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Thread: Alaska history, especially early aviation.

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    AlaskaAV's Avatar
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    Alaska history, especially early aviation.

    Tonight on the History Channel, there is a special "Alaska-Big America". It has shown once tonight and many times before and will rebroadcast at 11 PM CDT tonight and other times down the road. To those that are interested in what the guys in Alaska talk about when they refer to the bush of Alaska, this is a great 2 hour program that will help you understand why they feel as they do. There are very few areas in the world that can give a pilot the enjoyment of flying the bush as in Alaska, GA or big iron.
    Remember Steve, next trip to Alaska, you and Dana have to see part of this state. I can just see it now. Flight of five requesting taxi instructions to active to depart as flight of five headed west northwest VFR.

    As many know, I worked for what I believe the most important airline in Alaska that built the aviation system into the bush of Alaska as it is today in the early days, Wien Air Alaska (Wien Alaska Airlines, Northern Consolidated Airlines, Wien Consolidated Airlines, Wien Air, Wien Airways, etc) which started up in 1929. There is about 15 minutes of this program given to the early history of our airline with some really good bush film shots and what the early bush pilots had to go through. Richard Wien, who narrates some of the history of Wien, is the person that hired me back in 1965. Anyone familiar with the board of directors of Alaska Airlines/Horizon Airlines and Merrick Helicopters (and other non airline companies) will know his background.

    Well worth watching.

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    Mikey's Avatar
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    Ernie,
    Thanks for the heads up on this, I got in about :20 in when they were talking about the '64 earthquake, but did catch the segment on bush aviation and the pipeline goldrush in '74. Good stuff! Brought back a lot of memories...
    Take care
    Chris

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    AlaskaAV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey
    Ernie,
    Thanks for the heads up on this, I got in about :20 in when they were talking about the '64 earthquake, but did catch the segment on bush aviation and the pipeline goldrush in '74. Good stuff! Brought back a lot of memories...
    Take care
    Chris
    Thanks for yanking on that chain Chris. The old bulb worked this time.

    It was fairly well done even if some of the town and river names were miss pronounced but I do that all the time anyway. I was l was living at Barrow, Ak when that 9.2 earthquake hit Alaska. It actually broke the ice pack in the Arctic Ocean and sent it out opening up a lead many miles wide. My wife worked for Wien at Barrow at that time operating huge radios for polor flight position reports so had direct contact with the FAA in Anchorage. She was able to get all the inside information. My sister lived in the Turnagain area of Spenard at the time so needless to say, we were concerned. The FAA was able to get through to them and than, using the DEW Line telephone system which I was authorized to use, I was able to call our parents in Nebraska to let them know she was OK. There was no communications out of Anchorage after the quake for quite some time.

    Many of those early biplanes were Wien aircraft and I believe I saw a Stenson Gull Wing that was ours but that was before my time.

    I was hoping to get more stories from our mechanics that went into the bush to put a splint or something on a broken bird and get it ready to fly home. That was not fun living in a tent on the side of a lake at 40 to 50 below zero and they had to do all their own cooking and at times, hunting to get something to eat. Hanging an engine on a C-46 or DC-3 in conditions like that with local material was beyond belief to me. It might take all winter for an engine change on a C-46. Those guys that kept our aircraft flying were actually the true heroes of the early days of aviation in Alaska and lots of our pilots were also mechanics. Remember my story about the mechanic that had to replace a starter on a P&W powered F-27A at Dahl Creek in the winter at 20 below zero with maybe a 30 knot wind and no lights other than a flashlight and no heat? Chill factor of maybe 60 to 70 below zero F. As I recall, the Captain kept the good engine running off and on during the repair to keep the aircraft from freezing up. From the time the mechanic started, he never stopped until it was fired up. Once the Captain accepted the aircraft, I declared the mechanic off duty and out came a bunch of CC, or was it R&R, so he could warm up in front of our fireplace. I know that the flight attendant kept him supplied with "medical" liquids on the way back to Fairbanks. I have never in my life seen a guy work so hard to get a job done but that was just part of working for a bush airline in the early days of Alaska. Many would only say they were just part of a Wien team.

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    keep the storys about the mechanics coming.good stuff. i,m currently wrenching for alaska airlines and its interesting hearing the older guys talk about the good old days. on a side note, any storys about flying when mnt. st.helens blew that cloud of ash your way in 81?

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    AlaskaAV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bettyhumpter
    keep the storys about the mechanics coming.good stuff. i,m currently wrenching for alaska airlines and its interesting hearing the older guys talk about the good old days. on a side note, any storys about flying when mnt. st.helens blew that cloud of ash your way in 81?
    Betty

    This was posted some time ago but will repeat it in case you missed it.
    I have mentioned many times in the past about how great your airline ground crews were back in the late 60s. If you missed them, I will sure try to PM you what I saw, mostly out of Fairbanks. That way I can pass on more than what I posted.
    <<<<
    One of the great general ground mechanics for Wien that kept our aircraft and facilities going in the bush for pilots like Andy Anderson, my boss for several years (Arctic Bush Pilot, Anderson/Rearden, Epicentger Press). Frank Tobuk started with Noel and Sig Wien almost from the start of the airline and was born before your airline started up. He was often referred to in Andy's book.

    I did not have the honor of meeting and knowing him but everyone in the entire system knew about him. No one ever knew how he could fix everything since he had no real training other than common sense and I suspect he had lots of that and whatever he repaired, aircraft, generator or truck engine, it always ran for eons.

    http://www.hancockhouse.com/products/alask4.htm

    >>>>
    _________________

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    AlaskaAV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bettyhumpter
    keep the storys about the mechanics coming.good stuff. i,m currently wrenching for alaska airlines and its interesting hearing the older guys talk about the good old days. on a side note, any storys about flying when mnt. st.helens blew that cloud of ash your way in 81?

    Sorry Betty, no information about St. Helens but if any others reading this have any, I am sure many of us would enjoy reading them so please jump in. The St. Helen's ash cloud went all the way around the world and ended up again over WA. I have a few stories about huge eruptions of two volcanoes at the same time in Alaska back around 1900 in the Katmai area and am sure many others in Alaska have even more. That cloud lowered the temperatures on the east coast of the US by some 10 degrees and covered buildings in Chicago with ash about an inch think. The town of Kodiak received some 9 foot of ash, enough to come to the eaves of the homes. Valley of 10,000 smokes in the Katmai area where our astronauts trained? Interesting story.

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    AlaskaAV's Avatar
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    Be sure and check the Pan Am hanger talk post. Interesting info on the Pan Am routes in Alaska around 1940.

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