Bliss with Brooks !


Bliss.... I have to admit that it is my "bliss" we are talking about here, Roger Brooks' business is too much hard work to be able to refer to in any "hallelujah" terminology ! Propliner fans are indebted to Roger Brooks for his long standing hospitality, taking the time from his business activities in showing his visitors around and telling about his aircraft.
Before embarking on the details of my flight, let's first walk thru Roger's yard: it is full of stored, "promising future prospects"...


Brooks Fuel was founded by Roger W. Brooks in 1986 and operates FAR91 contract fuel-delivery flights within Alaska, from it's homebase Fairbanks. Roger moved to Alaska from Idaho in 1981 and flew DC-3s for Frontier Flying Service until he started his own business in 1984. He formally incorporated Brooks Fuel Inc 2 years later.
Since 1997 Roger also operates FAR125 cargo-contract flights, e.g. he has a contract to fly cargo and supplies to Bettles Lodge.
Below this page is a link thru where these FAA Flight Rules are explained.

Update!Following onformation was received by Jan.2012:
"Brooks Fuel voluntarily stopped operating early last year, due to multiple FAA issues and other business matters. The company itself was dissolved in August of 2011 and their operating certificate was revoked on
December 9, 2011. No more Brooks Fuel..."
Propliner fans were always treated with respect by Roger Brooks, allowed them time to talk and/or wonder around his yard full of stored sky trucks, 'future projects' he called them. Sad to see this business come to an end.



This Carvair is a good reason for a visit in itself. It is one of three remaining airframes, in a state of (near) airworthiness, in the world... Except I had hoped to see it flying and it wasn't !. Roger thought he'd need another 2 weeks to get it airborne, but I think he was speaking in biblical terms: 2 weeks, no way !
This unique plane attracts a lot of attention: less than 2 hours after a Lufthansa MD11 cargo jet landed, the German crew came around for a look ! The history of this converted DC-4 has been described in C-GAAH with Hawkair (15Aug99)
Tailnumber N898AT had not yet been applied.
But here is a video on YouTube, N898AT taking off from FAI.
Gil White wrote an excellent history on this unique aircraft.
It became fully restored in 2004, have a look at ATL.98 Carvair N898AT in final stages of restoration
Unfortunately, N898AT crashed 30May07 at Nixon Fork Mine (near McGrath,AK); initial reports reported crew escaped without serious injuries. OldWings.nl has a report and photos of the accident.
Two links to YouTube, which show DC-4s landing at the Nixon Fork Mine: ONE and TWO (thanks to Sean Keating for forwarding these).

The weather in Alaska is always an issue, you can never take it for granted.
I had arrived at Fairbanks during the most awfull, record-breaking rainfall and there was a lot of "standing water" on the Brooks premises, as can be seen. In the area around Fairbanks, roads had been closed and flood warnings were in effect. It also effected my plans to fly that day....

Fortunately, enthusiasts filmed this Carvair (among other aircraft) and in 2008 Avion Videos released an excellent dvd, showing this Carvair in operation with Hawk Air.
DVD Carvair Hawkair - Bronson Creek - Snip Mine Airlift


Douglas DC-7C N90251 (c/n 45367/918) is a rare survivor, but will it ever fly again ?
It was delivered as F-BIAQ to Transports Aeriens Intercontinentaux on 06Jan58. During 1963 it was stored at Le Bourget, Paris. The next year it went to work for the French military: registered as 45367/85-CB it flew for the L'Armee de L'Air and the civil registration F-ZBCB was assigned, too.
In Dec78 it was bought by GCA in the US, became registered as N90251 and leased to Petroleum Air Transport for an undefined period. Commercial Leasing became the next owner in Jul82, T&G Aviation the next (Sep86) and finally Roger Brooks bought it in Feb95. He operated it for some 400 hrs in 1995/1996.
Roger has owned another DC-7B (N101LM was registered to him in Apr97), but he sold it in 1999 to Carlos Gomez of Turks Air and c/n 44921 is operating from Florida after extensive restoration and a paintjob resembling early American Airlines livery, reregistered N381AA.
On this page I have a photo this DC-7, operational in 1995.



