After having visited Anchorage we headed north, to Palmer. While Anchorage and Fairbanks are more logistical centers, Palmer is situated in the heart of a rich agricultural area, the Matanuska Valley. By Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal, under pressure of the Depression and a severe drought, some 200 farming families were selected in May 1935 and moved from Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin to the Matanuska Valley. Palmer is a unique little place and the produce you find in the supermarkets (e.g. Fred Meyer) is unbelievable. There was quite a bit of roadconstruction going on and I noticed new motels, compared to my visit in 1995. Business must be good.
But it's a different story at the airport...business is not so good ! Woods Air folded during 2000 and hasn't managed yet to sell the 2 DC-3s for a reasonable price. Tom Abbe started Abbe Air Cargo with 1 DC-3 in 2001 but packed it in this year. There are no propliners, to transport fresh produce or whatever, based at Palmer. Sad.
However, one can find an airtanker, based on contract during the summer, to fight forest fires. And 2 intrigueing C-119 Flying Boxcars.... Read on !
You don't see many DC-3s on skis ! N777YA (C-47A c/n 14189/25634) is a unique aircraft and was registered to Woods Air Fuel Inc on 06Feb91. It does seem to have something with trucks, though: in 1995 I photographed it with a red flatbed truck parked in front of it (without skis).
Sadly, N777YA was wrecked upon landing at the Nixon Fork Mine, near McGrath,AK on 22Nov2015. Apparently on landing 'the Arctic Liner' struck a snow berm and the landing gear went through the wing! Fortunately, initial reports showed both crew to escape without serious injuries.
The 2 DC-3s (N777YA and N50CM) were offered for sale (a story that would repeat itself in 2105!); N101Z has found its way to the museum in Wasilla (more about that later). It is still a family affair and while the aircraft are owned by one person, the hangar is owned by a relative and is also for sale.
Buddy Woods died in the crash of DHC-4 Caribou N539Y, on 20Mar86. Karl Hayes wrote an excellent article about Woods Air
Fuel in Propliner magazine, no.120, Autumn 2009.
UPDATE APRIL 2016, FROM PALMER'S 'CITY LINKS' NEWSLETTER:
Larry Woods wrote me in Sep.2007:
"We know the family and Buddy Woods flew support for us in our mining operations in the mid-1980ís before he was killed flying his DeHaviland Caribou in 1986.
The Caribou was an interesting bird, as it was ex-CIA Air America. The Vietnam-era markings were still visible, as were the bullet patches!"
André van Loon wrote:
"I believe the Woods Caribou crash was in 1986, the 20th of March to be exact.
According to the NTSB records the aircraft was inadvertently stalled and could not be recovered in time. When I visited Woods in 1994 some employees there were of the opinion that some unseen and unrepaired battle damage from the Vietnam era caused this crash. But the NTSB says stalled.
The DHC4 Caribou is obviously a STOL aircraft and can be flown very slowly. But with full flaps you need to be very careful. If you enter a stall in that configuration, the aircraft has the tendency to roll over very quickly. At altitude this can be recovered but during short final this can be lethal. Please also refer for this phenomenon to the crash of the Greatland Caribou N2225C a few years ago at Port Alsworth. Speaking recently to the surviving co-pilot, he also mentioned the plane stalled on short final, and it rolled so quickly that nothing could be done. It went so fast that full rudder/aileron inputs and full power came too late, and he hit the ground half inverted. Lucky escape for him."
Sean Keating provided the tailnumber -N539Y- and link to the NTSB report: ANC86FA037
Aviation-Safety Network has details and include a photo.
To which Larry added :
"The elevator pulley on the Caribou was replaced just before that trip by DeHavilland. The pulley broke off the mount when Woods was coming in to land.
He hit the throttles to gain altitude, but with full flaps, he was too low, the airplane pitched up, stalled and spun in. He was about 800 ft. on final. Had he had more altitude, he would not have poured the coals to the engines.
