Classic Propliners by Francis Blake


Photos © Francis Blake


Francis Blake contacted me with a splendid story and a unique photo of Curtiss C-46 N67982!
C-46 N67982 ran out of luck at No Luck Lake! Copyright Francis Blake
Curtiss C-46F N67982 (c/n 22584; ex/ USAF 44-78761) lost in 'No Luck Lake', Alaska.
Before it went to Interior Airways it was acquired by Flying Tigers (and reg'd N67982) from the military.

Francis wrote me: "Saw the blurb on the C-46 N67982 in No Luck Lake (way down in the website, with a request for photos).
I have this close aerial photo of it sitting in the water, as described!
I took it in July 1972 while I was part of a geological field crew. We were tent camped at nearby Driftwood; our field transportation was a Bell Jet Ranger. Our cargo carriers were ex-C-46's and ex-C-47's."
Francis continued: "This particular C-46 (an F model, #22584, 44-78761) stayed in the lake for decades. It landed on ice in June 1968 and broke through.
Interior Airways intended to rescue it, but never did.
1990's satellite photos showed it broken into two major sections and had moved to a different part of the lake from where I saw it. Winter storms?
But current sat pics do not show it so guess it has been removed and scrapped."

Francis aded: "If you want to see a photo of the No Luck Lake C-46 broken into 2 big pieces, Google this book: 'Alaska Flying Surviving Incidents & Accidents' by Jake Jacobson, 2016.
Go to his "First Engine Failure" chapter and scroll down.

More photos by Francis Blake, taken during his brief 1972 stint on 'The Last Frontier', can be seen on Photos by Friends & Guests (50).

In May 2019 a photo surfaced (on Facebook) of the construction plate of msn 22584!
C/n 22584 construction plate (C-46 N67982)




Francis Blake did me the pleasure of sending this batch of vintage Alaska propliners! After he sent me the Interior Airways C-46 drowing in 'NoLuck Lake' (see Photos by Friends & Guests - 50) he found a few more photos taken during his 1972 stint on 'the Last Frontier'.

DC-3 taking off at unimproved airfield in Alaska
DC-3 taking off or landing at Driftwood, a remote and primitive site in western parts of Alaska's vast North Slope.
Marc Hookerman wrote: "Great action photo of the DC-3 at Driftwood Airstrip!
Driftwood (not to be confused with Driftwood Bay) was a research camp, just east/southeast of Icy Cape and
Point Lay LRRS along the Utukok River. Very remote area!

Now, which DC-3 / C-47 operator could this be..? Interior perhaps?
Interior Airways operated between 1947-1972. Interior Enterprises had merged with the former and operated only between 1946-1948. The former merged in turn with (an operator which later merged into) Alaska Airlines.
Unfortunately I was unable to find a fleetlist for Interior A/W, but I have to say that the name 'Interior' seems
to have been painted over here, erased, indicating this DC-3 is a former Interior Airways DC-3/C-47..?

Marc Hookerman remarked: "Interior was absorbed into Alaska Industries by 1972 (became Alaska International Air and only flew the Lockheed 382B Hercules by that point).
Their C-46s went to Fairbanks Air Service, if memory serves...
Photos of Interior Aws DC-3s are rare. Tough one to figure out as the Alaskan air cargo non-sked start-ups and mergers at that point were numerous!"

Fairbanks Air Service operated during 1946-1976, was renamed 06Jan76 to Great Northern Airlines (1976-1980).
The photos discussed here were taken during 1972.

Jim Magoffin, who founded Interior Airways in 1946, wrote a book (my list of books) about his life in aviation: 'Triumph over Turbulence'. On page 225 is a photo (b&w) with the caption: "Longtime Interior Airways arctic pilot Bob Jacobs with a DC-3 at Arctic Village, Alaska. 'Jake' was originally based at Umiat, but moved to Sagwon as oil company interest increased in that area'.
Sagwon was the location picked by Magoffin for Interior's own airport. It was inland far enough to escape the coastal fog but close to the area of most interest to the oil companies. At times it was a restless beehive of actitiy!
C-47 N46496
From the photo I could make out the tailnumber: N46496. Which is one of two Douglas C-47A aircraft operated by Great Northern Airlines (leased). The other one was N345A (c/n 9397).
While the ATDB aero database remarks on the latter that it moved to Air Florida Sunshine / Air Sunshine ('ultimate obscure'), N46496 went to Air Pacific Int'l, to DHL Island AW, to Basler (als ending as 'ultimate obscure').
N345A served with Aspen AW before moving to Alaska ('To Great Northern Airlines Fairbanks AS').
The photo above shows titles but I was unable to make out what ('AIR ..' in fat lettering?). The insignia on the tail however is not the waving flag of Interior A/W but rather a US flag...