This Beech C-45G N114V is maybe a bit small compared to the other aircraft present here, but I can see use for it here in Alaska. Roger Brooks bought it in 1986 from a bankruptcy and thought of restoring it but never got round to it. It was a bit of a sentimental journey, as he had owned a Beech 18 when he lived in the Lower 48, a long time ago.
The NTSB files has this:
NTSB Identification: CHI75AC051
14 CFR Part 135 Scheduled operation of BLACKHAWK AIR*
Event occurred Wednesday, January 08, 1975 in CHICAGO, IL
Aircraft: BEECH C-45G, registration: N114V
Date: 75/1/8 - Location: CHICAGO,IL (O'Hare Int'l)
Aircraft: BEECH C-45G - Tailnumber: N114V
Age: 38, Ttl Hours: 2425
Phase of Operations: Landing roll, Gear collapsed
Probable cause:
Pilot in Command - Failed to maintain directional control
Pilot in Command - Improper Operation of brakes and/or flight controls
Factors:
Pilot in Command - Diverted attention from operation of aircraft
Pilot in Command - Misjudged speed
Remarks- Released tail wheel lock, turning off onto hispeed taxiway.
Bob Parmerter kindly provided the following history:
Originally c/n 6443 AT-7C 43-50001 USAAF delivered ATC Laughlin Fld on 07Jun44. To AMC Brookley. To Kirtland 1949. Reclam at Wichita Jun51. To Beech for remanufacturing to USAF C-45G 51-11477, new c/n AF-34 and delivered 02May52.
AF-34 C-45G 51-11477 USAF to SAC at March AFB; to Davis Monthan AFB for reclam (sale) in Apr58. Reg’d as N9615C CofA 20Mar59. Rereg’d N114V.
Accident on 09Nov61 at Charlotte,NC when it hit a fire hydrant.
To Stevens Buick Inc of Rapid City,SD. To Gopher Aviation of Rochester,MN. To Earl W. Fugate/Midwest Aviation, Janesville, WI.
To Blackhawk Airways, Janesville, WI (‘70-’80).
Photo by John Hume
© Photo by John Hume, Dec.2005
Had an accident on 08Jan75 at Chicago,IL (see above), ground loop & gear collapse.
Another accident happened on 25Aug77 at Lincoln,IL: engine failure.
To John H. Weiler in 1981. To Buck Maxson, Shinglehouse, PA reg’d Oct81. To Aurora Air Service Inc of Fairbanks,AK reg’d Oct82.
To Roger W. & Linda J. Brooks of Fairbanks,AK reg’d Oct86.
Rereg’d N114AK Jan91 (but it continued to wear N114V as of 2005 seen stored engines off at Brooks Fuel, Fairbanks).


This Douglas transport (C-54D, construction number 10661, line number 392) was delivered as 42-72556 to the US Army Air Force on 09Apr45 and transferred to the US Navy that same date and serialled 56504. It served a long career, until it was stored at Davis Monthan AFB in Dec70. Fortunately, life was not over yet and it entered civilian service as N99212 for Ralco (also numbered '113', maybe an airtanker ?) in Dec74.
Further down the line, Jesse Gene Rogers became the new owner when he bought N99212 on 01sep82. Next was Warplanes Inc (22jan88) and Stratolift Inc (27jun89). For some reason a bank took ownership (repossessed ?): Key Bank of Alaska, they took ownership in Jan92. But what would a bank do with it...

In Nov.2005 Russ Whitcomb wrote me the following:
"after seeing a History Channel program on the Berlin airlift I got curious about an airplane which I trained on as a navigator for the U.S. Marines in 1970. At that time it was known as Marine 56504. In looking up this tail number I found your photo of N99212. Sadly it appears that it's flying days are over. During flight training in 1970 I flew many thousands of miles on this aircraft. I knew it had originally been purchased by the Air Force and passed on to the Navy, then the Marines, but I thought it had been during Korea. Now I see it was even older than I thought as it's original serial number appears to be "42"-72556.
I see you wrote that it appears you do not know if it was an airtanker or not. Well, I'm not sure either. However, in 1974 I happened to be visiting my grandfather's orange orchards in Mesa, Arizona. Here I found quite a few WWII and Korean era aircraft. As I am fascinated by older aircraft me and my wife asked if we could look around at the many planes they were rebuilding. Quite to my surprise I found my old friend VM56504 there. They told me it was going to be refitted as a tanker. I don't know that ever actually happened, but I do know it was the same plane as I could still see the "U. S. Marines" written over the wings and the 56505 tail number. These had been blacked out but if you stood just right so the sun was reflecting off the sides you could still read them through the black paint."

