Propliners in Alaska, 1995


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During the early 1990s I developed an interest in 'Propliners' and to whomever I talked to: Alaska was the place to go to. So, in combination with familyholidays (and it does seem a waste not to explore Alaska's enchanting scenery, isolated communities and unpaved roads !) I came searching for propliners on "The Last Frontier.

Most people arrive at Anchorage's Ted Stevens Int'l Airport, and so did I. So, naturally, Northern Air Cargo was the first company to pay a visit to. I was treated with generous hospality and shown around on the ramp.

Sadly, this C-118 is no longer around, as it crashed 21Jul96 during an emergency landing, caused by an engine fire, at Russian Mission,AK.

"The cargo flight was en route, when a fire erupted in or near the #3 engine. During emergency procedures, the flight crew pulled the fire handle first. Later, they feathered the #3 engine. The fire did not extinguish. During an attempt to land at a rural, intermediate airstrip, while the airplane was in the traffic pattern, witnesses saw fire coming from the area of the #3 engine. They right wing buckled upward, and the airplane crashed. Examination of the wreckage revealed a failure of the master rod in the front bank of cylinders of the #3 engine. Metallurgical tests revealed a crack in the top of the master rod head, which had resulted from corrosion pits. The master rod shank also fractured due to fatigue. The operator's training procedures and the Douglas Aircraft emergency checklist procedures, required that the engine's propeller be feathered first, and then the fire extinguishing system to be activated. According to the airplane's cockpit voice recorder, the flight crew reversed that order. The effectiveness of the fire suppression system is diminished if the propeller is not feathered first."
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

Full NTSB report
Douglas C-118A N313RS (c/n44663/630) was delivered to the US Air Force in Oct.1955 with serial 53-3293. It's service life ended in 1975 and stored in the desert of Davis Monthan AFB,AZ. At some point it was converted to VC-118A. It entered the civil register as N204GB, still employed by the US government: Dept. of Agriculture (1975). It was bought by Desert Air Parts in Jan.1981 and the future looked bleak... But Aero Union bought it 3 years later and it moved to California. In July 1984 Northern Air Cargo appeared on the scene and brought it to Alaska; that same year it was reregistered to N313RS.
A year before the crash, on July 26th 1995, I witnessed N313RS starting up engine no.2 while no.3 and no.4 were allready churning out the right rpm's.

NAC's N7780B is seen here, on stand by.
This Douglas DC-6A (c/n 45372) started its lifeline in 1957 with delivery on Nov.12th to Riddle Airlines with its present tailnumber: N7780B. Hughes Tool Co. bought it that same year, but stored it !
It remained inactive until Dec.1973, when it was bought by Partners of America.
Robert G.Sholton bought it in 1974, but leased it to Northern Air Cargo (well, he was the co-founder of NAC and owner) . When "Bobby" Sholton bought this 'Six' it had only 9hrs.50 min. time on the airframe ! Is that a bargain or what ? It must have the least hours on its airframe of all 'Sixes' around.
Ownership was made official to NAC in Jun81. It was reconfigured to fuel hauler and operates in this role since 1998.

In 2005 Everts Air Fuel took over Northern Air Fuel and N7780B was included in the package; early 2006 N7780B was presented to the public at the AACA trade show: for images see photos by Pat Adams

See my ALASKA 2012 REPORT for images of NAC's DC-6s with Everts Air and N7780B in particular.



Another casualty in the harsh environment of Alaska... deHavilland C-7B 'Caribou' N700NC (c/n 126, former 62-4184) is seen parked here at Anchorage Int'l (ANC) on July 27th, while employed by Greatland Air Cargo.
In the language of its indigenous peoples, the word Alaska means The Great Land .
N700NC was bought by Southcentral Air and registered as N702SC Dec.1996 26Sep95.

On 29Jan97, it crashed while on a flight from St.Marys,AK to Kenai,AK; it suffered an engine failure and crew initially diverted to Aniak,AK, but crashed while trying to land at Sparrevohn,AK (see below).

