We appreciate your understanding of these necessary steps to mitigate the spread of this virus. Thank you for your ongoing support of the Pioneer Air Museum.
Pioneer Air Museum
Due to the public health risk posed by the novel Coronavirus/COVID-19, the Pioneer Air Museum will be closed until further notice. We continue to evaluate the developing situation. We hope to be able to welcome visitors again soon.
We appreciate your understanding of these necessary steps to mitigate the spread of this virus. Thank you for your ongoing support of the Pioneer Air Museum.
Pioneer Air Museum
Thanks to all the friends and members of the museum for joining us at our museum Christmas Party on December 18th. We enjoyed the opportunity to see old friends and make new acquaintances. Curator Pete Haggland showed us that not only can he fly a plane and run a museum, he also cooks and carves delicious ham and turkey. Thank you to everyone who brought delicious potluck dishes to share. We all went home with hearts and bellies full!
From the museum board and staff, we want to thank you, our friends and volunteers, for your help in making another wonderful year of preserving Alaska's aviation history possible. We are so grateful for your support and time in carrying out our museum's mission.
We wish you a very wonderful holiday season, and a safe and happy new year.
The Pioneer Air Museum is thrilled to welcome Rita Butteri as part of our team. Rita recently accepted the position of Collections Manager, and brings a love of history and incredible organizational skills with her to the job. Rita has been doing training with the museum’s former collections manager and current Executive Director of Museums Alaska, Della Hall. Museum board member, Leanna Williams, recently sat down with Rita for a Q & A.
Tell me about yourself.
I came to Alaska in 1990 working as a dog handler in Lake Minchumina. I spent a short time in Tok, then Ester where I raised my family. Now I live in Fairbanks. Over the years I got to know the community very well. I have a culinary arts degree and hotel & restaurant management degree – which have little in common with a museum science degree but both taught me good organizational skills. I am interested in history, believe in preserving historic objects in any way I can.
What re your interests and hobbies outside of work?
My hobbies are handicrafts – I’m a recycler, I like gardening, I practice Taoist Tai Chi regularly. I try not to purchase new things. I have a passion for the outdoors (berry picking season my favorite) that I share with my family, friends and Lacey my dog.
What brought you here to the museum?
A friend of mine, Sandy Jamieson, mentioned that the Air Museum was looking for help. I contacted Pete Haggland who connected me with Della Hall. She worked at the PAM before and talking to her was essential to determine that I can fill the shoes of a collections manager. I took the challenge and I feel honored that I was given this job.
The work as a CM is very versatile I can switch tasks throughout my workday which makes it all the more interesting. The other aspect is that I love learning and being exposed to new things.
You mentioned your background in organizing – how will those skills help?
It will definitely help me to be efficient in reorganizing the museum and creating new exhibits. We have an archive area whose content is in a desperate stage for processing, safely stored and cataloged and so preserved for the future.
What are your goals here at the museum?
My goal is to make currently stored archival materials and unprocessed objects accessible to the public. Previous museum staff and interns have done an amazing job and I am continuing there work where they left off.
What are you most looking forward to here at the museum?
I am looking forward to improve the quality of the collections and exhibits by implementing environmental monitoring measures. I work at PAM 4 days a week and the work to be done is never ending. I am looking forward to work with volunteers in a group or one on one. Contact me by email, firstname.lastname@example.org if that is something you would like to do. I continue to get training from Della Hall and I am attending Webinars to become a better collections manager. I also set up an Amazon Wish List for collections management needs so that friends of the museum can help with collections management that way too.
Any favorite objects here in the museum?
I don’t think I have a favorite object but I’m flabbergasted by the heavy duty construction of these planes. I’m mesmerized by the history and what the early pioneers have accomplished constantly dealing with the Arctic’s harsh environment. Thinking about how they repaired planes in remote areas and got them back in the air. Ask me again in one year and I’m sure I have a favorite object by then.
Welcome aboard, Rita! We’re glad to have you as part of our crew!
This post was written by Leanna Prax Williams, a Master's Candidate in the UAF Arctic and Northern Studies Program.
The following is excerpted from her research on newspaper coverage of the Post-Rogers accident.
