Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum
For the past 2 years I have indulged myself in reading books about those early aviation days (1920s and 1930s) in Alaska and (North)western parts of Canada. About
aviation pioneers such as Grant McConachie (who built CPAir, later known as Canadian Airlines), Frank Barr (bushpilot in Alaska and the Yukon, later active in Alaska's politics), Jack Jefford (another pioneer aviator in Alaska, Chief Pilot CAA/FAA Alaska Region 1940-1972), Bob Reeve and the Wien brothers (starting out on single engine, building business to become established airlines), Joe Crosson, Don Sheldon and other famous names, some of who fell victim: Ben Eielson, Wiley Post.... I could go on and on !
1928 Stearman C2B NC5415 |
In 1929, Ben Eielson purchased this Stearman from Noel Wien for the newly established Alaskan Airways, Inc. In November, 1929, pilot Eielson and his mechanic, Earl Borland, were lost on a flight in Siberia to the stranded fur ship, Nanuk. With only forty hours flight time, novice aviator Harold Gillam, flew the Stearman on this extraordinary search for the downed men. NC5415 was among the first to land on Mt.McKinley 1932, and also made historic flights to arctic villages with diphtheria serum in 1931 with pilot Joe Crosson.
The Stearman clearly shows that those early aviators had to be content with an open cockpit. Must have been a cold job. I remember reading about a pilot asking his boss, considering new planes to buy, for an enclosed cockpit; what he got was an open cockpit with the radiator positioned more closer to the aviator.... Another story told about pilot and passenger almost choking to death when they flew over one of those enormous bush fires; pilots navigated by the countryside below them, following rivers; this pilot almost suffocated and had a near-miss with a bridge but he did manage to land at Fairbanks and survived.
In the 1925's Lloyd Carlton Stearman (an aviation pioneer who was instrumental in founding the aircraft industry in Wichita, Kansas) joined with Walter Beech and Clyde Cessna to form Travel Air Manufacturing Company. The trio's efforts produced the first Travel Air bi-plane that year.
1929 Travel Air 6000B NC8159 |
The AAHM Travel Air came to Alaska in 1939 with "Mudhole" Smith's Cordova Air Service and later belonged to Peck and Rice Airways in Bethel. A number of pioneer aviators owned NC8159 including Albert Ball, Fred Goff and Al Jones.
The Travel Air 6000B series weighed 4,500 pounds fully loaded, with a useful load of 1,960 pounds. This workhorse was designed to lift off from the treacherous gravel, dirt, grass, snow and rut-filled strips miles beyond civilization. Considered by many to be a huge aircraft back in those days, the Travel Air was a graceful airplane that settled the frontier outposts, delivering the U.S. mail, food and sometimes even livestock.
1934 Waco YKC NC14066 |
NC 14066 was flown to Alaska in 1939 by "Red" Flensburg to establish Dillingham Air Service. It was also owned by Bud Branham, who operated Rainy Pass Lodge in the Alaska Range. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Rasmuson.
Long synonymous with aviation's “golden age,” the Weaver Aircraft Company (WACO) was founded in 1920 in Lorain, Ohio by George “Buck” Weaver, Elwood “Sam” Junkin, Clayton “Clayt” Bruckner and Charles “Charlie” William Meyers. For the next 26 years, the WACO name would be associated with a popular line of versatile open-cockpit and cabin biplanes.
1944 Stinson AT-19 Reliant N79548 |
This model was built by the Americans for the British during WWII. It was the last of the famous "gullwing" design for Stinson. After WWII the Stinson became available to the commercial market in the United States. Northern Consolidated, Wien Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Munz Northern Airline all used AT19s. This aircraft was purchased from the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California by Don Rogers and Bob Wagstaff of Anchorage and donated to the aviation museum, where it was fully restored by museum volunteers.
1943 Beechcraft UC45F N1047B
One of the most famous twin engine aircraft ever built, the "Beech" was used as a training and liaison aircraft of the WWII era. Alaska UC45F's were used for search and rescue by the Army Air Forces. After the war, N1047B was operated by Ward Air Service in Juneau. A photo of this aircraft in flight appears in the Time-Life series titled The Bush Pilots.
