Propliners on the Last Frontier, 2003


Part 2: the road north and Fairbanks

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).
I shot this photo from a pile of sand and rocks on 25Jul03, while some surveyors looked over the property for future development. Upon my return trip (August 7th) that pile was gone. Maybe the builders will move in and then what will happen to these legendary transport ?

A word about its history: Delivered on 28Aug44 as 43-48373 to the USAAF, for transfer that same month to the US Navy as 17259 (designated R4D-6, operating with VR-2). It operated for various units, but was retired in 1946. As it became available to civilian operators, it was registered as NC21769 for Wien Alaska Airlines that same year.
At some unknown date it was reregistered as N777DG to D.G.Gilbertson of Fairbanks,AK and it served with Aero Retardant Inc (also of Fairbanks) from Aug71 to Jan75. It remained up north and operated for Pacific Alaska Airlines as well. Then in Oct76 its tailnumber was altered only slightly, as N777PG, thi stime for Pacific Galactic (Oct76). Maybe they were only lease as it was registered again asN777DG for D.G. Gilbertson again, in Jun77.
Oops, back again to N777PG in May78, but for whom ? Then again as N999TS for Pacific Utah Air Inc, UT in May79, except it wasn't taken up, did not work out.
So Mr A Degregory of Newton,CT gave it a try and registered it as N777PG in Jun79, but maybe only as an investment ? Because Pacific Galactic Air Inc of Cave Creak, AZ registered it in Jan80... But did it ever move to the "Lower 48"? Because Yute Air Alaska Inc of Dillingham,AK registered it in Oct83 and they probably put N777YA on it. Lots of ownership changes, but did they let it fly ? And will it ever fly again ??
I photographed N777YA before: Gooney Birds in Canada and Alaska.
Also, some very nice photos of N777YA can be seen, sitting on an ice lake in Alaska

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.
Woods Air Service Inc (affiliated with Woods Air Fuel Inc) was founded in 1962. The fleet in 1995 consisted of 3 Cessna (Super) Skywagons, a DHC-3 Otter, 2 DC-3s and a DC-6A/B. The latter crashed on 02Jan98 (all can be read on N861TA). The company was headed by Warren G. Woods Jr.
But that's all history now.

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:
About 150 friends, City officials and aviators gathered at the New Horizons hangar to celebrate the renaming of the Warren (Bud) Woods Palmer Municipal Airport and the naming of the Randy Thom Flight Service Center on Saturday, 26Mar16, in honor of the beloved local aviators killed 30 years ago in a tragic 1986 air accident.
The event was capped off by a dual fly-by which brought tears to many eyes.
The Woods and Thom families (see photos at right) were present to remember and commemorate their loved ones. Watch for new building and interpretive signage soon at the airport.
Background:
Warren (Bud) Wood was 1956 graduate of Palmer High, and a member of the Air National Guard Reserve. He founded Woods Air Service in 1961 to deliver cargo and supplies to remote Alaska, and was well known for some daring helicopter rescues of stranded climbers off Mt. McKinley.
He is remembered well in the community, witnessed by the large turnout on Saturday.
Randy Thom loved to fly and earned his pilots license at age 16. He was also a Palmer High graduate, class of 1981, and had studied at Embry-Riddle Aeronauti-cal University.
He worked as a mechanic for Woods Air Service and was a protégé of Buddy Woods. Many of his friends and high school classmates were also present at the renaming ceremony.
Woods and Thom left a legacy for others both in aviation and in human kindness, and they are missed in Palmer.


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.


Dave Krone sent me this true on the Last Frontier anecdote:
"Back in about 1974 or 1975, I flew some trips up to a mine, west and north of Fairbanks on the southern slopes of the Brooks Range. After dropping a load and picking up a backhaul in my sometimes "trusty" C-45 N701FY, I would stop in a place called Dahl Creek. I had to refuel here for the trip back to Fairbanks. There was a nice cabin there and gas. So I taxi up to a pump and out of the cabin comes a little kid about 12 years old or so!
He walked up along with his German shepard dog, who was old and a little growly.
Well, this little kid sets me up with gas and then invites me in for a cup of tea. We had a long talk, about everything under the sun. It turns out his dad puts him up there, 200 miles from nowhere, for the summer! So guys like me can fuel up and make the trip home.
Amazing, he is up there, all by himself, except for his dog...
I made a number of trips up there that summer and it was a real pleasure visiting that little boy.
I think you might have met him on one of your Alaska trips: that was Warren Woods Jr."