In mid-1935, during the height of the Great Depression, Americans followed the adventures of two celebrities in the far North. Will Rogers, a beloved entertainment figure known for his folksy demeanor and enthusiasm for flying, had joined Wiley Post, a celebrity pilot and adventurer known for his global circumnavigating flights, for a series of flights in Alaska and Canada. Post had visited the territory several times before on his around-the-world flights. Rogers, an outspoken supporter of aviation, accompanied him, writing his widely read newspaper columns along the way. News of the pair’s adventure generated public interest, with papers tracking Post and Rogers’ progress northward. Publically, the pilot and humorist were noncommittal about their exact plans for the trip, seeming to pick their next stop on a whim, meandering about the Alaskan and Canadian North. Newspapers postulated that perhaps they would head West across the Bering Strait, exploring the possibilities of a new air route with Moscow. Private correspondence, however, indicates that plans formed as early as June 1935 for a Siberian flight, with Post offering Pacific Alaska Airways “complete data” of his findings, in return for fair compensation.
Newspaper accounts revealed that Rogers financed the flight and picked the route and schedule. This financing was a late development in the travel plans, as Post was still attempting to secure funding less than two months before the flight. Although Wiley Post was a celebrity flier in his own right, on par with Alaskan aviator Ben Eielson, having twice circumnavigated the globe and innovated in high altitude flight, his fame was eclipsed by that of Will Rogers. Rogers was arguably the greatest celebrity in the United States in 1935, with success in film, radio, stage and newspaper columns.
On August 7, the Daily Alaska Empire reported on Post and Rogers’ arrival in the territorial capitol, Juneau. There they were feted by the governor and met with friends, including Alaska pilot Joe Crosson and author Rex Beach, pictured above. From Juneau, they headed north to Dawson City and Aklavik, in Arctic Canada. From Aklavik, Post piloted the plane southwest back across the border to Fairbanks, where the pair again visited Crosson. It was at Crosson’s home that Rogers learned of Charles Brower, “The King of the Arctic,” a man who arrived in Barrow aboard a whaling ship fifty years earlier and stayed to establish a trading and whaling business.Plans formed to make a trip to meet Brower. After touring Fairbanks, and making a day trip to see Mt. McKinley (Denali) National Park and the New Deal’s Matanuska Colony at Palmer, Post and Rogers turned north. On August 15, the pair took off from the Chena River and flew a short distance to Harding Lake, where the plane took on a full load of fuel.From the lake, Post headed for Barrow, despite receiving cautionary words from both Crosson and Brower about the stormy and foggy conditions prevailing on the Arctic coast.
In early evening, the red plane swooped low over an Inupiaq hunting camp at Walakpa Lagoon, fifteen miles from Barrow (Utqiagvik). Apparently lost, Post and Rogers stepped from the plane to greet Inupiaq hunter Clair Okpeaha and his family and asked the direction and distance to their destination.After a brief walk to stretch their legs, the men climbed back into the plane and the engine again roared to life. Post brought the plane into the air and, as the plane climbed steeply the engine failed in what Bryan Sterling, a scholar of the lives of Will Rogers and Wiley Post, characterized as a backfire.Deprived of lift, the plane tumbled into the shallow waters of the lagoon where it lay a crumpled wreckage. Okpeaha witnessed the crash from the shoreline. After calling to the men inside the wrecked plane and receiving no response, he set off for Barrow to report the news, traveling first by kayak and then by foot.Reaching Barrow, Okpeaha rushed to report the accident, a task complicated by the language barrier between the Inupiaq speaker and the English-speaking Army Signal Corps radio operator at Barrow, Sergeant Stanley Morgan. A rescue crew assembled and rushed to the crash site, where they freed the two men’s bodies from the plane and transported them to Barrow in an umiaq.Morgan recounted both Okpeaha’s and his own description of events when he radioed the news to the outside world.
