Alaska s First Bush Pilots, 1923-30
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202 pages
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Description

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.
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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Informations

Publié par
Date de parution 04 avril 2014
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780882409320
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0998€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

Exrait

Alaska s First Bush Pilots, 1923-30
And the Winter Search in Siberia for Eielson and Borland
Alaska s First Bush Pilots, 1923-30
And the Winter Search in Siberia for Eielson and Borland
by J IM R EARDEN
Copyright 2009 by Jim Rearden
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the publisher.
The print edition is available from Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Inc. pictorialhistoriespublishing.com
Library of Congress Control Number 2009938329
ISBN 978-1-57510-147-7 ISBN (e-book) 978-0-88240-932-0
Unless otherwise credited, all photos in this book are from the Noel Wien Collection, courtesy of Richard Wien
Typography Book Design Arrow Graphics
Published by Alaska Northwest Books An imprint of P.O. Box 56118 Portland, Oregon 97238-6118 503-254-5591 www.graphicartsbooks.com
Contents
Two-page Map of Alaska
List of Place Names
Foreword
Introduction
Acknowledgments

B OOK O NE : T HE B EGINNINGS
1. Ben Eielson Arrives at Fairbanks
2. Noel Wien Arrives at Fairbanks
3. The Early Years of Wien Airlines
4. Alaska s First Bush Pilot
5. Olaf Swenson, Trader
6a. Map of Siberia
6. Flight to Siberia

B OOK T WO : E IELSON S E XPLORATION F LIGHTS
7. Eielson and Wilkins 1926 Flights
8. Eielson and Wilkins 1927 Flights
9. The Flight to Siberia
10. Flights in Antarctica

B OOK T HREE : T HE S IBERIAN C HALLENGE
11. Travails of the Nanuk; The Hamilton Disappears
12. The Search for the Hamilton
13. Recovering the Bodies
14. Payback Time

B OOK F OUR : T HE R EST OF THE S TORY
15. Joe Crosson
16. Harold Gillam
17. Ed Young
18. Frank Dorbandt
19. Noel Wien, the Later Years
20. Key Players in the Eielson/Borland Saga
References
Appendix
Index
A LSO BY J IM R EARDEN
Alaska s Wolf Man T HE 1915-55 WILDERNESS ADVENTURES OF F RANK G LASER
Sam O. White Alaskan T ALES OF A L EGENDARY W ILDLIFE A GENT AND B USH P ILOT
Castner s Cutthroats S AGA OF THE A LASKA S COUTS
The Wolves of Alaska A FACT-BASED SAGA
Forgotten Warriors of the Aleutian Campaign
Koga s Zero T HE F IGHTER T HAT C HANGED W ORLD W AR II
Slim Moore: Alaska Master Guide A S OURDOUGH S H UNTING A DVENTURES AND W ISDOM
Jim Rearden s Alaska F IFTY Y EARS OF F RONTIER A DVENTURE
Travel Air NC9084 T HE H ISTORY OF A 75- Y EAR -O LD W ORKING A IRPLANE
Hunting Alaska s Far Places F IFTY Y EARS WITH R IFLE AND S HOTGUN
All thirteen of these books can be found in most Alaska book stores. The above ten may be ordered directly from the publisher (406) 549-8488.
Arctic Bush Pilot F ROM N AVY C OMBAT TO F LYING A LASKA S N ORTHERN W ILDERNESS
Tales of Alaska s Big Bears
Shadows on the Koyukuk A N A LASKAN N ATIVE S L IFE A LONG THE R IVER