I don't have a fleetlist of Fairbanks Air Service, so am unable to check which (if any) DC-3's operated with Fairbanks Air Service (1946-1972). Was Magoffin involved with Fairbanks Air Service in any way?

Elsewhere in the book (page 156, a colour photo) N46496 (c/n 9499) shows a very different colourscheme; the caption reads 'The Dewliner', Interior Airways' first DC-3, N46496. This plane put in 16 years of hard work for Interior before being sold. Here it is shown on take off at Point Barrow.'
DC-3 N49496 from 'Triumph over Turbulence'

C-46 N1663M
Curtiss C-46F Commando N1663M (c/n 22548) - Fairbanks Airport in June 1972.
The C-46 was in use at the time this photo was taken.
A photo taken at Laredo,TX a few months earlier showed N1663M in an anonymous colours, sans titles: Ron Mak #3.
On 02May08 noted scrapped remains of N1663M @Fairbanks in the Everts' boneyard. Photos by Friends & Guests #18

A bit of history on c/n 22548:
USAF (44-78725), Resort AL (N1663M), Transamerica AL (N1663M), 'Alaska AL' (N1663M), Great
Northern AL (N1663M), Northern Pacific Transport (N1663M), San Francisco Ferreteria & Implementos (N1663M) and Everts Air Fuel, but unused: N1663M was scrapped at Midland-Odessa,TX though the cockpit section was moved for Everts to Fairbanks. [-ATDB]
San Francisco Ferreteria & Implementos (1982-2009) was based in Laredo,TX.
The service with Alaska Airlines mentioned above probably refers to Interior Airways (which operated between
Great Northern Airlines (formerly, during 1946-1976, known as Fairbanks Air Service) operated
during the years 1976-1980.
Interior's C-46A N4860V (c/n 30240) can be seen at my Alaska 1995 and Fairbanks 2003 reports.
I have to say that while the 'Interior'-titles could be blocked by that wing, it could equally be erased and this
Curtiss C-46F may have being operated by another operator post-1972, same as the DC-3 above!
(Mind 1972 was the year Francis Blake spent up in Alaska!).

Great Northern AL, operated several C-46s aircraft but no DC-3 (Source:
Northern Pacific Transport (1984-1992), ceased ops Aug,1992 when assets were repossessed. Before that the Ball Brothers owned and operated both C-46s & C-47 (also C-118s & DC-6), 1978-1984, had been formed by Albert Newton Ball; renamed Nov.1984 to Northern Pacific. Would this timespan make a better fot for when the photos were taken..?

Francis added on the above aircraft: "The rapid turn overs and merges of airline companies in Alaska back then
was amazing!
The painted over names were confusing. I was never sure who was our cargo service that day.
Somewhere in the history mix is 'Wien'. We saw a few planes and facilities with that name, but I don't think they involved us."

While browsing my bookcase I came across this book: 'Alaskan Props' by Karl-Heinz Morawietz & Jörg Weier: staring me in the face on the frontcover is Curtiss C-46 N1663M 'sans' Interior titles!
C-46 N1663M
The book has 'Front Cover: Resident in Alaska since 1964. Curtiss C-46 Commando N1663M is
currently registered to John O'Magoffin but retains the patriotic blue and gold livery of the now
defunct Interior Airways. The snow covered peaks of the Chugach Mountains can be seen in the background'.
No indication of date and location, but that last line may indicate Anchorage or Palmer.
Alaska Props was published by Osprey Publishing Ltd (London,UK) in 1988.

Jim Magoffin, who founded Interior Airways in 1946, wrote a book about his life in aviation: 'Triumph over Turbulence' and is an excellent source to read about these airlines and aviation in Alaska.
I am assuming the John O'Magoffin mentioned is the same person as Jim Magoffin.

C-130 Hercules N9265R of Interior
Lockheed L.100-20 Hercules N9265R (c/n 4300) of Interior Airways
Delivered as N9265R to Alaska Airlines, but probably operated by Interior Airways(as we see that tailnumber and
titles 'Interior' on the photo). Ownership changed to Markair, reregistering as N104AK, and later various owners
brought this airframe to many continents: Transamerica AL, Southern Air Transport (N908SJ), Air Foyle, Pacific
Rim A/W (leased), Transafrik (S9-CAW), United Nations Organisation (leased), National AL (leased, based based Iraq/Afghanistan) and Transafrik Uganda (5x-TUB, Stored at Fujairah-FJR anno 2017).