Thanks Russ!
And here is a link to how I saw it on a previous visit to Alaska: Douglas DC-4s, stored

R.Barry Nance, a retired United Ailines Captain, wrote me in Dec.2007:
"He is correct about the Berlin Airlift! And it was also at the USMC Navigation School at CHERRY POINT in 1962...
I graduated first in my class of nine for that school that year. Barbados,Azores,Bermuda and Copenhagaen were our 'Training missions'.
56504 as we all called her.. and she was our navigation platform for 6 months!
Major Butler was our CO, the only Officer Navigator in the US Marine Corps at that time. We were all enlisted, including the instructors (total of 56 in those days, in all three airwings).
My career was possible because of the training I had in 56504 and that is is the truth!"

..........except selling it again: to Roger W. Brooks in Mar92 (ownership was modified to Brooks Fuel Inc in Sep95).
This C-54D has always been intended for parts supply to the other C-54s.

While transporting fuel is the mainstay of the business, some cargo is also transported. While I sat in the office and Roger phoned ahead to his destination, to check the weather, the person he spoke to inquired if he would be bringing that carpet roll he had ordered. But it hadn't been delivered yet to Roger, so the answer was negative.

The sturdy DC-4 seems the ideal plane for the moment and that is why Roger has so many of them, albeit mostly stored at the moment.


The history of this Douglas C-54D (c/n 10828/559): delivered on 16Jul45 as 42-72723 to U.S. Army Air Force (renamed U.S. Air Force 18Sep47) and its military career took even longer than N99212: Jan74 meant exit into the desert of Arizona.
It participated in the Berlin Airlift: on 23Jun48 the Soviet occupational forces closed all rail, road and waterway supply routes from the Allied Western Zones of Occupation in Berlin. There was less than 1 month's supply of food and fuel available for the two and a half million Berliners living in the Western Zones. The blockade of Germany had begun. A freezing winter complicated things even further.; the Soviets had every intention of starving and freezing Berlin into submission. The allies responded immediately with a logistical tour de force, never yet seen in history of aviation. In 11 months Allied aircraft made thousands of flights into 3 airfields located in the cramped airspace of Berlin, carrying: food, clothing, coal, liquid fuel, etc.
This Skymaster was part of that history.
Storage lasted until it entered FAA's register as N90201 for Aero Union Corporation on 15Nov78. This lasted for some 4 years: Honda Carib Cargo Inc bought it on 27Jan82. Next was a name which echo's through "Propliner world": Frank Moss bought it on 27Apr87 and Great Southern Airlines leased it from Nov87 for a while. Roger Brooks bought it in Feb94 and brought it to Alaska.
Roger operated this C-54 along N44911 until a fire on no.2 engine, during the summer of 1999, destroyed parts behind the firewall and N90201 awaits repair when economies warrant the expenses.


N67018 (c/n 22196/648) has seen much the same type of history: delivered as 43-17246 to the USAAF on 01Oct45 and transferred to the US Navy as 56544. It was converted from a -D model to C-54Q and transferred to the US Marine Corps. Its military career was terminated upon its storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona in Sep71.
It's civilian career went underway upon registration as N67018 for Aircraft Specialities Inc in 1977. Globe Air Inc bought N67018 in Apr81, but only 4 years later it was stored again, in Nov85. Fortunately the Sander Lead Company came to the rescue and they bought it in Feb86, but at some point (date ?) it was left useless at Troy in Alabama. Brooks Fuel went shopping and bought it in Nov96, for some future project, as it was stored and remained as such until this day.
Jim Ormiston sent me these photos and info in Jan.2007:
"Here are two photos of tailnumber 56544. These were taken at NAS Barber's Point on 21Apr67. This plane was used to haul the Fleet Marine Force Pacific Drum & Bugle Team (see also further below) around Australia and New Zealand for the Coral Sea remembrance, from 21Apr67 to 21May67.
This plane was a real workhorse! It carried us all over the Pacific and up and down the West Coast."
Jim Ormiston, FMFPAC D&B Team (1966-1968)
56544   56544