Foreword
In the early days of Alaska aviation, Fairbanks, being the geographic center of the Territory, became the natural service and supply point of the entire Interior, including the lower Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. Before the advent of the airplane, most commerce was handled by river travel in summer, and dog team in winter. When the first airplanes began replacing the river boats and dog teams, Fairbanks became the base of operations for the early pilots.
Starting around 1927, a major technological change developed in aviation, and it very much affected the dynamics in Alaska. It allowed my father, Noel Wien, in 1927 to initiate the first year-around regular air service between the two largest mainland Alaska communities, Fairbanks and Nome. This was made possible with the purchase of the Stinson Detroiter cabin biplane from arctic explorer Hubert Wilkins.
This Stinson was the first American-made cabin plane in Alaska. It moved the pilot out of the open cockpit that had long been in vogue, and which was impractical in Alaskan winters. Also, this airplane was powered by an air-cooled 220 hp Wright engine. The Wright was the first reliable engine that could function in the cold winters of Alaska s Interior. This was the same engine that powered the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic. Prior to the Wright, aircraft in Alaska and elsewhere used unreliable liquid-cooled engines, which were especially unsuitable for Alaskan winters.
A superb, modern, air-cooled engine that followed the Wright was the famous 420 Pratt and Whitney Wasp. My father often talked about his 1929 flight to North Cape, Siberia, with his new Hamilton Metalplane, the first airplane to fly in Alaska with the Wasp engine. It was an all-metal state-of-the-art, modern-for-its-time aircraft that he purchased in late 1928 for $26,000. That airplane, NC10002, played a major role in Alaska s aviation history. It was an airplane he loved and flew for more than 450 hours before he sold it to Alaskan Airways, the company managed by Ben Eielson.
As my brother Merrill and I grew up, Noel often talked about the fur trader Olaf Swenson, who chartered our Dad s Hamilton to make the first ever flight, North America to Asia, by flying to Siberia and the ice-locked trading ship Elisif. It held a cargo of valuable fur that needed to be flown to Fairbanks so it could be shipped via rail and sea to New York and London fur markets.
In recent years I discovered Swenson s book ( Northwest of the World , Dodd Mead Company, 1944). I was thrilled to read about Swenson s exploits, and his use of small ships to trade in Siberia, and the details of his being locked in ice at North Cape, Siberia. His story, too, is part of the Alaska-Siberian aviation epic.
I have also long been fascinated by the story of Ben Eielson, lost with his mechanic Earl Borland while attempting to fly the Hamilton my father had owned to Siberia and the iced-in Nanuk . It too held a cargo of valuable furs. The extensive midwinter search for the missing Hamilton and its two aviators was the most dramatic Alaska aviation epic of the period.
I have always been in awe of the flying of Joe Crosson and Harold Gillam in the winter of 1929-30 as they searched for the Hamilton. Having flown an open cockpit airplane, I cannot imagine flying in one as they did in temperatures of forty below zero, and with hardly any daylight. Gillam, who had just learned to fly, talked Crosson into letting him have an airplane to join the search. Other than the Hamilton and the Stinson Detroiter, there were no modern cabin aircraft in the Territory. At the time, the Stinson was damaged, leaving only open cockpit biplane aircraft available for the search. Fortunately, both search planes had Wright air-cooled engines.
Even today it would be difficult with a modern airplane with a heated cabin and radios to conduct a search under the arctic conditions these two pilots encountered.
My brother Merrill and I are often asked to make slide presentations about the early years of Alaska flying by our father and others. For these talks we have used many photos Noel took (many of which appear in this book). We both have vivid memories of his stories associated with these photos. In the process, we have frequently attempted to tell the story of the Siberian experience. It is a complex story, and it has been difficult to articulate the entire event during a brief evening presentation. We have both thought it important to have a book written that covered all aspects of the Eielson Siberian saga, including the background of early Alaska aviation and its pilots. It is a story that needed to be told in its entirety, which has finally become a reality with this volume.
I have known Jim Rearden for more than fifty years, and I have read many of his books. I helped him with his fine book Sam O. White, Alaskan, for Sam, an early-day flying game warden and bush pilot, was almost a second father to Merrill, me, and our sister Jean. It was then that Jim and I began to talk about the possibility of his writing about the Eielson/Borland saga. I gathered all of the information, books, and photos I had for him to study, and I was pleased when he agreed to tackle the project.
I have been impressed with Jim s style of writing, and his ability to capture the essence of people and events. With this book, recounting the struggles of Alaska s first bush pilots, he has done it again. I believe it will be one of the best of the many historical books on Alaska s early aviation.
-R ICHARD W IEN
Introduction
This book is a look back at Alaska s earliest aviation, mostly at Fairbanks, where the first commercial flights were made by Ben Eielson with a World War I JN4 (Jenny) open cockpit biplane. In addition to its pilot, who flew from the rear cockpit, everything it could fly had to fit into that airplane s front cockpit.
Eielson was the first in Alaska s Interior to demonstrate that airplanes were more than a unique source of entertainment. Early commercial pilots, soon called bush pilots, were looked upon as heroes; bush pilot is still an honorable title in Alaska.
For landing places, the first pilots used river bars, baseball fields, and race tracks (first used by horses, later by cars, finally by airplanes). Their airplane motors (the early name; engines today) were cranky and liquid-cooled. Power failures were common. Landings on rough ground often resulted in a broken propeller, damaged landing gear, a crushed radiator, and mangled tips of the lower wings of the biplanes they flew. Prepared pilots always carried an extra prop lashed to the side of the fusel

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