- Presentation and General Membership Meeting
- Thursday, November 15 at 7 p.m.
- Pioneer Air Museum at Pioneer Park - 2300 Airport Way
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!
We're excited to announce another year of summer activities for children here at the museum. Local educator Marci Ward has another slate of fun activities planned, focusing on space and aviation!
Summer Space Adventures at the Pioneer Air Museum will kick off on May 29 and go through July 19. Kids aged 6-10 are invited to come learn about aviation and space, participate in activities and do crafts related to each topic. Each session is just $1 per child, and can be paid at the museum.
Space Adventures will take place every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon; each session is 40 minutes long, with sessions beginning at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. For more information, please call the museum at 907-451-0037 or click over to the Facebook Event.
This blog post written by Leanna Williams. Leanna is the museum's social media manager. When not writing blogs or managing our Facebook page, Leanna is a graduate student in the University of Alaska Fairbanks Arctic and Northern Studies Department.
We often hear the history of World War II as told through the eyes of those at the top or on the front lines - the generals or ace pilots. There are so many stories that have never made it into history books or museum exhibits: stories that have only been told over family dinner tables or recorded in journals. We were honored to receive one such story recently, and are sharing it here with you.
Mary Jackson contacted us via our Facebook Page and honored us by sharing her father's story.
According to Ms. Jackson, "My father, Charles Edward Ulrich born April 14, 1918 was a master sergeant and weather observer for Ladd Airfield during World War 2. He absolutely had the best time anyone could even imagine during World War 2 and it was his dream to go back and visit [Fairbanks]!"
Ms. Jackson related that her father had enlisted in the Army Air Corp in March of 1941, before the United States had officially entered World War II. She told us that her father was a graduate of the Chanute Weather Observation program in Illinois and was assigned to Ladd Airfield to help set up weather observation stations after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Mr. Ulrich's job as a weather observer was a vitally important one, as Ladd Field (now part of Fort Wainwright) was an important base for sending aircraft to the USSR via the Lend-Lease program. These aircraft were sent to the Eastern Front of the European Theatre of the war. Aircraft were flown by Americans from their factories in the Lower 48, through Canada to Fairbanks. Here in Fairbanks, the aircraft were inspected and handed over to Russian control for their trip across Western Alaska, the Bering Strait, and Siberia.
Mr. Ulrich told his family that he especially loved to give weather briefings to Russian pilots (perhaps even the men pictured above!), because he found them "so friendly and larger than life."
Ms. Jackson told us that her father developed a special affection for the type of furry hats the Russians wore, and favored them throughout his life. She said that as he was a dairy farmer in Texas, Mr. Ulrich got a few curious looks for his choice of head gear!
He said he was terrified during a personal weather report he gave to a 5-star general and was relieved at the warm: “Well done, sergeant” he received.
As sadly happens too often, many of the photos and letters providing details of Mr. Ulrich's story were lost in a house fire and on his passing in February 2017. Ms. Jackson said, "I would look through them as a child and the sense of unity and camaraderie just shown through! Of course the military has a specific ranking system but Ladd Airfield really seemed like a place where all parts, big and small, pulled together equally as one!"
Thankfully, she was able to talk with her father about his experience at Ladd. She related interviewing her father for an elementary school project for Veteran's Day and discovered that the only injury her father suffered during his service was when he broke his leg skiing during a weekend pass.
Thanks to the combined effort of skilled weather observers like Mr. Ulrich, construction personnel, aircraft maintenance and service technicians, translators, pilots and so many other support staff that often go uncredited, Lend-Lease at Ladd Field was a successful contribution to the war effort. Nearly 8,000 aircraft were transferred to Russian control at Fairbanks, and made it to the Eastern front. Their efforts are memorialized at the Lend-Lease Monument in Downtown Fairbanks, and in our museum.
Thank you to the Ulrich family and Ms. Mary Jackson for sharing MSG Ulrich's story with us.
MSG Ulrich at Ladd Field and in Fairbanks. Images Courtesy of Mary Jackson
Thank you to all of our volunteers who came out to the museum to help this weekend! We were tasked with moving some of the collections, including aircraft, so that our amazing maintenance crew can more easily access our ceiling lights. We are very thankful for our knowledgeable and hardworking volunteers!