If he had more altitude, Buddy would have mastered the situation... but too low, too slow, too heavy. He had a load of fuel oil on board for the village.
The young man that was loadmaster was in school with my brothers."
C-47A N50CM (cn13445) was registered to Woods in 26Dec89 and sits waiting for a buyer; the aircraft seems to be in excellent condition. The history is written on my
Alaska 1995 page, when I had the pleasure to photograph it too. Another shot is on Gooney Birds in Alaska and Canada. And in 2006 I found N50CM had found a new owner: Bush Air Cargo.|
2016 update on Bush Air Cargo, N777YA & N50CM:
N59314 is a C-47A (c/n 12363) and is operated by Tom Abbe Sr and Jr as Abbe Air Cargo; well, past tense really as the Dak is for sale: the insurance premiums makes such a venture ("one plane and a phone number") unviable...
Tom Abbe Sr is an engineer who worked for Galaxy Air cargo (a.k.a. Majestic Airlines), until the owner crashed the plane and died; the company went bankrupt and Tom Abbe bought N59312, which was for sale by Frontier Flying Service, in 2001. Father and son continue to work with Everts Air Cargo.
N59314 in 1995
C-47 N305SF (c/n 6208) seems in an even sadder condition...|
It's history dates back to its delivery to the USAAF as 41-38749 on 06Jan43. It saw service in Oran, Algeria in 1943; it flew with the 8thAF in Feb44 and with the 9thAF in Mar44 and participated at D-day.
It entered the English civil register as G-AGWS for Scottish Aviation Ltd on 18Dec45. It was again assigned a military serial: WZ984 while it flew troop contracts (1951/52). Afterwards it was back to Scottish Airlines. At some point it was registered to American Aircraft Corporation, but it received a Canadian tailnumber (CF-FCQ) while it was registered to Maritime Central (reg'd 18Jul52). A few years later it was reregistered, as N44F, for the Beldex Corporation, in Jul55.
This lasted until 1959 when it was registered for American Contracts and Trusts Co., from where it went to "Manor Real Estate Co.".
At an unknown date it was registered to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and what use must they have had for this plane ? It went back to the Manor Real Estate Company of Haverford, PA which sold it to Jack Adam's Aircraft Sales.
Southern Beachcraft Inc. of Knoxville,TN purchased it and had it registered as N1157S. The next owner was Carolina Fleets Inc. of Anderson,SC (Oct69). It was assigned the new tailnumber N115FC in May71. Again it changed owners, in Dec73: Bo-S-Aire Inc. of Greenville,SC.
It was reregistered as N4BA in 1974. Registration changed yet again: to S J Bowman of Anderson,SC. It was again amended to Bowman Aviation on 09Oct75. It seems likely that S.J.Bowman, Bowman Aviation and Bo-S-Aire Inc are all connected.
Tailnumber N305SF first appeared when it was operated by Skyfreighters (Majestic Leasing Inc, Salt Lake City,UT - bought 19Feb88). It was reported stored, engineless, in Majestic colours at Salt Lake City in June 1990.
It found its way to the Last Frontier, and was reported operating for Majestic Airlines in 1996. The owner crashed and died, see N19454's crash.
N305SF was registered on 12Aug02 to Tammy Maxwell of Spring Creek,NV. But it has been sitting idle at Palmer ever since....
There is a very interesting project going on at Palmer ! There are 2 C-119 Flying Boxcars here...
John Lozon sent me this photo in May 2006, he added the following information:
William Hostman wrote me in Sep.2012 an explanation on why & how Stebbins-Ambler Air Transport (SAAT) ceased operations:
"SAAT stopped operating with the Port Law 'crash' (as John Reffett put it to his stepson at the time - I was over for dinner).
