In the Shadow of Eagles: From Barnstormer to Alaska Bush Pilot, A Flyer's Story

In the Shadow of Eagles: From Barnstormer to Alaska Bush Pilot, A Flyer's Story

by Jim Rearden, Rudy Billberg

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In the Shadow of Eagles is a uniquely American saga. Rudy Billberg’s story takes readers through the great age of aviation, from his first airplane ride in Minnesota in 1927 to his bush flying career in Alaska beginning in 1941. One of the authentic aviation pioneers, Billberg writes of his countless adventures and close calls during the decades; stunt flying in Midwestern air shows, flying out of Nome into the frozen Arctic, and more. Filled with history and insight, Billberg’s narrative chronicles the lives of many of his fellow Alaskan pilots, including the great pioneer airmen Joe Crosson, Harold Gillam, Noel Wien and Sam White, and tells of the early flying machines they all flew—Travel Airs, Pilgrims, Fairchilds, Bellancas. Rudy Billberg has given us a great story of his time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780882409313
Publisher: West Margin Press
Publication date: 04/04/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 335
Sales rank: 1,091,149
File size: 6 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.
Lindbergh’s flight from New York to Paris in 1927 cemented Rudy Billberg’s determination to fly. He learned to fly in a Curtiss Robin in 1934. He then flew as a professional pilot for 46 years. Born in Roseau, Minnesota, in 1916, Billberg’s first plan ride in 1927, was in an open-cockpit Travel Air biplane powered by a Curtiss OX-5 engine. In Minnesota he flew as a barnstormer and instructed student pilots in a pre-war federal civilian pilot training program. During World War II, he flew C-47’s in Alaska and northwestern Canada for the Air Transport Command. Before and after the war, he was an Alaska bush pilot. An adventurer at heart, Billberg, often with his wife, Bessie, explored wilderness Alaska by riverboat, amphibious plane, and snowmobile. While Rudy flew the bush, the Billbergs lived in Nome, Fairbanks, Galena, Bethel, Anchorage, and Homer. Billberg died in 2007.

Read an Excerpt

Alaskans took to airplanes like no other people in the world ever have. From the beginning, they flew 30 to 40 times as much as other Americans, measured in number of flights per capita or by the passenger mile. Today, Alaska has more then 10,000 pilots, one for every 45 residents. One aircraft is found in the state for every 50 Alaskans. There are six times as many pilots per capita and 12 times as many airplanes per capita as in the rest of the United States. Only five years after Noel Wien established sky trails from Fairbanks, the Territory of Alaska (population 50,000) boasted 57 graded landing fields. Using these fields were 29 airplanes. All Alaskans didn’t immediately welcome airplanes. Contracts for hauling mail had long gone to drivers of dog teams, to horse teamsters, to stern-wheeled riverboats. Much of the economy of Interior Alaska revolved around ground transportation. Furthermore, in winter powerful dog sled mail teams broke trail, and others were able to use these trails—not insignificant in snow country with long winters.

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