Alaska's First Bush Pilots, 1923-30: And The Winter In Siberia For Eielson and Borland

Alaska's First Bush Pilots, 1923-30: And The Winter In Siberia For Eielson and Borland

by Jim Rearden, Richard Wien

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Overview

This book follows the careers of Alaska's pioneering pilots, who, with cranky open-cockpit biplanes, started the great change in Alaska's way of travel. Aviation first arrived at Fairbanks, the trade center of mainland Alaska, from which dog sled trails spider-web to mines, villages, and trap-lines. During winters, goods and people traveled mostly by dog sled. During the summer of 1923 Ben Eielson was the first to fly commercially from Fairbanks, ferrying passengers and light freight with an open cockpit Jenny (JN4) biplane. It was the beginning of the leap from ground travel to the air. Noel Wien was the next. In the summers of 1924-26 he flew open cockpit biplanes from Fairbanks. Starting in 1927, he flew a cabin biplane year-around on scheduled flights in the 579 miles between Fairbanks and Nome. In March, 1929, Wien flew from Alaska to the Elisif, an ice-locked trading schooner in Siberia, to return with a load of valuable furs. In the following November, Ben Eielson repeated this flight to the Nanuk, another ice-bound trading schooner in Siberia. And when he and his mechanic, Earl Borland returned for a second load of Siberian fur, their Hamilton airplane disappeared in a winter snowstorm. This brought on one of the most famous, and difficult aerial searches ever made from and in Alaska. By the 1930s, Alaska's growing aviation industry had revolutionized transportation in the Territory. This volume is a fond look back at the triumphs and tragedies of the pioneering Ben Eielson, Noel Wien, Harold Gillam, Joe Crosson, Ed Young, and others, the great pilots who were the first bush pilots of Alaska.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780882409320
Publisher: West Margin Press
Publication date: 04/04/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 276
File size: 8 MB

About the Author

Jim Rearden has been a resident of Alaska since 1950. Among his various Alaskan jobs, Rearden has been a college professor, a gandy dancer for the Alaska Railroad, a registered big game guide, a carpenter, commercial fisherman, construction laborer, management biologist for commercial fisheries (Alaska Department of Fish and Game), and a freelance writer/photographer. He served 12 years on the Alaska Board of Fish and Game and Alaska Board of Game. President Gerald Ford appointed him to the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere where he served 18 months. He has written 29 books on Alaskan subjects and 500 magazine articles for about 40 different magazines around the world. For 20 years he was Outdoors Editor for Alaska Magazine, and simultaneously a Field Editor for Outdoor Life magazine. He holds wildlife conservation degrees from Oregon State University and the University of Maine, as well as an honorary Dr. of Science degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He lives in Homer, Alaska with his wife Audrey, in a log house he built himself.

Read an Excerpt

There was intrigue about the stillness of the air, and the frontier atmosphere of Fairbanks, which made me like the North from the day I arrived, For two weeks after we landed (on July t6, 1924, “we”, meaning Noel) we couldn’t find our way cross-country due to the forest fire smoke, but when it cleared, we were busy. People in Fairbanks took to the air quickly. They were hardy, willing to gamble. Ben Eielson had mae a number of flights that spring before I arrived (for Rodebaugh’s Fairbanks Airplane Corporation). He had also started the Farthest-North Airplane Company the previous year, and had brought in an old reliable OX-5-powered Curtiss Jenny JN-4D open cockpit World War I training plane. Due to the interest created by Eielson’s pioneering, we had little trouble getting flying business to outlying mining camps.

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