2016 update on Bush Air Cargo, N777YA & N50CM:
In 'Propliners Roundup' by Ralp M Pettersen in Air Classics (apr.2016) I read that Bart Tiernan was selling the business (2015), dissolving Bush Air Cargo. He was quoted as "I lived the dream! Now it is your turn!", while offering N777YA and N50CM for sale.
At the time of N777YA's failed landing on 22Nov15 at the Nixon Fork Mine obviously won't help help selling it, but he will make an attempt to recover it from the site and see it flying again.
Pity to see Bush Air Cargo gone! N50CM was ferried to Ohio on 08/08Nov2015 and reg'd to Priority Air Charter on 29Jan16.



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...


N1394N, C-119F (c/n 10840) was once operated by Stebbins-Ambler Air Transport ("Alaska's First Native Air Transport Operation"), the decal on the window stems from those days.. Both Stebbins and Ambler are locations in Alaska; it was formed by the people of these villages to keep themselves supplied with vital goods. N1394N was their only operating aircraft. And only one flight crew: pilot Jim Devine, copilot Bob Jaidinger and engineer John Reffett.
John Reffett (present owner of N1394N) was "Delta Associates" with some people, and leased their plane to "Stebbins-Ambler Air Transport". It was a strictly VFR operation with the weather keeping N1394N and its crew waiting for days for visibilty to improve.

It seems Stebbins & Ambler lost their own C-119 in the early 1980's (no casualties), and so they leased N1394N from Delta Associates/John Reffett.
Alaskan Props by Karl-Heinz Morawietz & Jörg Weier (Osprey Colour Series, 1988) has a nice photo chapter on this enterprise.
This Flying Boxcar (during its military career nicknamed "dollar nineteen") made a precautionary landing at Port Lions, Kodiak Island in July 1989.. The pilot and owner John S. Reffett, spent the best part of the last decade, restoring his stranded aircraft to airworthiness, despite being plagued by arctic weather conditions and vandalism. He has been owner since April 1989.

(c) John Lameck CollectionJohn Lozon sent me this photo in May 2006, he added the following information:
"This picture was taken at Naval Air Station Grosse Ile, Michigan in 1969.
It has been in my collection now about 10 years.
131673 c/n 10840 went to MASDC(AMARC) at Davis-Monthan AFB,AZ as 4C0016 on 05Aug.1972; to civil register as N1394N, John Reffett, Eagle River, Alaska"
The photographer is unknown.



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:
www.flyinghigher.net/fairchild/N1394F.html
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..






N8501W (left) is a Fairchild C-119F (c/n 10880) and sat for years (about 1994-2000) at Anchorage IAP, without much use. Parts were used to get N1394N from Port Lions. It is a former US Marines aircraft (R4Q-2, BuNo. 131695). To get it in flying condition, for a short hop to Palmer, it had to wait 6 years... With N1394N (former 131673) now at its side at Palmer, restoration of N8501W can be completed. The intention is to use this sturdy aircraft to fly building materials to the north slopes, under FAA Part ... During 2003 7 spare engines were purchased, so the project has a big chance for success !

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.
Lars Gleitsmann from Germany has spent many weeks and months in aid of this project, to get N1394N from Port Lions to Palmer, and he has made an excellent website: www.flyingboxcar.com. It lists many photos and details about these amazing aircraft.
Found also an interesting photo on a Flickr.com account: 'autofocus68'

In May I received an email from Bob:
"I was doing some research on some old planes and came across one that was in my squadron: C-119 131695; around 1958 thru 1962 the numbers we had at Naval Air Station Cherry Point,NC (squadrons VMR-353 & 252) were from 662 to 680.
Then Miami sent their planes to merge with us and one of theirs was 131695! That was right at the time when we were converting to the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and so that plane (as did all the others) went to mothballs.
But now I see it is in Alaska and the tail now shows as N8501W .....small world huh?...."