Southcentral Air existed from 1977 until 1999 and among its aircraft operated were DC-3 N12MA (cn 4908) and C-47A N19454 (cn 13863). Source: www.aerotransport.org (ATDB.aero)

In april 2012 I received: "your dates are off in regards to SCA's purchase ('Dec.1996') of the Caribou.
I flew for SCA from spring 1993 till late 1997, to include the Caribou! Training during the month of Sept. 1995, with a check-ride in Oct. 1995..." -Ed Brown.

Sean Keating considered his notes and wrote: "... reg'd to James Munson 26Sep1995, re-reg to SCA Dec.96 (Munson's company?) &
crashed 30Jan1997 per Aviation Letter issue 365 page 5."

In my database I had a note that N702SC had been bought and registered to SouthCentral AIr in Dec. 1996. When I checked the FAA website in apr.2012 I found 'Date of Registry 26Sep1995 to James A. Munson of Kenai,AK.' No mention of Southcentral.

On James Munson I found he had survived the crash of N702SC only to die tragically in another plane crash (Curtis C-46A Commando N1419Z, Everts Air Fuel NTSB):
'North Kenai resident James A. Munson died Wednesday, 20Dec2000, in a aircraft accident near Crescent Lake in the foothills of Mount Redoubt. He was 44.
In 1985, he began working for SouthCentral Air and held the positions of director of maintenance and director of operations. He became the owner of SouthCentral Air in 1995 and operated it until 1999. For the past year he was a pilot for Everts Air Fuel Service in Kenai.' Source: peninsulaclarion.com

Gene Sanders has this to say about Sparrevohn, crashsite of N702SC:
"I spent a year here in l958-59. At that time there was a wrecked C-119 and a C-47 that had been bulldozed off the runway and were left under the trees on the east side of the runway. We could always tell when a new pilot was landing at Sparrevohn as they always cut the power on the C-123s or C-47s; that runway was a real test of their skills; after clearing the hill at the lower end of the runway they had to drop it in real quick and cut power, but then the runways goes uphill about 2/3 the way to the flightline and at that point they had to give the engines full power to get up to the flightline!! This created a cloud of dust which could be seen drifting over the hills for a long ways!
There was no "go around" at Sparrevohn, it's one shot and only one shot there..."


This is (part of) the NTSB report on N702SC:

"The CFR Part 135 cargo flight departed at night on an IFR flt with a load of mining equipment. Route of flt was over remote/mountainous terrain. About 2 hrs after takeoff, while cruising at 12,000' msl, the right engine (#2 eng) & propeller began to overspeed. The captain feathered the #2 eng & declared an emergency. He began to divert to an alternate destination, about 120 miles away in an area of lower terrain, but the aircraft would not maintain altitude (single eng service ceiling, as loaded, was about 8,700'). The capt increased power to the #1 eng, but it began to produce banging & coughing noises. The capt elected to perform an emergency landing at a nearby, remote, military airfield (A/F). The A/F was located in mountainous terrain & had a one-way, daylight only approach. The capt lowered the gear & flaps, & began a visual approach while attempting to keep the runway end identifier lights (REIL) in view. The acft encountered severe turbulence, & the capt applied full throttle to the #1 eng in an attempt to climb. The REIL disappeared from view, & the acft collided with snow covered terrain about 2 miles west of the A/F. Ground personnel at the A/F reported high winds & blowing snow with limited visibility. Postcrash exam of the #2 eng revealed a loss of the propeller control system hydraulic oil. Flt at 12,000' was conducted without crew oxygen. The crew had exceeded their maximum allowable duty day without adequate crew rest. 1 fatality, 1 seriously injured."

NTSB Report
The aircraft began its career with the US Air Force in the early 1960s and was assigned serial 62-4184.

The military share Anchorage (IATA code: ANC) with the civilian operators: Kulis AFB is located on the other side of the runways. The main gate of Kulis ANGB has some aircraft on display, one of which is Douglas C-47A c/n 19320. There is some discussion about the identity of this aircraft: serial 0-315497 (indicating original serial 43-15497) is fake.