This post was written by Leanna Williams, the museum's Social Media manager. Leanna is a graduate student in the UAF Arctic and Northern Studies department, where she focuses on Alaskan and polar aviation history.
If you are a follower of our Facebook page, you may have seen this tattered old map featured in last week's "What's that Wednesday" post. This map is such a rich, interesting object that we just had to feature it both here on the blog, and on our Facebook page. Click through the photo slideshow above to get more angles and to see the fascinating detail of this object.
This is a geologic survey map of the Koyukuk-Chandalar region, that was used by Sam O White, Alaskan wildlife agent and bush pilot. White arrived in Alaska in the 1920s and became a game warden in 1927. Alaskan author Jim Reardon wrote White's biography, based largely on White's own writing: Sam O. White, Alaskan: Tales of a Legendary Wildlife Agent and Bush Pilot.
As a game warden for the Alaska Game Commission, White enforced wildlife laws across a wide swath of Alaska. He began his career as a wildlife agent traveling by dog sled, but quickly saw the advantages of aviation for his line of work. White recounted, "[w]hen I saw what an airplane could do, I realized that the only way the Game Commission was going to get anywhere enforcing wildlife laws in Alaska was by taking to the air" (128). That's not to say that aviation, still in its infancy in the territory in the 1920s, was without challenges of its own, which brings us back to our map.
First, you might notice that this paper map is fixed to a muslin-type fabric. Why would that be? White began his flying career in open-cockpit planes, first a Golden Eagle Chief monoplane, soon replaced by a Swallow biplane. Flying around 80 miles per hour, a paper map on its own just wouldn't hold up in the open air, so pilots often fixed maps to fabric so they would hold up.
Second, why a geologic survey map? Without knowing for certain what map selection was available to White, we can say that with a high degree of likelihood, pickings were slim. Many accounts from the early bush pilots like White, Eielson and Wien recount that maps were simply not available for the areas they were flying. My hypothesis is that this map was probably the best available option. It is interesting to note that this map was based on surveys from 1899-1909, and incorporated sketch maps from prospectors. Even with those contributions, much of the map is missing topographical detail, highlighting the challenges facing both surveyors and the bush pilots who used these maps.
White recounted further that, "[i]n my early days of flying in Alaska, based on available maps, almost no location in the Territory was in the right place. If, based on the map, one flew from Fairbanks to Beaver, the village on the Yukon River, you could find yourself fifteen to twenty-five miles out of place when you hit the north bank of the Yukon" (Reardon, 135).
With these shortcomings of maps. White and others had to adapt and find their own ways to navigate. Looking at the map, you may see some straight lines drawn from Bettles and a place called Nolan, connecting to Lake Creek, near Little and Big Squaw Creek. Some hand written notes appear to say "50 min," which corresponds to the five evenly spaced hatch marks along the line to Bettles. These notes and waypoints would have been important for navigating. White said that because of the shortcomings of maps, as mentioned above, pilots learned their own ways of navigating across remote stretches. He said that he learned to cross rivers and creeks at specific angles, to fly on a straight course to the places he was trying to reach, and to watch for the landmarks that would keep course (Reardon, 135). The lines on the map here would correspond to this navigational technique.
One final interesting element to note is the "Yukon Bush Air Charter, Ruby, Alaska" stamps on the muslin side of the map. These stamps suggest that this map remained in White's possession for a long period of time and was used even after White made the switch to a closed cabin aircraft. Yukon Bush Air Charter was a business that White owned and operated, beginning in around 1945. Reardon recounts in White's biography that White won mail contracts to fly mail out of Ruby, to places along the Koyukuk and around the region (Reardon, 298). Since we know white began flying in open cockpit aircraft around 1930, and launched Yukon Bush Air Charter in about 1945, it would suggest that this map was in use for at least fifteen years.
Thankfully, White wrote extensively; his words are well preserved and organized in Reardon's biography. Readers can imagine this map, tucked away in a flight bag or pulled out to reference a landmark, traveling along with White as he began as a game warden, as a pilot for Wien, and then operating Yukon Bush Air Charter. It's extraordinary the story a simple old map can tell. Follow us on Facebook to keep up with more of our What's That Wednesday object profiles.