[Joe Baugher's authoritive website shows: 131695 (c/n 10880) to MASDC as 4C0021 Aug 22, 1973. To civil register as N8501W, John Reffett, Eagle River, AK.]

 

Greg wrote me in August 2007, sharing a wonderul memory (the C-82 was the forerunner of the C-119), another Alaska Anecdote:
"I am an amateur aviation enthusiast, who has been doing aircraft research for years. I came across your site when looking for info on YC-119H. When I saw a couple of old C-82 pictures, I was reminded of a very unusual job interview in Anchorage Alaska, early winter of 1970...


While stationed in the USAF, I was looking for part-time work, to support my family. One day, a retired close friend in Florida insisted I go see an old friend of his at Anchorage Int'l. I was told he was a cargo hauler and he might have part-time work.
Without an appointment, I called on this friend of a friend. He was eager to hear all I could tell him about his retired good friend from years past. After some good conversation he proposed that we continue our conversation in his 'other office'. Within about two minutes we were walking to one of his two C-82's sitting on his flight line! In one more minute I was in the copilot's seat, listening to the (loud) cockpit mounted, APU running. As soon as he sat down in his 'other office', he started turning the right engine. When it started, he was turning number 1... As the right engine generator took the line he turned off the APU and we started to taxi ! [I had noticed we had no ground man with a fire bottle nor did we remove any chocks before entering the aircraft].

With both engines turning, he was calling the tower. The taxi out was very short, because we went almost straight ahead to the active runway. We were cleared for take off, seconds after his request. We lined up on the runway and without a run-up: power came up and we were rolling.
Once airborne we climbed to about 400 ft, and that was it! Across the bay, we followed a river through the mountains: when we broke out on the other side, it was a no-mans land.
After 20 minutes or so, we landed on a frozen lake bed and unloaded all sorts of small goods for the village people, who had come out to greet the airplane.
I noticed that all requests for goods were not written down, he just said he'd bring it next time he came in. There was no exchange of money nor paperwork. Just a quick unload and a within minutes we were fitting the two clam shells doors back into there latches and walking forward in the empty plane.

The return trip was also at 400 ft. The end of the landing roll at Anchorage worked out to be exactly where the turn off to his business was.
What a great interview! Didn't go to work for the man, but sure had a great interview.
I do not remember any names and have often wondered how long he flew those two aircraft, after I left Alaska in Jul 1973.

Would love to hear more about this pair of C-82A's and/or the business owner."
Greg

I found both C-119s still stored at Palmer in 2012.


Here's an update by 'JoeJoe' Prince dated 28May2017:
C-119 N8501W at Palmer 2017


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.

Click on the images for a larger picture of the C-GIBS' cabin and cockpit :
 


Tanker 51 is equipped with GPS and also recently underwent a modification: on the overhead instrument panel is now a multi-functional electronic display (of which one can read the fuel quantities and such like); not quite like the old days, but these Douglas vintage transports seem to adept even to electronics... Chris, who is a co-pilot on the Six and showed us around, was quite proud of Tanker 51 and indeed, I have seen cockpits which looked much less spotless !
Bryan Benn sent me the following reaction:
Tonight I found that a real old friend is still alive. HB-IBS ! She used to fly over my home near Maidstone in Kent on her regular visits to Gatwick in the very early 1980's, and I regularly used to go to that airport to photograph her on final approach and on take off. Got chased off by the police a few times for getting too close to the runway ! And I did get a flight in her once when a Group of UK enthusiasts chartered her for couple of short trips from Norwich when she flew in there. Thanks !
HB-IBS in 1980s (2 photos)

This report on a day in May 2009 shows how Mother Nature can torment with fire & storm:
"Over the past few days Alaska has had over 7,000 Lightning strikes, more then 20 fires started..."


WASILLA

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.
I have no details of its service records, where and when it went for the USAF. Looking at its colourscheme it has served the FAA for a few years.