This airframe was delivered to the USAF as 42-100857 on 24Dec43; it saw service with the 8th AF in 1944. It was issued a civilian registration NC70 for Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) on 08Jan47, later reregistered to N23 (Nov53) for the CAA. The latter changed its name to Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in 1958.
This C-47A was issued another tailnumber N41 in Jan75. The trail becomes a little more vague after that: reregistered N2273K on unspecified date and purpose; maybe having to do with being written off (NTSB:"crew failed to use the checklist, failed to confirm the gear was "down & locked" and the gear collapsed while taxiing for take off") on 12nov1975 at Kenai-Municipal,AK (wreck was moved to Kulis ANGB); it was sold on 24Jun78, probably to the Air National Guard Museum. On 19Aug2002 N2273K was still valid ("sale reported") on FAA's registry, but also listed in USAF Museum records as 42-108857, which is likely a misprint for 42-100857.
My son, aged 10 at the time, stands proudly for this historic transport.


C-123J "Provider" (c/n 20279) is another preserved aircraft at Kulis ANGB. It's USAF serial 56-4395 is original, but this airframe is registered as N4393E in the name of Alaska Dept. of Interior. The J44-R-3 jetpods on the wingtips are needed for extra power, esspecially for liftoff on short runways.
The Fairchild Provider was built in many variants and between 1952-1954 a total of 310 were produced. Originally it was intended as a glider ! Some data: cruising speed of 230 mph (370 kmh), crew 2-4, ceiling of 25.000 ft and a range of 1.500 mls (2.400 kms). It saw much service in the Vietnam War, including operations by Special Operations and the CIA.

N566EA is seen here on ERA's ramp, also situated on the "other side" of ANC.

Convair CV580 N566EA (c/n 381) has been to places: it was delivered to SABENA of Belgium as OO-SCT in Dec.1956 as a Convair CV440. It moved back to the US and Frontier Airlines bought it in May 1968 and registered it as N73167; it was converted to the more powerful CV580 that same year. In 1983 it was registered for Frontier Leaseco Inc and operated 1983-1984 by NC&C as Frontier Commuter.
It was registered to Metroflight Inc (American Eagle) on 05Feb86, but this lasted only a short while as the next year it was bought by SAAB Aircraft Holdings.


Many propliners have "gone to the desert" at one time or another and this "ConvairLiner was no exception: stored at Marana,AZ July 1987 untill 1989. But then ERA Aviation of Alaska bought it 03May89 and in July it was registered as N566EA.

If you would like to read some background info on the development of the ConvairLiners, click here


ERA Aviation also operates 2 Douglas DC-3s for nostalgic, scenic flights.

N1944H (c/n 17111/34378) started its life with the military as 45-1108, delivered 12Oct45 to the USAF. It was put in the care of the RFC (Reconstruction Finance Corp., US storage body formed to dispose of government surplus materials) in Mar46.
It entered the civilian register as NC54542 for Outboard & Marine Manufacturing Co. of Milwaukee,WI on Nov53; this tailnumber was revised to N80M in Dec66 for the same company, which kept using it untill March 1977. The next year, in February, it was registered as N54542 for Experimental Acft Assoc. of Franklin, WI (which was slightly altered in 1983: EAA Aviation Foundation, Oshkosh, WI).

At some date (unknown to me) it was recorded for Basler, another resident at Oshkosh. ERA Aviation bought it in April 1995 from them and moved it to Alaska.

My memories of ERA are not too fond, as they refused cooperation to me to take this aircraft's picture; apparently we share enthusiasm for historic aviation only if I am a paying customer....
I have another shot of this aircraft on Gooney Birds in Alaska & Canada
This is how Walt Brubaker recalls flying this vintage transport on scenic flights in 1989 and 1990.



