redfern took off from and dropped carnations in his fellow flyer's honor. If Redfern had reached his final destination, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, his 4,600 miles (7,400 km) flight would have outdistanced Lindbergh. Redfern had an alternative landing site (Recite) planned if his fuel ran too low, but it is unknown whether he pursued that alternative or decided to continue on to Rio, where thousands awaited his arrival, including the President of Brazil and movie star Clara Bow.


Paul Rinaldo Redfern was born in 1902 to Blanche Myrtle Redfern and Dr. Frederick Coachefer Redfern[3] in Rochester, New York. His uncles were Richard S. Redfern and Edwin C. Redfern.[4] As a teenager, Paul lived in Columbia, South Carolina, where his father was a dean at Benedict College and an advocate for black rights who advised Franklin Delano Roosevelt on poverty in the South. His mother taught English at Benedict and represented South Carolina as a delegate at national political conventions. Paul was a mechanical and musical prodigy. He was planning to go to MIT, but after building several planes, he was asked by the U.S. government at age 16 to go to New Jersey to be a production inspector for the Army Air Corps at the Standard Aircraft Corporation. Upon returning to South Carolina, he became a barnstormer at air shows and started the first airport in Columbia, South Carolina. He married Gertrude Hildebrand in Toledo, Ohio, in 1925.[5]

Flight and disappearanceEdit

Redfern went missing in 1927 when he attempted to fly from Brunswick, Georgia, to Brazil in a Stinson SM-1 Detroiter NX-773 nicknamed the Port of Brunswick.[6] He was spotted by the Norwegian freighter Christian Krogh a few hundred miles off the coast of South America, after dropping a message asking for the ship to be turned in the direction of the nearest land, and when nearing Venezuela he was spotted by a fisherman just off the coast and then later by others in towns and outposts in Venezuela. He failed to arrive in Rio de Janeiro, and over the years more than a dozen search parties were organized. Missionaries and people visiting tribes living in the jungle reported on a white man living among the Indians, but he was never found, and no credible evidence documenting that he somehow survived the flight exists.[7][8]

In September 1927, George Henry Hamilton Tate, sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, went to look for Redfern.[9] Some believed him to still be alive as late as 1932.[10]

In 1935, William LaVarre who was searching for diamonds in the interior of Suriname heard a story in Drietabbetje about a crippled white man who had fallen from the sky, and was now living with the Amerindians in Paloemeu. The American consulate sent an expedition to the village, but found nothing.[11]

In 1936, aviator Art Williams claimed he found traces of the Redfern crash in British Guiana.[12] In the same month, newspaper articles appeared that Refern was living in a little Amerindian village not listed on any map in the Tumuk Humak Mountains of British Guiana. He was married and had a son, however the Amerindians did not want to part with him.[11][13] Redfern's father published a joyful reply in the papers, and credited Art Williams as the discoverer of his son.[14] Williams who did not originate the story, discovered that Alfred Harred, a freelance reporter in Suriname, was the origin, and took him to court in Paramaribo where Harred admitted that the story was false and that he had been paid to spread the falsehood.[11][15]

In 1937, the 13th expedition was organized to find out his fate.[16] Now missing for ten years, he could be legally declared dead.[17] In February 1938 Frederick John Fox died while trying to find Redfern.[18] In April 1938 Theodore J. Waldeck believed he found the wreckage of Redfern's plane.[19]

His father died in 1941, still hoping that his son would be found alive.[3] His widow, Gertrude Hillabrand, died in 1981 and was buried in Detroit, Michigan.[5]

In 1988 Robert Carlin believed that Redfern had flown over Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela, only to be killed in a crash in the jungle and that a report that aviator Jimmy Angel had seen wreckage of Redfern's plane was not bragging, but correct.[20] Carlin believed the area to be approximately 40 miles NNW of Angel Falls.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Redfern, Frederick C. (1929). "Life Story of Paul Redfern, Aviator" (PDF). Rochester Alumni Review. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  2. ^ Liefer. "Lost Flight to Brazil in 1927: A Young Pilot Disappears in the Amazon". HISTORYNET. Historynet LLC. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Redfern, Father Of Lost Aviator. Professor Clung to Hope That Son, Paul, Who Disappeared in 1927 Flight, Was Alive". New York Times. November 8, 1941. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  4. ^ "Rochester Suicide Believed R.S. Redfern. Uncle of Aviator Lost on Brazil Flight Had Aided Search in South America". New York Times. April 26, 1933. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  5. ^ a b "Paul Rinaldo Redfern. The First Aviator to Solo the Caribbean Sea". Palmetto Sport Aviation. Archived from the original on 2016-10-18. Retrieved 2013-12-30.
  6. ^ "Are Paul Redfern and the Port of New Brunswick Buried in the Amazon Jungle?". WINDOWS TO WORLD HISTORY. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  7. ^ Piercy, Alan (21 October 2013). "Lost legend – Paul Redfern and the birth of aviation in Columbia, S.C." Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  8. ^ Bryson, Bill (2013). One Summer in America – 1927. Black Swan. pp. 419–420. ISBN 978-0-552-77256-3.
  9. ^ "Explorer In Brazil To Seek Paul Redfern. Backer of Expedition Cables Tate to Use Native Runners in Hunt for Georgian Flier". New York Times. September 11, 1927. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  10. ^ "Says Flier Is Safe If With Parintins. Explorer Believes Paul Redfern Is Enjoying Life in the Brazilian Jungle". New York Times. December 28, 1932. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  11. ^ a b c Arno Landewers. "Wetenschappelijke verkenningsvluchten boven Suriname 1938-1958" (PDF). Landewers (in Dutch). p. 5. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  12. ^ "Williams Found Redfern Traces. Signs of Missing American in Guiana Jungles Were Recent, the Flier Declares". New York Times. January 22, 1936. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  13. ^ Justin Nobel. "The Dead Pilot Search Story You Don't Know (Hint: It's Not Amelia Earhart)". Funeral Wise (in Dutch). Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  14. ^ "Vreugde in Amerika". De West (in Dutch). 29 January 1936. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  15. ^ "Arrestatie te Paramaribo". Provinciale Overijsselsche en Zwolsche courant (in Dutch). 25 February 1936. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  16. ^ "Begin New Redfern Hunt. Explorers Start 13th Expedition in 10-Year Quest for Flier". New York Times. December 14, 1937. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  17. ^ "To Ask Redfern Be Ruled Dead". New York Times. September 30, 1937. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  18. ^ "New Yorker Dies in British Guiana Jungle While on Expedition to Find Paul Redfern". New York Times. February 18, 1938. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  19. ^ "Death Of Redfern Now Held Proved. Waldeck, on Return From the Jungle, Says He Has Found Scene of Fatal Crash. Riddle Believed Solved. 'The Suspense Is Ended', Flier's Father's Comment on Expedition's Report. Flier's Father Gets Report. Plane Crash Established". New York Times. April 29, 1938. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  20. ^ Flying Magazine Aug 1988 "The Redfern Mystery" by Len Morgan. Accessed October 15, 2018