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-
40647 LC-123J (54-0647)skis 7-64
64385 C-123J (56-4385) 7-64
64388 C-123J   3-68
64389 C-123J   7-64
64390 C-123J   11-72
64391 LC-123J   skis 11-72
64392 C-123J   3-68
64393 C-123J   11-72
64394 LC-123J   skis 3-68
64395 LC-123J   skis 7-64
(on display 6-93) at Anchorage
64396 C-123J   3-68
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

FAIRBANKS

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 hoped to see this unique Aviation Traders ATL-98 Carvair fully restored, but this was not to be. Engine no.1 was still in the shop and the rudder had been taken off to rework it in the sheetmetal shop.
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:
Delivered by Douglas as a C-54B with serial 42-72356 to the USAAF on 24Nov44, to be transferred that same date to the US Navy. It was converted to C-54S in 1962 and later to C-54P. The end of its military career came in Mar73 when it was stored in the desert at Davis Monthan AFB,AZ. It civil career started on 28Oct75 when it was assigned tailnumber N44911 for Biegert Aviation Inc. Brooks Fuel Inc became the owner on 03Sep96 and it has done sterling service ever since. Until Carvair N898AT and C-54G N708Z (during 2003 and 2004 under restoration in Florida) get "on the line", N44911 had to bring in the money
But on 08May04 at Ganes Creek, an airstrip with a 4.200ft runway at a privat gold mine (near McGrath), at engine startup nbr one engine exploded ! The explosion was of such force that engine and left wing seperated from the aircraft.... N44911 had reached the end of the line.


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.
56544 during Berlin Airlift
© Mike Cothran.
My family and I are very glad it still exists and we would like the Brooks folks to know of it's honorable and faithful past.
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..."
Mike

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 !
In July 2004 I received the following email from Bob Penick-
"I was just watching an old TV program "McMillan and Wife" and saw this plane featured with the logo for Interstate World Airways. It dropped an old Chevrolet Vega out the back on a parachute in the show. I looked up the registration number (N101WA) via Google and found your web site. Since you discuss it's "proud history", I thought you might want to add to this to your history, the fact that it is also a TV "star"!
Many thanks Bob ! (Nice to see there is some good in those old 'reruns' !).

Larry Miller wrote me in Feb.2005:
"I flew this airplane for about one year from the time Petco Aviation bought it till about December of 1975 at which time I went to work on the pipeline.
Petco was located in Anchorage on the Intl. Airport. Fellow named John Peterson owned it when I first got there and then John Kupka with Nasco Leasing took it over from John, I suspect for non-payment of something or other.
We operated the van out of Anchorage for a couple of months in late '74, hauling barrel fuel and supplies to places like Rainy Pass lodge and a myriad of small villages in the Anchorage general vicinity. Then we got a contract .... read more......

Curtiss C-46F Commando N1837M (c/n 22388) "Hot Stuff" sits before the hangar, awaiting its next assignment. Everts Air Cargo and Everts Air Fuel certainly moved to splendid new accommodation since my last visit in 1995 !
Unfortunately my visit was done "on the run", as I had lost many days due constant rains; the morning I could not longer portpone my departure from Fairbanks, the weather cleared ! In less than an hour I had a quick look on the ramp, resulting in this shot of N1837M and had a stroll thru the storage yard.

A word on its history:
Delivered as 44-78565 to US Army Air Force in Jul45, it saw service until 1947.So it was as good as new when Slick Airways leased it on 19May48 and registered it as 67939. It was returned to the USAAF as 44-78565 again in Aug48. Conner Air Lines gave it a try and leased it as N1837M from 02aug50 until 29May54, when it was again returned to the USAAF. It turned up in Alaska as N1837M when Wien Alaska Airlines bought it on 30sep55. The name changed to Wien Consolidated Airlines in Apr68. Cliff R.Everts became the owner on 01may68. But he sold it to Reindeer Air Service (09apr73) and it entered the Canadian registry as CF-FNC. From there it went to Kenn Borek Air in 1977 and Lambair (naming this fine C-46: "Miss Piggy"!) bought it in 1980. Ilford Riverton Airways purchase it in Oct82 and the next owner was Northland Air Manitoba (from Feb86). The circle became complete when it was again registered as N1837M for Everts Air Fuel in Sep90. They put "Hot Stuff" on here, rather more dignifying !
In 2006 I met N1837M again and could photograph it more extensively. Have a look!