The predecessor of the DC-4, this is the Douglas C-47A. This airframe, with c/n 20190, started its career as 43-15724 with the USAAF in 1944. It went to Alaska ATC in 1944 and as NC95460 to Northern Consolidated Airlines in 1953. From 1967 to 1971 it went to Interior Airways, which operated out of Fairbanks,AK. N95460 operated later for Yukon Air Service and it was registered to Air North in 1977. I found it stored with Brooks Fuel in 1995 and was glad to see it still around.
Dave Krone wrote me in Mar.2006:
"I went up to Alaska in March of 1974 and went to work for Air North. The pipeline was just starting up then. Up until 1976 or '77, about half my flying was connected to the pipeline or exploration work. It was great. The other half was mostly bush stuff in native vilages and some charter work.
I flew for Air North till 1978. Then went to work for Alaska International in the fall of 1978. Flew for them 9 years, then went to America West in 1987.
About the DC-3, N95460: I flew it a few times when Air North bought it. It had been sitting at FAI Int'l for quite a long time. There was a kid who came up from the States during the pipeline days and he lived in it till he got on his feet! While we owned it, he showed up one day and told us how he had been living in it a year or 2 ago and now he wanted to go up in it to get married... So Ron Klemm, part owner of Air North, took him and his bride and party up and they were married!
When I left in 1978, it was still flying for Air North."




At that moment the only aircraft that earned its keep for Roger: the faithful N44911. Fuel is flown to the many isolated communities and refuelling points for the oil exploration helicopters. The airfields are often very primitive and even a DC-4 looks big on some of them ! Hundreds of small villages and mines are dependent upon air transport for vital supplies and fuel to power vehicles and heat buildings.
The colourscheme still dates from its days of operation with Biegert Aviation. During the 1990s Roger bought several of these former Biegert Aviatiation Skymasters, after a long time storage at Chandler, Arizona.
Mike Lodge wrote me in Feb.2005:"I was privileged to fly this bird (tail 50857) as Flight Engineer for about 4 years from 1964 to 1968 when she was based at NAS North Island with VC-3 (formerly VU-3).
I experienced hours of delight and moments of sheer terror aboard her. The most memorable being a 45-day jaunt from San Diego to Australia and New Zeland via Hawaii. We transported the USMC Drum and Bugle Team for the 1966 ANZAC celebration (Battle of the Coral Sea Victory). On this flight, the delight came in watching two LtJgs fighting over the sextant trying to get a navagation fix and failing while the Aircraft Commander, Master Chief Petty Officer, Aviation Pilot, Ken Milburn used his experience to estimate our course and get us safely from Hawaii to Kwajeline Island!
Anyway, do you have any more information on what caused the explosion leading to her demise? What a gutsy thing for the pilot to taxi away from the fire before getting out.

Mike Lodge, formerly ADR1 AC, USN

"While googling on "drum and bugle team" I found it led me to your website and the entry of Mike Lodge stating he was on a flight of tail 50857 which carried the USMC Drum and Bugle Team to Australia and New Zealand in 1966 for the ANZAC celebration.
I was a member of the D & B Team and made that 1966 flight!!!
While sharing the information with fellow D & B Team members one noted that Tail 56544 is the C-54 that flew us to Australia and New Zealand for ANZAC the following year 1967...
Exciting to find pictures of these planes as I too had moments of shear terror and delight in both of them!
I am saddened that learn of N44911's demise, and hope that N67018 will fly again!
Thanks again for the nostalgia."
Phil Nester --USMC FMF PAC D&B Team 1965-1968 [Nov.2006]

Ted Johansen wrote me in March 2007: The crew of BuNo 50857
"My father flew a C-54 across the Pacific during WWII.
Here is a picture of 50857 taken on Okinawa. The men in the picture (from left to right) are the flight engineer (name unknown), Pilot - Bert Kozak, and Co Pilot - Ted Johansen.
Bert stayed in the Navy after the war and was commander of a sub chaser that crashed on Greenland in 1962. My father, Ted, left the Navy and became an accountant; he died of old age before the plane did."
Ted, Jr.

