Taking Flight: Ketchikan’s Commercial Aviation History

Aviation has been an integral part of life in Ketchikan for a century. To celebrate this historic milestone, Baranof Fishing Excursions collaborated with local aviation photojournalist, author, and historian Don ‘Bucky’ Dawson. Together, they meticulously documented Ketchikan’s commercial aviation history through extensive research and captivating photographs.

The Pioneers

Northbird Aviation Company (1922-1923)

Founded in 1922, Northbird Aviation Company played a crucial role in establishing early air travel routes in the region. Their daring pilots braved challenging weather conditions to connect remote communities.

Roy J. Davis Airplane Company (1925)

Roy J. Davis’s company introduced reliable aircraft to Ketchikan, making air travel safer and more accessible. Their commitment to excellence set the stage for future aviation endeavors.

“seaplane flying over Alaskan wilderness”

Alaska-Oregon-Washington Airplane Company (1926)

This company bridged the gap between Ketchikan and neighboring states, fostering economic growth and cultural exchange. Passengers marveled at the breathtaking views during their flights.

The Golden Era

Gorst Air Transport (1929-1935)

Gorst Air Transport revolutionized cargo transportation, delivering goods swiftly across the rugged Alaskan landscape. Their fleet of sturdy planes became lifelines for isolated communities.

Pioneer Airways (1930-1931)

Pioneer Airways focused on passenger services, connecting families, friends, and business associates. Their commitment to safety and comfort earned them a loyal clientele.

Ketchikan Airways (1931-1934)

Ketchikan Airways specialized in scenic flights, allowing tourists to experience Alaska’s natural beauty from above. Their knowledgeable pilots shared fascinating stories about the landscape.

Modern Times

Alaska Coastal Airlines (1939-1962)

As air travel evolved, Alaska Coastal Airlines expanded its routes, connecting Ketchikan to other Alaskan cities. Their amphibious planes could land on both water and runways.

Pan American Airways (1940)

Pan Am briefly operated in Ketchikan, offering international flights. Their luxurious flying boats attracted adventurous travelers seeking exotic destinations.

Ketchikan Air Service (1966-1997)

Under the leadership of Edwin L. “Whitey” Bennett, Ketchikan Air Service continued to serve the community. Their reliable fleet ensured timely transportation for locals and tourists alike.

The Legacy Continues

Ketchikan’s aviation history is a testament to human ingenuity, resilience, and the spirit of exploration. As we look back, let us honor the pioneers who defied gravity and connected our world. From the early biplanes to today’s sophisticated aircraft, Ketchikan’s skies have witnessed remarkable journeys. Soaring above the mist-shrouded fjords, these aviators carved a path for generations to come.

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