You'll find mention of the loss in 1986 of SAAT's own C119 here: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1828&dat=19860705&id=-U0gAAAAIBAJ&sjid=tKYEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6350,1611614
John Reffett was their flight engineer and A&P. He was one of the owners of the two leased planes too.
In April '89, the one C-119 operating had its special certificate revoked for commercial operation:
That didn't stop operations, though!
It wasn't until the Port Lions landing that operations ended.
John was appealing the suspension. And I recall the appeal was in fact granted, but the bird was grounded by John for inability to repair it.
SAAT was also trying to buy the 3rd and 4th certified C119. But I seem to recall they couldn't. It was tied up in a repossession issue, and wasn't flight worthy. And Anchorage Air Leasing wanted more than SAAT could muster. John was desperate to get SAAT back in the air - it was his day job!
Last I talked to John was in about 1990; when his marriage ended and I helped his wife move her belongings. John he was unable to keep SAAT flying: no funds to get his birds back in the air, nor to buy the other two.
At the time, he had a Cessna in pieces in the garage."
Here is a link to a video on YouTube showing the hair-raising take off from Port Lions..
The jet engine on top of the fuselage of N1394N was added in 1983, by Jack Little of Starbird, at Tucson, after leaving the storage yards of Davis Monthan. He used this bird to haul fish for the fish factories. As one can see, the no.1 engine has been removed and was installed on N8501W.
Greg wrote me in August 2007, sharing a wonderul memory (the C-82 was the forerunner of the C-119), another Alaska Anecdote:
I found both C-119s still stored at Palmer in 2012.
Here's an update by 'JoeJoe' Prince dated 28May2017:
Quite a novelty to see Canadian airtankers in Alaska. The blue insignia near the cockpit is the flag of Alaska.
Following a number of airtanker crashes during the 2002 fire season, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service (USFS) had effectively grounded two types of aircraft, the PB4Y and the C-130A, by no longer contracting these types of aircraft to fight fires. Since last year's grounding had not yet been lifted, the US came up short on airtankers for the 2003 season. Canadians to the rescue...
Conair has a long standing reputation in the "aerial fire fighting" industry and C-GIBS, a Douglas DC-6A/C (c/n 45531/1015) was contracted by the State of Alaska; it left its temporary base at Palmer a few days after my visit, as the contract had ended by then and use of Tanker 51 was needed in "the Lower 48".
It's history shows first flight on 02aug58 (no.689 of 704 DC6s built) and delivered on 07aug58 to Hunting-Clan as G-APNO. It went to Balair as HB-IBS and operated from Switzerland 1969 until 1982. Conair bought it in Sep82.
This report on a day in May 2009 shows how Mother Nature can torment with fire & storm:
Little history is known of this Douglas C-47A 43-15200 (c/n 19666). It was delivered under that same serial to the USAAF in Feb44; it served with the Alaska ANG (144 ATS) as 0-315200.|
It is now preserved at the Transportation Museum outside Wasilla,AK.
The "0" stands for "obsolete", an indication planes received in the USAF if the plane was older than 10 years.
This Douglas C-47 N101Z (c/n 4574) is quite old and its history is described in the 1995 account. In fact, it looked better than way back then !|
It seems it had actually been flown here, which is quite possible as the "airport" of Wasilla is just around the corner and they only had to take the wings off to be able to tow it the few yards up the road to the museum. Due lack of space on the premises, N101Z now sits in a sort of spare compound and can be accessed outside the museum.
This Fairchild C-123 Provider sits in the same compound. It has tailnumber N98 on it and is former USAF 55-4548; it's construction number (c/n) is 20219 and was registered to the "Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry" on 19Jun96 as N3144W.
How things look in winter (when this museum is closed), have a look here, photos by Martin Prince Jr
I revisited the museum in 2012
John Lameck wrote me in May 2006:|
"I don't know what the original unit was that flew this version of the C-123 Provider, but they all ended up with the 144 Tactical Airlift Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard. They had auxiliary jet engines in the wing tips, which is what that pod there contained. Some were fitted with skis.