Rearden, Jim. Sam O. White, Alaskan: tales of a legendary wildlife agent and bush pilot. Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Inc., 2006.
Announcing a photography contest from the Alaska Aviation Museum.
Our friends at the Alaska Aviation Museum at Lake Hood in Anchorage are holding a photography contest. We would love to see our beloved Golden Heart City and Alaska's Interior well represented, so dust off those cameras and start photographing your favorite airport facilities!
From their website:
Interested in museum work? Join our crew! We are looking for a collections assistant.
Please see the position description below for more information.
TITLE: Collections Assistant (Part time, 10hr/week for a 24 week appointment)
DATE POSTED: November 28, 2017
POSITION SUMMARY: Responsible for assisting the collections manager with the ongoing collections cataloging project, as well as museum collections duties as assigned.
SUPERVISION RECEIVED: Works under the guidance of and reports to the collections manager.
ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:
PHYSICAL DEMANDS: Frequently required to walk, sit and stand for extended periods; frequently required to climb or balance, stoop, kneel, or crouch; occasionally lifts and/or moves up to 25 pounds.
Those interested should send a letter of interest and resume to: Erin Kirchner, Collections Manager, email@example.com by December 12, 2017.
The Pioneer Air Museum is located in Pioneer Park at 2300 Airport Way, Fairbanks, AK 99707. Questions may be directed to Erin Kirchner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-451-0037.
This position was made possible by a grant from the Collections Management Fund of Museums Alaska with generous support from the Rasmuson Foundation.
1. What's your background?
I spent my childhood summers on the East ramp of Fairbanks International, helping my dad get his plane ready for our summer adventures. Although, as an aspiring ballerina, it’s hard to say how much help I really was. Something must have stuck, however, because even today the smells of a hangar hold the same sort of nostalgic sense memory that others associate with freshly cut grass and baking chocolate chip cookies.
I have my bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Linfield College, in McMinnville, Oregon (home of the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum and the Spruce Goose). After college, I worked for several years in advertising before the opportunity arose to work for a local air carrier. There, I witnessed firsthand how integral aviation was to life in rural and urban Alaska alike. I grew more and more fascinated by not only how aviation had transformed the economic and cultural landscape of the state; but how Alaska’s aviation industry itself had developed since its arrival in the territory.
I am currently a graduate student in the UAF Arctic and Northern Studies program, focusing on Alaskan and circumpolar Arctic aviation history. My husband and I run a local marketing and advertising agency, so volunteering to help with Pioneer Air Museum’s social media is an ideal combination of my academic and professional interests.
2. What brought you to Pioneer Air Museum?
About a year ago, I attended a lecture that Pete, Pioneer Air Museum’s curator, gave on early polar exploration. In typical Fairbanks fashion, at the lecture I ended up reconnecting with a friend from graduate school who I hadn’t seen in several years, who put me in touch with Pete, who put me in contact with Della, the collections manager at the time. I had a few hours open in my schedule and was looking for a volunteer project, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
3. What projects are you working on?
I’m currently working on a couple different projects for the museum: a series of book reviews on various Alaska aviation titles; compiling information for an ongoing “this day in Alaska/Arctic aviation history” feature; and regular content like “What’s that Wednesday” on our various social media channels - Facebook, Instagram and here on the blog.
4. Favorite Object in the Museum
My favorite object is probably an old survey map depicting the Koyukuk-Chandalar region. It was glued to a fabric backing so it would hold up in an open cockpit plane. The most fascinating part of this map is that large portions of it are essentially blank, with topographic lines missing and rivers and streams sketched in based on prospectors’ sketches. To me, this map speaks to the challenges and demands on the earliest pilots in Alaska – the maps were primitive, at best, the working conditions required innovation and customization, because no one had ever faced the particular set of challenges that they did on those early flights.
The 2017 equivalent would be an IPad loaded up with sectional maps and WAC charts, tethered to a GPS. I love that map for showing just how much things have changed in Alaska aviation, even though the land hasn't changed since Eielson, Wien, Crosson et al. made those first pioneering flights.
This blog and website is maintained by museum volunteers and staff.