News of the crash quickly spread; newspapers across the country rushed to cover the news in the hours and days to follow.As papers set type reporting the men’s deaths, Crosson flew north to retrieve the bodies of the men who had so recently visited him, flying in the same conditions that had plagued Post and Rogers. After retrieving the bodies, Crosson returned to Fairbanks, where Pacific Alaska Airways mechanics readied a faster, twin-engine Lockheed Electra to fly the bodies Outside. Crosson, co-pilot Bill Knox and radio operator Gleason made the trip to Seattle on August 18-19.Upon his arrival at Seattle’s Boeing Field, Crosson was met by a Pan Am Douglas transport plane that would carry Rogers’ body to California and Post’s on to Oklahoma for burial. The nation deeply mourned both men, with thousands attending each memorial service. Joe Crosson became celebrated as a hero for his role bringing the two fallen adventurers home for burial.
Several memorials have been erected to the two men, one near the site of the crash and another near the Utqiagvik Airport, which was named in honor of Post and Rogers. The Pioneer Air Museum hosts an exhibit relating to the crash, as well as an exhibit on on Joe Crosson.
Associated Press, "Rogers Planned on Siberian Trip," Ketchikan Alaska Chronicle, August 19, 1935; "Bering Sea Survey Planned by Post," The New York Times, August 18, 1935.
Wiley Post, "Correspondance from Wiley Post to Mr. L.S. Peck, Pacific Alaska Airways, Inc. June 27, 1935," (Crosson Family Papers 1920-1980, Series 1 Box 3, Folder 4, Arctic and Polar Regions Collections and Archives, University of Alaska Fairbanks.).
"World Trip Being Made Leisurely," The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, August 17, 1935; Post, "Wiley Post to L.S. Peck, June 27, 1935.."
"Distinguished Visitors Here in Red Plane," The Daily Alaska Empire, August 8, 1935; "Beach, Rogers Get Together," The Daily Alaska Empire, August 9, 1935.
Bryan B. Sterling and Frances N. Sterling, Will Rogers & Wiley Post: Death at Barrow(New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc., 1993), 150; Tordoff, Mercy Pilot, 185.
Some 1935 papers suggest that the pair were forced to land here due to weather, but this contention displays a lack of familiarity with Alaska geography. Harding Lake is the opposite direction from the route to Barrow. Dirk Tordoff’s biography of Crosson suggests the far more plausible and routine explanation: the large surface of the lake enabled Post and Rogers to take on a full load of fuel for the long trip north, as the available takeoff space from the Chena would not accommodate the fully loaded plane. See Tordoff, Mercy Pilot, 186-87.
Charles D. Brower, Fifty Years Below Zero: A Lifetime of Adventure in the Far North, Classic Reprint Series (Fairbanks, Alaska: University of Alaska Press, 1942 (1994 Reprint)), 295-96.
Brower, Fifty Years Below Zero: A Lifetime of Adventure in the Far North, 296; "Rogers and Post Killed/Plane with Humorist and Aviator Nosedives into Water near Barrow and Instantaneous Death Results," Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, August 16, 1935.
Sterling and Sterling, Will Rogers & Wiley Post: Death at Barrow, 178.Sterling’s sequence of events employs the eye-witness account of Rose Okpeaha, Clair’s daughter.
Sterling and Sterling, Will Rogers & Wiley Post: Death at Barrow, 178-79.
Sterling and Sterling, Will Rogers & Wiley Post: Death at Barrow, 190.
Associated Press, "Eskimos Describe Tragedy near Barrow/ Tale of Crash Told Operator by Witnesses," Ketchikan Alaska Chronicle, August 17, 1935.
Of the six newspapers analyzed in this thesis, only the East Coast New York Timesreported the news on August 17; all others carried the story within twenty-four hours of the accident.
Tordoff, Mercy Pilot, 192.Gleason had also accompanied Crosson on the flight to Barrow to retrieve the bodies
"Funeral Plane on Way South / Big Crowd Sees Crosson Arrive with Bodies of Rogers and Post,"The Seattle Daily Times, August 19, 1935.
This blog post was written by Leanna Williams, museum board member. Leanna is a master's student in the UAF Arctic & Northern Studies program, where she researches Alaskan and Arctic history, focusing on aviation.
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Several museum volunteers and employees worked together to create a temporary exhibit commemorating the event. We encourage you to stop by the museum and check it out. The text below is part of that exhibit.