"Nine-Eleven" is getting its ration of fuel and oil; it must be neckbreaking to climb on that wing during wintertime...
Douglas produced about a 100 of these C-54B variants. This WW2-vintage transport (c/n 10461/192) was delivered as 42-72356 to the US Army Air Force (USAAF) but transferred that same date, 24nov44, to the US Navy with Bureau Number 50857. It was converted to C-54S (US Navy variant of the C-54G) in 1962 and later converted back again to C-54P (US Navy's basic C-54B variant). It's military career came to an end in the desert of Davis Monthan AFB,AZ in Mar73.
It started a civil career as N44911 for Biegert Aviation upon its purchase in 28oct75. And it went from the desert to the Last Frontier for Brooks Fuel Inc, with a registered purchase date of 03Sep96.
When I asked Roger if I could extend my services and join a flight, he had me (almost) jumping for joy (not cool !) with a flight that afternoon to Bettles. It would be a nice 3 hour trip and I had to call around noon to see if the flight got a "go". The decision was postponed for an hour, but then everything looked positive.
Gary, Roger's copilot, was preparing the aircraft, while Roger did some work in the office. Gary started flipping switches to get the four engines going, but....
... the engines refused to ignite !
First engine no.1 refused to start, when that was solved no.2 refused. So did no.3 ! (no.4 did in fact get started). But nos. 1 & 4 were switched off again when two and three just did not feel like going today !
During the previous weekend, with the torrential rains, N44911 had made a flight and probably ingested a lot of water. It was parked and the condensation over these past 48 hours did not allow the sparks to ignite any life in these Pratt & Whitney R-2000s....
"Moose", who had been working on no.1 engine of the Carvair, started troubleshooting on the obstinate no.3 engine.

Engineers Seth en Chris worked on no.2 engine, calling instructions to the cockpit about "booster pumps on/off", "mixture rich/poor", as well as the usual banter between ground crew and flying crew ("what have you done to my plane ?!"), mixed with a few expressions less suitable for print ( I don't want to embarass these guys !).
Frankly, I enjoyed all this "TLC - tender, loving care" and had a great time observing all the going ons in the cockpit and on the ground.

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 will never fly again, very sad !
See for more info and a photo bottom of this page.


A look on board....
 

These rollagons are a common means to transport fuel in various shapes and forms here in the Arctic North. We see them here filled, each one capable of holding 500 gallons. They are tightly secured to the cargofloor. The bladders are connected and while delivering fuel on the destination, the hoses can be disconnected and reconnected without any spilling. You have to keep your mind on the job at hand, though !

The rollagons are used in a "quick-change"-configuration, they can be fairly quickly removed, creating space on the maindeck to haul cargo. The fueltanks seen here, capable of 830 gallons each, are heavier by structure and secured on the maindeck. On a series of fuel-hauling flights, these tanks will be placed over the wing area on the maindeck, one stacked on top of the other (with the top one not fully filled (baffles inside regulate the flow of the fuel).


The delay while working on the engines dragged on and a solution was nowhere in sight, no matter how much anti-condensation fluid was sprayed in the engine. So the flight was postponed to the next day !


I reported back on duty on 29Jul03 at 07:30. All engines had been up and running the evening before, but again these engines proved to have a mind of their own and another delay of an hour was struck up because of difficulty getting them started again. Well, I find a cup of coffee useful in the mornings, but I understand engines have to do without that type of "get-up-and-go" fluids....
But the moment was there, when no.3 was revving it up and no.4 was spewing smoke. Time to get on board !
Take off was made from runway 19R, away from the town, which is a procedure for fuel-hauling flights. N44911 made a gradual climb and slightly banked to make for a northerly heading. Roger made some adjustments to the trim setting and hardly needed to touch the controls to see the altitude increase. We headed for the Brooks Range, named for geologist Alfred Hulse Brooks (no relation, Roger assured me).
The Brooks Range is the highest mountain range within the Arctic Circle and the northernmost extension of the Rocky Mountains in northern Alaska. It forms the drainage divide between the waters that flow northward into the Arctic Ocean and those that flow southward into the Yukon River.
The weather was clear, no turbulence and little traffic on the frequency. Soon the engines settled on a comfortable 30 inch manifold pressure and the 2.000 rpm produced a cruising speed of 165 knots (TAS); oil pressure and fuel flow had their indications in the green. Life felt pretty good !
Here is a tribute to "Round Engines"