I have the following information on them.
Dates shown were last known sightings that I had of these unique aircraft-
|64395||LC-123J|| skis 7-64 |
(on display 6-93) at Anchorage
Dick Morris came to my aid in July 2004, revealing a few more details on N98:|
I can add some information about the DC-3s and the C-123 at MATI.
I'm sure both DC-3s were towed with the wings off the 30 miles or so from Palmer to Wasilla. Finding a way to move the one from Wood's Air Service occupied many hours in our board meetings.
The C-123 was another story. When the museum first got it, it landed on the Glen Highway adjacent to the Alaska State Fair Grounds (the old museum site). The late Dick Pastro, who was a crew member when it flew for the FAA (I think he was the flight engineer), occasionally started the engines during the time the plane was on display at Palmer.
When it was time to move to the new site (I think it was in 1995), we were able to find a volunteer crew who had flew twin-engine cargo planes commercially, but hadn't flown a C-123 for quite some time (17 years is what comes to mind). The engines were started and it was taxied to the highway. First, there was a high speed taxi south on the highway. Then it turned around and took to the air. Lucky for me, the crew wanted to fly it for a while, which gave me time to drive the 30 miles to Wasilla and see it land there as the first plane to land officially at the new Wasilla Airport. An exciting day !
I was the President of the Board of Directors of the Museum when this took place. For a long time, I also maintained the web page. The archive web page URL below has a couple of photos. The in-flight photo was taken by me just after it had lifted off the highway on it's last flight, the one of the plane being towed was taken by Pat Durand. Feel free to use anything from the now defunct web page. I'm not currently active in the musuem, but if you needed further info, they could probably provide it.
Page describing the event: http://alaska.net/~rmorris/mati5.htm
My first visit to Fairbanks IAP concerned Brooks Fuel. I was a little concerned about the new security measures in the US, but was made very welcome by Roger Brooks who showed us around on his premises.
I had seen this converted DC-4 before: Hawk Air C-GAAH
Its former tailnumber C-GAAH had been removed, but its new one (N898AT) had not yet been applied. And it could do with a paintjob !
There is a contract waiting when it gets operational, specially insulated pipes are in Brooks' yard waiting to be transported to Savoonga on the northern coast of St. Lawrence Island (in the Bering Sea, 164 miles west of Nome). The economy of Savoonga is largely based on subsistence hunting of walrus, seal, fish, and bowhead whales, with some cash income. Reindeer harvests occur, but the herd is not formally managed. Islanders are known for their quality ivory carvings. This is just to illustrate that these "propliners" tie the most isolated communities to civilisation.
Alaska Whaling Villages
Ken Couche wrote me in Feb.2005:|
"I first headed for Alaska (our nickname for it was BFAK, if you can figure that one out) in a DC-4 with Aero Union from Chico,CA. We spent summer in southeast AK, hauling fresh fish from places like King Salmon, Kodiak and the beach north of Egigik. That was kind of fun: landing a big ol' airplane on a beach at low tide ! Did that for some years, heading down in the late spring and back in the fall, with lots of other more mature aircraft. DC-4s, 6's, 7's, C-119s, DC-3's, C-46's, a Caribou or two, and so on.
Worked one year for Gifford Aviation/Kodiak Western Alaska, flying a couple Carvairs; spent some time in Fairbanks, hauling fuel for Aerolaska in a DC-4. And hauled fish another year.
Also flew Carvairs in Hawaii, and a DC-4 on flight test for AUC for General Electric in New York. AK was the best, and those workhorses were the best of the best. Miss 'em."
Thanks Ken !
This Douglas C-54B (DC-4) N44911 (c/n 10461) will have a special meaning to me ! I was fortunate to join a flight, while it delivered fuel to 2 destinations on the North Slope. It was magnificent !|
A page dedicated to this flight can be read at "Bliss with Brooks". Only months later, N44911 met its fate...
