New Museum Exhibit Gets Off the Ground
A century of Alaska aviation examined
ANCHORAGE - It has been 100 years since the first airplane flight in Alaska.
"It's just one lens, but in a way almost the richest,” said Julie Decker, the museum curator. “There are a lot of pilots and people who have experienced the air and how the plane affects life on the ground every day. It’s not a historical story. It’s still a contemporary one. So I think there's a real ownership by Alaskans of the airplane and the impact the airplane has made here."
The Anchorage Museum collected artifacts from around the state and from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., whose curator, Jeremy Kinney, worked with Decker on putting the exhibition together.
Decker said, "So it was a great combination of taking the person who had the aviation history, in terms of the national perspective, and working with local pilots and mechanics and curators and others to find what was really special about the Alaska story, and we do still think it's a special one."
At the front of the exhibition is a plane on loan from the Alaska Aviation Museum at Lake Hood -- a 1928 Stearman biplane that was the first aircraft to land on Mount McKinley and that was flown by all the famous Bush pilots of the 1930s.
Kinney said while the plane did no more than 125 mph, "it's not all about speed, it's about getting there and having the right kind of maneuverability and the right kind of handling and the rugged-built airplane that could actually get through the Bush. ‘Cause these guys are landing on gravel and sand bars, they're landing on glaciers, they're not landing on runways."
Other artifacts include the landing beacon from the federal building in Fairbanks, an old luggage cart and the survival gear of famed bush pilot Sam White.
The history of aviation in Alaska is also the history of many crashes, due to unforgiving weather and tough terrain.
The victims have included the humorist Will Rogers, Alaska Congressman Nick Begich, and former Senator Ted Stevens.
Decker expects the exhibit to appeal to Alaskans, because of our extreme dependence on air travel, and also to tourists, who still thrill to Alaska’s mystique as remote and rugged.
'”Arctic Flight” will last through August 11.