Alaskan pilots spread the history of aviation in Alaska this summer with a statewide fly-in to far flung communities most who were on no road system.
The Alaska Aviation Centennial Celebrations concluded with all in agreement by the communities, pilots and those who attended a success.
“This was a fabulous summer and a great project,” said Jane Dale the logistics manager for the Alaska Air Show Association which sponsored the flying events. “Basically the air show association branched out and supported the events by publishing and promoting the centennial celebration of flight in Alaska.”
Other sponsors included the communities who fed and housed the pilots and fuel companies along the flight path that started in May and concluded on July 30th.
The Alaska Air Show Association previously only supported Arctic Thunder an open house and aviation event held at the Joint Base Elemendorf/Richardson.
One of the most commonly asked question by those who attended the informational fly-ins was who was the first to fly in Alaska and where?
The first recorded flight was on July 4, 1913 in Fairbanks. James V. and Lilly Martin brought a “Martin Tractor Aeroplane” to Fairbanks for a demonstration flight.
Martin and his wife, who was England's first aviatrix, assembled their airplane. On the evening of July 3, Martin took off from a ball park and flew the plane over Fairbanks at an altitude of 200 feet and speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. Some say that Lilly Martin was the first to fly as they could not find enough high octane fuel to get the engine to run at full power, so she made the flight low and slow.
The Martin’s had hoped to make money by charging for watching flights but frugal residents of Fairbanks disappointed them by climbing up on roof tops and homes to view the event .
The Centennial flights included Cordova, Valdez, Talkeetna, Homer, Iliamna, Dillingham, Bethel, Aniak, McGrath, Galena, Nome, Kotzebue, Bettles, Fairbanks, Wasilla and of course Anchorage at the Alaska Aviation Museum for the finale on July 14.
Wasilla was rescheduled for July 30th due to a rainout on July 5.
Chuck Miller who led the group of pilots and provided two North American AT6s, and a Stinson L-13 had leased one of only six Mitsubishi Japanese Zeros flying. Miller was only able to fly the Zero to Valdez for the Valdez May Day Fly-in celebration. Robert “Cricket” Renner a former F-15 fighter pilot flew the WWII fighter back to Anchorage.
Later the Alaska Aviation Museum's 1931 Fairchild Pilgrim joined the group to fly to the northwest and Interior Alaska locations. The aircraft was piloted by Terry Holliday of Birchwood Airport.
Flying in formation around the state of Alaska is a dream of a lifetime, the pilots of the celebration where happy to fly and share the history of Alaskan aviation to the villagers in rural Alaska as well as the urbanites in Anchorage, many who had no idea about the beginning of aviation in the state.
To commemorate aviation in Alaska the State of Alaska Department of Transportation is recognizing National Aviation Day on August 19, 2013.
Rob Stapleton can be reached at: robstapleton(at)alaska.net