The history of this no-nonsense workhorse is as follows:
Working capital.... In Roger Brooks' yard are several stored airframes, for use of spare parts or (as Roger likes to put it) for future projects...|
N67018 is a Douglas C-54D (c/n 22196) and it's former employer is showing in the livery: United States Marine Corps. This vintage transport was delivered to the US Navy (Bu.No. 56544) in 1945 and converted from C-54D to C-54Q. In 1971 it was stored by the military.
It was registered as N67018 in 1977 and went thru ownerships of Globe Air Inc (bought 1981, stored 1985), Sanders Lead Company (Feb86) and Roger Brooks bought it in 1996 and while he had it stored immediately upon arrival, he is confident he can restore it to airworthiness in no time.
A page dedicated to other airframes present at Brooks Fuel has been added as "Bliss with Brooks".
Mike Cothran wrote me in April 2006:|
"My Dad passed away last year and I began sorting his pictures and papers. Among them was a C-54 which he had flown in the Berlin Airlift.
I did some research and ended up at your website, with a picture of N67018 (c/n 221961648) which you have pictured at Brooks Fuels. Still standing and waiting for departure...
My Dad, George Cothran, was a 30 year aviator for the Navy. He flew the above bad girl to Berlin 109 (!) times to prevent the starvation of the city's residents.
I remember Dad telling about the Berlin airport approach: no good, surrounded by buildings. Clear the buildings and drop out of the sky or return with a full load...
The Soviets were not into go-arounds..."
Short Brothers SC.7 "Skyvan" (Srs.3-200) N101WA (c/n SH-1859) may not be a "propliner" in the classic transport sense, but it does seem to fit right in for operations on "the Last Frontier". I can imagine there must be a market for a transport planes like this, able to operate into very short airstrips of remote communities. Arctic Circle Air Services (Arctic Air Group) must think the same... |
It was first flown as G-14-31 in Mar69 and was registered G-AXAF on 17Feb69. Cherokee Airlines saw it delivered as N22CK on 02May69 Cherokee Airlines and it was leased in 1969 to Caribbean Air Services. For a period in early 1973 N22CK was stored in Burbank,CA. That year the Union Bank Industrial Lease Division bought it and assigned N101WA to it and concluded a lease to Interstate World Airways. Nasco Leasing took it over and later sold it to Murphy Co. Inc.
Calm Air operated it on a lease from Mar74 and had it reregistered as C-GHBQ. (Some sources quote C-GHBO). Petco Aviation Inc bought it in Dec74 (rr N101WA), Shawflight at some assumed ownership, Lodi Aircraft Corp. bought N101WA in Sep79.
Then it moved to more exotic parts of this world: Malaysian Air Charter bought it in Sep79 and had it registered 9M-AXB in December. This lasted till Apr82 when Delta Aviation Inc purchased it and put it back on FAA's regsitere as N101WA. It was registered to Scope Leasing Inc in Aug91. It found it's way to the European continent with a false start: Dutch registration PH-BOX was reserved but not taken up. Same happened to PH-DAF for Dynamic Air of Rotterdam..."ntu" ! But it was sighted at Eindhoven on 16Oct89 as N101WA in full Arctic Circle colors. PH-DAF must have had something to do with the DAF carfactory at Eindhoven. It was also at EIN in 1990 wearing Dynamic Air titles.
Marco Kosterman offered a photo of N101WA in July 1989, with Delta Aviation titles (photographer unknown).
It was delivered to Arctic Circle Air Services as N101WA on 24Aug91, bought on 14May97 and registration altered to Arctic Air Group of Anchorage,AK on 15Aug98.
Quite a proud history for such a modest looking aeroplane !
For the historic details I have to thank Derek King, Ian J McGarrigle and Ad Vercruijsse, thanks guys !
Last updated 25.5.2009