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Thread: Start of my aviation life

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    AlaskaAV's Avatar
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    Start of my aviation life

    Since I will be posting aviation stories of Alaska from time to time, I thought members might like to see where they come from. These stories will be recaps of items a friend and I are working on for a book of Alaska bush operations, both flying and ground, from the 40s through the 70s. I will only post those that I am working on though. She is working with the flight crews since she was a flight attendant. We have to hurry though, we just lost one of the most fantastic flight attendants I have ever met in my life not long ago. I do have some stories from a senior captain but have to get permission to post here. Some are indepth and not suitable to post until edited which he will have to do. Unbelievable really. Wish me luck.

    At times I will be posting photos in the gallery section, AlaskaAv photos, (thanks Steve, once I get the procedure down right ). Due to a massive flood of the Yukon River at Galena that wiped out the town in the early 70s, I lost all of my early photos and everything else though. I have found others online though.

    As I post these memories, please feel free to comment, degrade without trashing, ask questions or add your own memories. I have found that when talking aviation to people all over the world in the last 40 years, they will say something that reminds me of something I went through and the good old light bulb goes on and here comes another story. There is a banker in Brazil that does that to me all at times. He wants to fly Alaska so very bad someday. There is such a mystic worldwide about flying the bush of Alaska. Many don't even understand Alaska is part of the United States and sometimes, many in Alaska wish they (we) weren't. To show how small the world is getting now days, at Prudhoe Bay, I met a guy from Moscow, Russia, hosted by the National Science Foundation, that had met my brother there at the University of Moscow back in the cold war days. Oh the stories I heard that night about my brother and the KGB over some fantastic Russian Vodka he brought that went down like water.

    I soloed at 6 hours (flying came natural to me according to my instructor) in his completely rebuilt and beautiful J-3 65C (hated that Franklin engine Piper had) after it went through a tornado in Nebr in 1955 or 56. Moved to Alaska and went into a PA-18 90 on skis. Talk about a stupid, hotshot, student pilot that knew everything because he soloed at 6 hours. So very lucky and by the grace of God, to be alive today. When I moved to the bush, I pretty well gave up flying "legally" but on some scheduled and cargo flights with no passengers, I did get some stick time in different aircraft but better keep that quiet. Only ones that were legal really was in our Porters when my pilot was also a CFI. Boy, better have some very strong arms to fly that beast. Huge control surfaces which took, for me, both hands on the stick. After working as the Asst Airport Manager at the Air Force Station at Point Barrow, AK, I was hired by Wien Alaska Airlines (later Wien Air Alaska) as the station manager/airport manager at Umiat. Completely built the station, buildings and all, at Dahl Creek myself, supervised moving the airline facility from one side of the runway to the other at the Galena Air Force Base and under budget and never missing a flight. I moved around the state as assigned and for two years, worked as director of cargo in Fairbanks. Several years in Sales in Anchorage and District Sales Manager in Seattle. I was often pulled out of my assigned areas and sent to a problem station on short notice to salve a problem with full authority of the owner. Important when working with oil companies like BP and ARCO. They wanted immediate solutions. I set up and operated the first commercial tour program of Prudhoe Bay with full approval and access of all oil companies and Alyeska. Later I went to work for Great Northern and opened up a freight and passenger operation for them at Prudhoe Bay. When they sold out, I started with a commuter airline (rated as the 4th largest in the US at one time because of the oil boom in Alaska) out of Anchorage. Ended up as VP and personal Asst to the owner. Needless to say, many of these assignments were doubled up at any given time.

    I started teaching airline computer operations in 1973, wrote a completely new airline operations manual (121/135) for transportation of hazardous material by air and taught many classes system wide to pilots and ground crew on proper handling of haz mat. (some of my trainees went on to form up a company in Anchorage certified to teach the subject) Several stories about haz mat will come up later. The manual was approved by the FAA on first reading without so much as changing a period or comma and I did it within the time limit the FAA gave us. The airline owner bought dinner that night. Can you believe the FAA could make such a fast decision?

    I qualified as a flight attendant on our 737-210s when the owner decided to have all middle management and higher train and qualify. This was so we could keep flying out of a bush station if a flight attendant became ill or injured and we wouldn't have to ferry in a new crew member. No union problems for that operation either and with a huge cost savings. Flew inflight security at times. Yes, Wien had a 737 hijacked out of Anchorage and was enroute to Cuba at one point and that story will come up later. Licensed official weather reporter and end of runway visibility observer (story there too). Maintained 2 separate airport runways and installed runway lighting system at one airport, all by myself. In the bush, you make do with what you have. Helped install the first VASI system (designed by a Wien employee) world wide at Barrow and helped get it certified. Assigned as media spokesman for the commuter airline and with the help of the owner's daughter, we ran the airline when we could kick the owners out on vacation which we tried to do quite often. They went on a lot of extended cruises when we could arrange them. She was wonderful to work with.

    While working for Wien and assigned to Prudhoe Bay with a work schedule of 2 weeks on and one week off, I flew to Maui every two weeks for 5 years and "worked" at a Polynesian resort. I suspect I flew from Anchorage to Maui well over 150 times (close to 1.5 million miles) and got to know the flight crews so well, they actually had me help with inflight services at times especially when it came to sitting next to a trouble maker passenger or at the emergency exits. Western gave me full access to their VIP rooms in return. No need to explain what all I did on Maui.