The Douglas C-133B "Cargomaster" is most certainly a dinosaur of forgotten days ! It had been sitting for years at Anchorage and when I took this photograph in July 1995, I did not realize it was doomed: N133B (cn45584) was scrapped due to airport expansion in 2002. The owner, Cargomaster Corporation, owns another C-133A (N199AB, cn45164), which also leads a dormant life at ANC, but it did actually operate a few flights in 2002 ! There is hope left for that sole (airworthy) survivor...
I came across it in 2003, have a look !
The Douglas C-133 was built in a limited number 45, of which 35 were C-133As (some of these were also improved to the C-133B standard, which also included other engines). It had a crew of 4 to 9, had a cruising speed of 310mph, ceiling 32.000 ft and a range of 2.200 mls (with 90.000 pounds payload). The production period ran from 1954 untill 1961.
The Cargomaster was mainly designed to carry ICBM ballistic missiles around the country; funny to note that a recent load were schoolbusses to a remote community in Alaska...


We moved away from Anchorage and the next stop was Palmer, which meant Woods Air. N101Z (c/n 4574) is seen here in a less favorable condition. Woods Air Services a.k.a. Woods Air Fuel folded by the end of 2000.
This airframe started with the USAAF (serial) 41-18482 on 31Jul42. It was transferred to another Government Dept: Civil Aeronautics Administration with tailnumber NC5 (14Oct45). In Dec.1958 this body changed its name to Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). NC5 was changed to N99 on 01Feb73. It was transferred to USDA,Forestry Service on 25Jul77 as N101Z.
At some point it found its way to Woods Air, still with the USDA colourscheme. It probably was active in Alaska while operating for the Forestry Service, as there is a report of "damaged at McGarth,AK, Jan.1967". Another reported stated: "USDA c/s intact, at Palmer Minicipal Apt, Jul89".
It seems to have found a way to the "The Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry" at Wasilla, not far from Palmer. As such I came across it in 2003

A beautiful aircraft in an enchanting scenery: magic ! With sights like these, I truly felt Alaska was the place to be. Of course, weather was not always like this...


We see here Douglas C-54E N96358, of Aero Flite Inc. This aerial firefighting company has its base at Kingman,AZ but had "Tanker 160" based at Palmer on contract; the firefighting community had little to do in 1995 in Alaska as it had been an exceptional wet year.
Msn 27284 (line number 230) was delivered to the USAAF for transport duties as 44-9058 on 08Mar45, but was transferred to the US Navy that same date (designating it an R5D-4R with serial 90397). Service lasted untill April 1970, when it was stored at Davis Monthan's "Military Aircraft Storage & Disposition Center (MASDC)" in Arizona. International Air Leases bought it in 1975 and that year tailnumber N96358 was assigned to it. Aero Flite Inc bought it 2 years later and converted it to an airtanker ("water bomber").

At one time this DC-6BF had its home at another propliner base: Miami,FL. It was operated by Conner Airlines then. I took this photo when it was operating with Woods Air Services, leased from Conner Aircraft.
N28CA (c/n 45321/934) was a converted Douglas DC-6B, now designated DC-6BF for freighter services. It was delivered to Western Air Lines Jan.1958 as N93125 and its service lasted untill it was sold to Iran Air (1965, registered EP-AEW). It returned to the US when it was bought by Concare Aircraft Leasing Co., which registered it as N28CA (must have had something to do with Conner Airlines by then). Records show it was bought by F.A.Conner in 1973. In 1990 it seemed the end of the line was in sight: it was stored at Miami. But Woods Air either bought or leased it in 1994 and moved it up north.
Tatonduk Outfitters Ltd of Fairbanks,AK took ownership upon the demise of Woods Air and registered it to its name on 25Sep01. Tatonduk did business as Air Cargo Express, which changed its name into Everts Air Cargo in 2002.
I have another shot of this aircraft on Check Six
By 2003 I found N28CA had found another role in life: Evert's DC-6 instrument trainer

Buddy Woods died in the crash of DHC-4 Caribou N539Y, on 20Mar86. Karl Hayes wrote an excellent article about Woods Air Fuel in Propliner magazine, no.120, Autumn 2009.


