It’s been a bad week for Alaskan fliers

Flying in Alaska is vital to the state’s economy – more than three-quarters of the settlements there are off the road and/or rail grid, and rely on sea or air transport, or dogsleds and snow-machines in winter, to get in and out, and ferry in essential supplies.  I marveled at the sheer number of light aircraft in Anchorage during my visits there while courting Miss D.  Merrill Field is home to over 900 of them, and that’s only one of half a dozen airfields in Anchorage, public and private, plus the world’s busiest seaplane base (which, in winter, becomes the world’s busiest ski-plane site, as the water freezes and plane owners swap out their floats for skis).

Unfortunately, Alaska’s also a pretty hazardous environment for fliers.  I don’t have the statistics to hand, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it has more accidents involving small aircraft than any ten other states put together, if only because it has so many planes and such dangerous flying conditions.  This week has seen three incidents.

I know Miss D. hates reading about such accidents.  Being an Alaskan pilot herself, she’s had far too many friends and acquaintances who’ve flown away one morning – and never come back.  The most recent, a dear friend to her and a buddy to me, was Ted Smith.  She wrote her own very moving tribute to him, followed by a sequel soon afterwards.

If you’d like to learn more about general aviation in Alaska, there’s an excellent article in the June 2013 edition of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Magazine titled ‘The Pilots of Mount McKinley‘.  There’s also a very interesting book that’s just been published, called ‘Alaska And The Airplane: A Century Of Flight‘.  Various sources have spoken highly of it, and I’ve already ordered a copy for Miss D.  I’m looking forward to reading it when she finishes with it.

Think of Alaska as the Wild West with airplanes, snow and ice, and you won’t be far wrong – even today!



  1. "…Alaska as the Wild West with airplanes, snow and ice…"

    Indeed. Much of the cultural struggle now is that "old time" individualism clashing with the modern "give me everything for free" mentality of the recent arrivals from the Left Coast. The Leftists tend to win in the Anchorage area. In the rest of the state, not so much.

  2. I grew up in AK. My brother was a pilot, and owned his own plane for a while, big doughnut tires and all. He got it so he could go hunting more easily. After something like 250 hour flying, he figured he had WAY to many "good" near miss stories (forced down on beaches in bad weather, "interesting" landings in winds higher than his stall speed, bush airstrips, bears, etc), so he hung it up and went back to boats and feet before the odds caught up with him.

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