It was involved in an incident on Friday, July 13, 1979 at Drake Island,AK while operating for Ward Air : an aerosol can made contact with unprotected wiring and a fire resulted (cabin, cockpit, baggage compartment). The (probable) cause was put to the pilot's inadequate preflight preparation, having things improperly secured. It happened in flight, during climb to cruise, and the damage was described as "minor".
Dave Morgan, the Curator of the museum, provided the following information in Nov.2006:
"This front fuselage is a Sikorsky S-43, NC15062, serial #4302 and was owned by Reeve Aleutian Airways. "
1929 Ford Trimotor (wreckage) "NC8034" (false). |
This trimotor was the first of its type to come to Alaska. Operated by aviation pioneers, Frank Dorbandt and Don Glass, d.b.a. Ptarmigan Airlines, the Ford arrived in Anchorage in 1934. After ground-looping at Flat, Alaska in the fall of 1934, the Ford was used as a tool shed for the Willow Creek Mine, Fuselage and wing center section were recovered and brought to the museum in 1990 with helicopter assistance of the Alaska National Guard & Markair C-130.
The Ford Trimotor was robust and easy to maintain. It had a fuselage of rectangular cross-section, rounded off fore and aft, built around a structure of multiple longitudinal spars, which together with the frames and skin carried most of the structural forces. The thick profile wing, also multi-sparred, was entirely made of metal including the skin. The aircraft had a wingspan of 22' 55 metres and its length was 15' 20 metres.
A posting on this group led to a reply by L.Blyly, referring me to www.aerofiles, Ford registrations, which confirmed (together with the book by Mr William T. Larkins) the identity of this plane to be NC8403.
This Ford Tri-motor is also featured on my page: Vintage Transport Photos by Others
Another nice website for Ford Tri-motors, Bushmasters and Stinson Tri-motors is the "survivors-list" by Arthur B. Wiggins.
The remains of this Ford Tri-motor moved to the Lower 48s, for restoration by Greg Herrick; NC8403 arrived in Minneapolis Thursday, February 10th, 2005.
1944 Noorduyn Norseman NC725E|
Manufactured by Canadian Car and Foundry Co. to transport troops during WWII, the Norseman later joined the US Fish and Wildlife Service before coming to Alaska with Northern Consolidated Airlines in 1951. Interior Airways purchased the aircraft in 1955 to use during the construction of the DEW (Distant Early Warning, a defense system) line and for other bush flying. Donated by the Fairbanks North Star Borough and Jim and Dottie Magoffin.
The Norseman was the brainchild of Robert (BOB) .B.C. Noorduyn. Born in Holland, he worked as a young engineer in England for Sopwith and Armstrong-Whitworth. He emigrated to the US in 1920, to work for Anthony Fokker. He organized the Atlantic Aviation Corporation, which became the Fokker Aircraft Corporation. Together they conceived the Fokker Universal, later followed by the Super Universal. He was also instrumental in the design of the Fokker Trimotor. In 1928 he joined the Bellanca Aircraft Corporation and worked on the famous Bellanca Pacemaker.
How it all started for Alaska Airlines ! This present day airline (with whom this satisfied passenger travelled to Anchorage on this trip) was formed by a merger between Star Air Service and McGhee Airways (which started in 1932). Upon this merger it was renamed Alaska Star Airlines in 1943 and after takeovers of other small airlines gave the airline a large share of the services in Alaska.|
The name Alaska Airlines was taken in 1944.
What a way to advertise: "Fly an hour or walk a week!"
These are the sad remains of a DeHavilland DHC-4 Caribou of Greatland Air Cargo.|
Which one could this be ? The curator of the museum told me it was dumped on their doorstep one day ! He had no idea of the identity of this wreck.
Greatland operated several Caribou's:
On August 2, 1996, about 1100 Alaska daylight time, a deHavilland DHC-4 airplane, N800NC, registered to and operated by Greatland Air Cargo, sustained substantial damage while landing at the New Stuyahok airstrip, New Stuyahok, Alaska. The commercial certificated captain and first officer were not injured. The 14 CFR Part 135 cargo flight operated in visual meteorological conditions.