    One year, the owner of the resort, the Maui Lu, had his 131 foot yacht there which he let me play with and party on whenever he wasn't using it on Sundays. We became very good friends and I never accepted any pay other than business cards while working as their Alaska sales rep in conjunction with my airline work and a free place to stay when there, run of the house and a staff car. A story in itself. Alaska revenue increased 800% the first year. All of those trips were absolutely free and always first class on Western Airlines (the Only Way To Fly) so I never had a place to live in Alaska other than company quarters. The Sheffield Hotel in Anchorage allowed me to store my hawaiian cloths while at Prudhoe Bay. Western Airlines suggested that I fly in white jeans and bright hawaiian shirt on their Honolulu flights out of Anchorage. Normal attire for non rev was coat and tie. Maybe a photo later and a fantastic story about what Western Airlines allowed me to do to hijack a wedding party, my room mate who was to merry my ex girlfriend. What I wanted to do went clear up to Art Kelley, CEO. What a story. Good old governor Bill and his special eating facility, The House of Lords.... This was all great when you come out of a work area where you may offload an L-188 Electra with a chill factor of -136 degrees in 24 hour darkness or you start loosing the power generators due to diesel fuel gelling both of which I went through. Picture being soaked with jet fuel/diesel with a chill factor of -100 degrees and no where to warm up.

    I have never had a "9 to 5" job in my life and I am 65 now. Always on call, 24/7 and loved every minute of it probably because I made it what it was, even in the Army. My wonderful Ex wife worked for Wien when I met her and was known as the Angel of the Arctic at Barrow by the foreign pilots flying the polar route. She took all their positions reports and filed them with the FAA. There were some that would fly up to Barrow from Anchorage just to meet her. A story in itself including the first message that was sent around the world that Santa had been spotted that NORAD now takes care of. Story later.

    To those that wonder why I post comments about landing in native owned areas, I might suggest my knowledge comes from being married to a wonderful Alaska Native and have lived in those areas for many years. Did I hear someone say don't believe everything you hear or read?

    Hope you enjoy the memories. Only in aviation can a person live a life like I have and call it work. I should have paid the airlines for letting me work for them, right?

  2. #2

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    Ernie
    Where you born in Nebraska? Where?
    Tim

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    AlaskaAV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mit greb
    Ernie
    Where you born in Nebraska? Where?
    On a farm very near Nemaha with local airport of Auburn where I started flying out of. Auburn is about 54 miles directly south of Omaha and Offitt AFB and about 150 miles NNW of SJs home base.

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    On a farm very near Nemaha with local airport of Auburn where I started flying out of. Auburn is about 54 miles directly south of Omaha and Offitt AFB and about 150 miles NNW of SJs home base.[/quote]

    I was born in Red Willow County, My dad was born on a farm near Blue Springs in 1919. I still have family living near there in Odell.
    Best thing I ever did was get out of Nebraska.

    But now it looks a lot different looking back. It was a much better place, than I thought, as a know- it- all kid.
    Tim

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    AlaskaAV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mit greb
    On a farm very near Nemaha with local airport of Auburn where I started flying out of. Auburn is about 54 miles directly south of Omaha and Offitt AFB and about 150 miles NNW of SJs home base.
    I was born in Red Willow County, My dad was born on a farm near Blue Springs in 1919. I still have family living near there in Odell.
    Best thing I ever did was get out of Nebraska.

    But now it looks a lot different looking back. It was a much better place, than I thought as a know it all kid. [/quote]

    Tim

    Odell? Does anything actually live there? I joke of course. How about Dannaborg, the liers center of the world and the guy that made it famous? His stories are available on line too. Maybe someday I should post one or two.
    I always enjoyed going back to Nebraska from Alaska in a way. My brother had an Cherokee 6 that I flew in at times. Always the commercial flights on Frontier into Omaha on pass were fun. Farm life was wonderful in a way but no way compared with living in the bush of Alaska with such a wonderful wife that also understood aviation. We lived like those in the lower 48 lived in maybe 1900. Some people are just not as lucky as we were I guess. Lets not get into why I am single though.

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    Jerry Gaston's Avatar
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    AlaskaAv In your travels in and around Anchorage did you ever run into a guy that worked for the airlines but moonlighted on the side doing mechanical work on aircraft named Allison. He had a shop in the back of his house where he took in planes. His son is here in Bozeman and wants to gather some info on his dads exploits in Alaska

  7. #7
    AlaskaAV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Gaston
    AlaskaAv In your travels in and around Anchorage did you ever run into a guy that worked for the airlines but moonlighted on the side doing mechanical work on aircraft named Allison. He had a shop in the back of his house where he took in planes. His son is here in Bozeman and wants to gather some info on his dads exploits in Alaska
    Hi Jerry
    E-mail me some details to shake up some cob webs. Who knows what I might find.

  8. #8
    AlaskaAV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Supercubber
    Ernie,

    Do you remember the blizzard of 1948-49 that hit Nebraska, Wyoming, S.D. ?
    What, just a couple of inches of dry snow in western Nebraska? Thank goodness for aircraft in those days, DC-3s as I recall, that dropped baled hay to stranded cattle. Huge snow plows on slide bar Cats to open up roads. So very lucky that country school teachers took such good care of the children. Very little loss of life. My uncle sent every piece of crawler equipment he had to help open up remote roads trying to get to ranches.

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    AlaskaAV's Avatar
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    Bump for new readers

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