N861TA
N861TA

Another victim to posterity: DC-6A/B N861TA (c/n 43522/229) crashed at McGrath,AK on 02Jan98 ! It's seen here in happier days, July 1995 at Palmer. One can also note the "primitive" ramp with Woods Air.
This DC-6A was delivered to Pan American World Aws as N6522C on 05Apr52, was leased to Aerovias Panama (HP-343) in 1962, was bought from PanAm in 1967 by Pacific Airmotive in 1967, which converted it to DC-6A/B for cargo services. It was then bought by the US Air Force (serial 66-14467), which sold it to the Chilean Air Force (serial 987).. all in the same year: 1967.
The Atlas Aircraft Co. bought it again in Feb.1982 and had it registered as N861TA; after a period of storage at Opa Locka,FL it was went thru various owners and leases: Freedom Int'l Inc. (bought May84), Universal Airlines (lsd 1984), Northern Pacific Transport Inc. (bt Oct89), Universal Airlines (bt Jun90), American World Airlease (bt Apr92).
Woods Air Fuel Inc. bought it in Aug92. It crashed and was destroyed by fire on take off from Nixon Fork Mining landing strip, McGrath 02Jan98.
NTSB report in part: "During the takeoff roll, while passing 45 knots indicated airspeed, ice formed between the inner and outer panes of the airplane's windshield, obscuring the crew's vision. The flight crew aborted the takeoff, the airplane drifted off the left side of the snow covered runway, and caught fire. No fatalities, no injuries". Full NTSB report
It is seen here during better days with Universal Airlines, probably in 1990 (Photo: Ruud Leeuw Collection).


The DC-3 is so in its right habitat in Alaska, it just fits ! This is another one of Woods Air Services: C-47A N50CM (cn13445) and it was registered to Woods in 26Dec89.

Its previous history looks like this: delivered to the USAAF as 42093524 on 29May44, joined the 9th AF, back to the US for the RFC (Reconstruction Finance Corp.) in 1945, registered to L.Baker as NC62566, bought by D.A.Fowlie 01Feb46, to Executive Transport Corp. on 18Mar46.
It found its way to the airlines: U S Air Lines on 24Apr46 and onwards to North Central Line Material Co. (McGraw Electric) 16Nov49, slightly altering the register in 1957: to McGraw Edison Corp. More obscure owners after that: registered to John B Holmes on 25Feb58, reregistering it as N462T on 19Sep58.
In 1965 it went abroad: as XB-BIS for Financeria Industrial SA,Monterrey, Mexico (06Jul65). But not for long: registered as N50CM for Curries Machinery Co. of California (reg'd 10Dec72). From California it moved to Wyoming: for P.A.B. Widener of Sheridan,WY (reg'd on 28Feb74). And back to the coast, Washington State: Battelle Memorial lnstitute, Richland, WA (Jan75).
What happened between 1975 and 1989, when it was registered to Woods Air, I do not know; probably more moving to-and-fro...
I have another shot of this aircraft on Gooney Birds in Alaska & Canada and I came across it again whilst operating for Bush Air Cargo, in 2006 (Woods Air folded in 2000).


Please continue to PAGE +2+ of my Alaska 1995 account.

Sources:
Piston Engine Airliner Production List by A.B.Eastwood & J.Roach (TAHS, 2002)
Douglas DC-3 by J.M.G. Gradidge (Air-Britain, 1984)
Convairliners by J.M. Gradidge (in coop with John M.Davies, Douglas D.Olson, Dr.John A.Whittle) Air-Britain 1997.
The "C"-planes, US Cargo Aircraft 1925-present by Bill Holder & Scott Vadnais (Schiffer, 1996)
Curtiss C-46 by Lundkvist Aviation Research (1981)
Various news items in Propliner magazine

And last but certainly no least: thanks to all those people with NAC, Everts, Woods Air, Brooks Fuel and others, who allowed me on the premises and let me disturb their workroutine... THANKS ALL !!


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Created: 18-12-02 Updated: 15-3-05
Last updated 4.5.2006