July 2019 marks 50 years since NASA, the United States and all of humanity reached the moon with the astronauts of Apollo 11. This mission represented the culmination of years of hard work by thousands, but the Space Race also came to symbolize tensions between the United States and its Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union, as each country aimed to be the first to dominate space.
On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Kennedy, Florida, soon breaking free from the bonds of Earth’s gravity and heading for the moon with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins board. Approximately eighty hours after launch, the spacecraft reached the moon’s orbit. The spacecraft orbited the moon several times, photographing its surface. After completing this part of the mission, the Lunar Module, with Armstrong and Aldrin aboard, began its descent to the moon’s surface. 102 hours 45 minutes after launch, the Eagle landed on the moon.
On July 20, the world watched as Armstrong descended the ladder of the Lunar module and took those world changing small steps that culminated mankind’s giant leap into the space age. Aldrin and Armstrong conducted a series of experiments, collected samples and photographed the lunar surface during their brief visit. After less than an earth day spent on the moon, they took off from the surface of the moon, beginning the long voyage home.
Apollo 11 returned to earth on July 24, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. Subsequent to this successful mission, NASA launched six Apollo missions, returning to the moon five more times.
Mission control is far from our home here in Interior Alaska, but not as far as the moon. Fairbanks was a much smaller town, with a population of 14,771.News of the oil strike in Prudhoe Bay had broken the year before, but construction was not yet underway on the pipeline that would come to transform the state. Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base boosted the town’s economy and population, bringing over 15,000 service members and their families to the area, making a total borough (equivalent to counties or parishes) population of approximately 46,000. Local news debated whether or not to grant a liquor license to the local bowling alley. Fairbanks may have been a small town in the middle of the Last Frontier, but we looked to the sky in the long, summer days, and marveled at the achievement.
Population statistics are taken from the 1970 U.S. Census. Additionally, the city limits of Fairbanks were smaller than they are today, and did not include College, Alaska, and many other neighborhoods that are part of the city of Fairbanks today.
Image Source: NASA
Anchorage Daily Times – July 18, 1969, “What Others Say: Ban Bowling and Booze” Pg 4
A general membership meeting will take place April 15, 2019, at 7 p.m. at the Pioneer Air Museum in Pioneer Park. This meeting will be for our Board Elections. All active museum members are eligible to vote, so now is the time to renew your membership for 2019 if you haven't yet.
Two of the board's seats are up for election this year - seats currently held by Steve Heckman and Eric Johansen. If you're interested in serving on the board, please contact the museum at 451-0037.
We hope to see you at the meeting!
Wednesday, February 27,2019 at 7 p.m.
at Pioneer Air Museum, under the Gold Dome at Pioneer Park
Join us for a presentation by museum friend and volunteer Bill Green. Bill will be discussing our ongoing restoration project on the Swallow biplane and a bit of history about the plane itself, a model that played an important role in the early days of Alaska aviation. The presentation will also include several objects related to the aircraft.
*note, airframe pictured is not believed to be the same as ours under restoration, but illustrates aircraft type.
Image Source: Crosson Family Papers - UAF-2006-103-500. Alaska and Polar Regions Collections, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks
On Thursday, November 15, 2018, at 7 p.m., Willy Vinton of the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum will be giving a presentation on the 1926 Fordson Snow Motor, here at the Pioneer Air Museum. This snow motor, which was on display for a long time outside of the Pioneer Air Museum, has been restored by the experts over at the Fountainhead Museum. We hope you will join us to learn more about this early snow mobile and its connection to Alaska and Arctic Aviation.
This post written by board member Leanna Williams
Thanks to everyone who was able to stop by for our fall open house. We think this year was our best one yet! The Museum's open house took place on September 20th, here at Pioneer Park. We estimate that around 100 people attended, enjoying music from The Warblers, a great local band, and delicious food from Midnight Sun Catering.
A few 2018 Statistics that board members and curator Pete covered at the open house:
We are deeply grateful to the Fairbanks and broader aviation community for your ongoing support. We couldn't fulfill our mission of preserving Alaska and Arctic aviation heritage without you!
Thanks to Kris Capps for featuring our open house in your Fairbanks Daily News-Miner column. We're glad you could stop by!
This blog and website is maintained by museum volunteers and staff.