Ken Keber sent me his memories of having flown as a kid in N1837M:
"I happened on your website and was particularly interested in the article and photos about N1837M.
My father worked for Wien Alaska Airlines from 1950 -1975 and did a lot of flying around Alaska, both for work and pleasure. Being a Wien employee he could fly at will and knew all the pilots and crew.
I'm not sure of the exact year, but approximately 1958 or so, when I was about 10 years old my father and I went on a fishing trip to the Kelly River in the Kotzebue area. Ken Weber in N1837M
Returning back to Fairbanks from Kotzebue we caught a cargo flight in a C-46, N1837M. We were the only passengers on the plane and shortly after takeoff the pilot asked me what I wanted to do (as an occupation) when I grew up. I, of course, stated I wanted to be a pilot!
That was something I've always remembered.
For years later, every time we would see N1837M parked at the Fairbanks Airport, my father would point it out and remark, there's your airplane'!'.
That experience enhanced my desire to fly and in 1977, at 28 years old, I received my single engine land license. I went on to own two aircraft, a PA-16 and a Cessna 180 and have never lost my desire to fly, although it has been years since I have flown now."
Ken Keber
03-apr-2010


My photos of N54514, while visiting Evert's offices, produced glum shots as the sun had disappeared; much to my dismay ! Fortunately the Airport Authorities of Fairbanks IAP treated me on an excellent drive, later that day, over the ramps and I got a 2nd chance !
While I like the "cool" look of the Curtiss Commando such as N1837M, what Everts Air Cargo has done with Commando C-46D N54514 (c/n 22318) is truly amazing ! It radiates confidence in these "legendary transports" in a commercial role, I think !
Like any Curtiss Commando, life started with the USAAF, this one as 44-78495 upon delivery in jun45. It found its way to Japan, transferred as 51-1114 to the Japanese Air Self Defense Force on 16jan55. It was returned to the US Government, in the 1970s, and was stored at Miho Air Base,in Japan. Wayne Craft bought it in 1978 under its former USAAF tailnumber 44-78495. By that time it had amassed some 12.606 flying hours. Cliff Everts bought N54514 on 28Jul78 and stored it in its JSDAF colours at Fairbanks. There is sat for almost 20 years ! When his son, Robert "Bob" Everts, started his Air Cargo Express business, N54514's restoration commenced in 1996 and put into service in 1998. How it looked in 1995.
It wears its nickname "Maid of Japan" with pride.


Another survivor of years of storage at Fairbanks: N444CE Douglas DC-6B (c/n 45478). People at Everts Air Cargo certainly know how to decorate these planes !
Commercial life started in France as F-BIAM for Union Aeromaritime de Transport after its delivery on 29Mar58. Italian flag carrier Alitalia leased it from May58 until Sep58. It was sold as TU-TCF to Air Afrique on 01Nov63. It returned to France as F-BOEX for Trans-Union in Nov67. It was reregistered as OO-HEX when Belgian Int'l Air Services bought it on 23Jan69. It changed owners when it was reregistered as OO-PAY for Belgian Int'l Air Svcs in Mar70. A year later, in Dec71, it moved to Delta Air Transport, as OO-FVG; the tailnumber changed to OO-VGF (for DAT) on 17Jul73.
It crossed the Atlantic Ocean when it was registered as C-GHLZ for Conair Aviation (Tanker 445), upon its purchase in Jan75. It moved north, to Alaska, for Tatonduk Outfitters Ltd (doing business as Air Cargo Express, later Everts Air Cargo) in Sep97. It was stored and later restored for Everts Air Fuel, in May 2001.
It's seen in full action here, being refuelled for another "fuel hauling mission".
Learn more about Cliff Everts, a legend in Alaskan aviation.

Back to Anchorage 2003
DC-4 flight from Fairbanks: Bliss with Brooks !
While on the subject of Fairbanks: Stored at Fairbanks, 2003
Cultural stuff at: Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum at Lake Hood (Anchorage), 2003
Museums at Fairbanks too: Pioneer Air Museum (Fairbanks), 2003
The "Road Home", via the Yukon, Anchorage & Seattle.

Sources:
JP Airline Fleets, 1995
Douglas DC-3 by J.M.G. Gradidge (Air-Britain, 1984)
Piston Engine Airliner production List, J.R.Roach and A.B. Eastwood (TAHS, 2002)


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Created: 8-09-2003
Last updated 25.5.2009