Our destination: Ivotuk ! Not Bettles ? No, after we were airborne for over an hour I found ourselves cruising along and, allowing for groundtime at our destination, I was getting doubts about our destination. With the 4 PW R-2000s droning quite loudly and wearing a headset, conversation was kept to a minimum. But my inquiry for Bettles' estimated time of arrival was replied to with "Bettles ? No, we're heading for Ivotuk".
Ivotuk is located on the North Slope of Alaska, in the central southern coastal plains north of the Brooks Range (Lat: 68* 29' N, Long:155* 44' W), some 330 miles north-west of Fairbanks and 200 miles south of Barrow. It is flanked on the west by Iteriak Creek and the Ivotuk Hills, and on the east by Otuk Creek. The primitive airstrip and short road at the site were originally developed for geologic exploration in the early 1980's.
Have a look on this map.
This primitive airstrip is basically a refuelling stop for the helicopters of the oil exploration companies, but to my surprise it's not uninhabited ! A biologist and his wife had settled here, to study global climate change. They had been here since May, had to dig in 4 feet of snow to get their camp set up...
There is a wooden shed as well, but that's for chopper crews to take shelter if the need arises.
We departed Fairbanks with blue skies, but weather on the North Slope is unpredictable and conditions were deteriorating fast; a fierce wind was blowing and some rain soon followed. This was no picnic !


Shortly before the storm hit us I was able to run around and take a few pictures; the military titles are beginning to show through the white paint on the upper half of the fuselage.
Glenn and his wife Maria were glad to see some visitors and enjoyed their break of routine. Maria is sitting next to something that looks like a baby pool, but it is in fact protection against spillage of the bladder lying on the ground (which is having 2.300 gallons of fuel pumped into it ever so slowly); if the bladder would leak, it would be contained in the bright yellow plastic contraption and thus prevent the tundra being soiled.
Glenn was kind enough to let me use his satellite phone, as I was anxious to call my wife: "hi honey, I am in the middle of nowhere and I will be home a little later...!" I had left early that morning assuming I'd be back at noon and taken the car !. At 1 pm I was going nowhere yet and meanwhile had been told we'd go for another stop further up north: the 3 hour trip was turning into a full day adventure... I for sure wasn't complaining !
The information was welcomed on the other side, perhaps a little reluctantly. Boy, was I glad I met someone with a satellite phone !!


As soon as business was done at Ivotuk we said good bye to Glenn & Maria and closed the aircraft; Roger and Gary went through the cockpit checklist and the engines rumbled back into life without a glitch. The mike was pressed for a blind transmission on Unicom 122.9 Megahertz: "N44911 taxiing for take off at Ivotuk" (for possible traffic in the area) and Roger took his bird up in the air on a take off that belied the age of his sturdy transport. Next stop: Inagok !
The discoloring on this photos is thanks to the sheets of rain.... We were entering the circuit and landed from the other side. There was even more wind here and getting the plane down in the crosswind took some positive flying. The white spots on the left are what's it all about, the one on the left is the fueltank that needed topping up, with the remainder of what we had on board.
Inagok is located 110 miles south of Prudhoe Bay, in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), which covers 36,000 squaremiles that reach the northern-most point in Alaska. NPR-A dates to 1923 when President Harding established it as the Naval Petroleum Reserve 4. The name changed to National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska in 1976.
Not much to see around here, though we had to chase a chopper to get parked near the fueltank.
The weather was even more awful, more wind and rain. The storm made me run like a fool a few times, to fetch my cap from the tundra...
Meanwhile Roger and Gary worked as a team, without wasting any time, and got other attachments to fit the refuelling hose; I felt pretty useless sometimes, misunderstanding some of the "get me ...." commands. The wind made conversation difficult if you were a few feet apart. I'll try to be more useful next time.


Take off from Inagok saw Gary in the driving seat and Roger took care of some paperwork; these fuel deliveries are done on a contract and Roger sends in an invoice with date and gallons delivered and that's it.
Clouds obscured most of the forward view outside and Roger worked a napkin on the cockpit window to take care of some of the rain seeping in; this is not uncommon in these unpressurised skytrucks, but a novelty for me as I am more used to cockpits of big Boeing- and Douglas jets.
Roger let me sit in the righthand seat and I had a good view on the radial engines nos.3 & 4, rumbling in a reliable, reassuring rythm (my faith in "round engines" was fully restored !). I could see the rivers and tundra pass below us, while we climbed to a comfortable 9.500 ft altitude, setting a course via Anaktuvuk Pass, to bring us back again to Fairbanks and sunny weather. Anaktuvuk is Inuit language for "place with many Caribou droppings".
Pioneer aviators had to suffer in the early days of aviation in Alaska, during the 1920s - 1940s (Ben Eielson, Frank Barr, Jack Jefford, Bob Reeve, the Wien Brothers, Joe Crosson, Don Sheldon, Harold Gilliam, etc.) including walking out of this unforgiven country after a crash, sometimes for weeks.... brrrr ! I looked at the GPS in the cockpit and suddenly the DC-4 did not feel so old and I felt pretty secure !
Have a look at the view down below !


ATC Fairbanks warned us for a Northwest 727, approaching over Ft.Wainwright, into Fairbanks (FAI/PAFA) but the jet had cleared the runway by the time we were on finals.
In the foreground, on the right, is "home" for N44911 and the operating crew. We had left at around 10 a.m., groundtimes at Ivotuk and Inagok lasted about 01:30 and 01:00 respectively and we landed at Fairbanks again shortly before 5 p.m.


For some a day like this is business as usual, but for me this flight had become an experience hard to translate into words, something I will remember for a long time. Did I land when N44911 touched down ? I wasn't sure, because when I left I felt I was walking on air....

I was sad to hear the company was dissolved in 2011, but glad I had had an opportunity to document this type of work and flying in Alaska.


A heartfelt "thank you" to Roger Brooks and his flight- and groundcrew, for their camaraderie these past days.

Unfortunately, N44911 had little time left as less than a year later it found its last resting place.....
NTSB Identification: ANC04LA052
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 125: 20+ Pax,6000+ lbs
Accident occurred Friday, May 07, 2004 in McGrath, AK
Aircraft: Douglas C-54B, registration: N44911
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

On May 7, 2004, about 2130 Alaska daylight time, a Douglas C-54B airplane, N44911, sustained substantial damage when an explosion occurred in the left wing during engine start at the Ganes Creek Mine airstrip, about 25 miles west of McGrath, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) flight under Title 14, CFR Part 125, when the accident occurred. The airplane was operated by Brooks Fuel Inc., Fairbanks, Alaska. The captain and first officer, both airline transport certificated pilots, were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. VFR company flight following procedures were in effect. The intended destination was Fairbanks.
During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), on May 8, the vice president of Brooks Fuel Inc., reported that the crew was beginning engine start procedures and successfully started engines number 4,3, and 2 in succession. As the crew started engine number 1, an explosion occurred in the wing area between engines 1 and 2. Engine 1 and the remaining outboard section of the left wing separated from the rest of the wing. The crew applied engine power in the remaining engines and taxied away from the area of the explosion. The crew then stopped about mid-field and disembarked the airplane.

Here is how N44911 looks after being disbanded at the Ganes Creek minestrip:
N44911 at Ganes Creek Click on the image for a larger photo.
The photo was referred by Doug Clark of Clark Wiltz Mining, the firm that owns the Ganes Creek Mine and the airstrip where N44911 now rests. Their website is www.clark-wiltz.com. One can find the photo in their photo album section, under the "Click here for more photos of the first week 2004".
Or by this link:
http://www.juddcom.com/photos/Ganes%20Creek%206-20-04/slides/D70-1376.html, quoting photographer Dan Judd (photo taken Spring 2004). Photo published with permission.
Thanks Andreas, for pointing this out to me!

More on my 2003 trip thru Alaska: Anchorage
Something cultural, perhaps :Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum at Lake Hood (Anchorage), 2003
Visits to Palmer and Wasilla in :The road north and Fairbanks
More museums: Pioneer Air Museum (Fairbanks), 2003
Have a look at many other stored vintage props : Stored at Fairbanks, 2003
The final page on this trip is The Road Home
FAA Flight Rules explained

External link to FAA directory of many Alaskan local airfields

Sources::
Piston Engine Airliner Production List, A.B.Eastwood & J.Roach (TAHS, 2002)
Berlin Airlift by Arthur Pearcy (Airlife, 1997)
Projects at Ivotuk



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Created: 24-11-03
Last updated 28.3.2006