A little bit more on Interior Airways:
The airline began its life in late 1946, founded by James Magoffin (Fairbanks,AK), carrying cargo throughout the American territory of Alaska.
In the late 1960s the airline bought Lockheed L-382 Hercules aircraft to service construction of the Alaska Pipeline.
In 1972 it changed its name to Alaska International Air, to reflect its international charter business.
In 1980 Alaska International Air bought a regional passenger/cargo airline named Great Northern Airways.
In 1984 new colors and the name MarkAir were brought to the airline as it inaugurated passenger/cargo service from Anchorage to the Alaska bush communities

And a little bit more on Mr Magoffin, supplied by Martin S. Best-
"I tried to check on your Mr Magoffin. I thought that the obvious place to check on the name would be in the World Airline Surveys published by Flight and available online at the flightglobal website.
I checked the 'World Airline Survey' dated 13April1961. There is an entry for Interior Enterprises Inc. on page 496. This lists the Executives as J S Magoffin, president; D R Magoffin, executive vice-president.
At that time, the Fleet was: three C-46, two DC-3, six Cessna 180, three Norseman, 11 others.
There is no entry for Fairbanks Air Services.

Then I checked 'Airlines of the United States since 1914', by R E G Davies (Putnam, 1972).
Looking at the Index on page 710, the entry for Interior Airways says “See: Interior Air Service”...
This entry says "Fleet, 1969 (Table 27), 648". This is in error!
Although Table 27 is on page 648, the entry for Interior is in Table 26 on page 647...
The fleet shown was 2 DC-3 and 1 F.27, Total: 3. (There is no column for the C-46.)
You should be able to find Fairbanks Air Services in Flightglobal." (But I found nil via 'Search' on that website. -Webmaster,RL).


Boeing C-97s stored at salvage yard
Boeing C-97s stored at a salvage yard; where could this have been..?

Paul van der Horst offered: "The 'C-97's' appear to be Boeing 377 Stratocruisers. I can see 2 Transocean (TAA)
examples and 5 Northwest 'Strats'. My guess would be the Mojave B377 boneyard!" But Frances insist it isn't!

David responded on the Classic-Propliner forum (Yahoo): "This location was used in an episode of Cannon in a shooting scene.
(Frank) Cannon was an American 1960’s 1970's detective TV-series.
They filmed a chase scene a Mojave in and around the C-97s. A row of C-97's looking very similar as to those on the photo.
YouTube: Cannon Series 3 Episode 7 'Night Flight to Murder'. Look for aprox 36 mins and the scene ends around 44.
Boeing 377s as background to filming a Frank Cannon epsiode
Boeing 377s suggested as background to filming a Frank Cannon episode. But closer examination makes it unlikely.
A single mountain in the background here, where Frances' has a mountain range in the background...

Having seen this, Francis Blake insists that his photo of the Stratocruisers was taken at Fairbanks!
On damaged Boeing's on the YouTube screendumps are not to be found on Blake's photo. Nor did I see
the one sitting on his tail in Cannon's shoot-out... So two major salvage yards here...?

Mike Adkins wrote (Oct.2017): "3rd season of 'Cannon' was definitely NOT '1960s'!
The 7th episode of that season would have aired in late 1973. "Cannon" ran on CBS for five seasons, 1971-1976.
He drove a Lincoln Mark in the show: A Mark III in the first season, then a Mark IV. A big guy needed a big car!"

Furthermore on the line of Strats stored, Neil Aird wrote: "I was in FAI 1966 and 1968, no Strats there then!
Check this out, (Daren Savage)-->
Strats stored at Mojave
The image has the following caption on that website, 'The title 'King of the Second-hand Stratocruisers' must surely go to Aero Spacelines which laid claim to no fewer than 27 of the many B-377/C-97s produced. It wasn't out of love of the
design that they bought this many Stratocruisers. It was out of their need for spare parts for the Guppy program.
Most were stored at Mojave, California with some being stored at Oakland, California. Pictured here is Aero Spacelines' legacy to the Mojave Desert. In the end all Stratocruisers met the smelter's torch.'
Webmaster's note- Frances' stored Stratocruisers have a double line of airframes, mountains in the background while
this photo at Mojave has a long single line and no mountains in the background.




Francis wrote me in June 2017: "A few more photos. Based on my journal, we flew from Anchorage to Fairbanks on a Wien 737, normally a cargo plane but seats had been installed for us.
From Fairbanks to Sagwon, we flew in an Interior A/W deHavilland Beaver.
Our camp equipment was flown from camp to camp by Fairbanks Air, ex-Interior C-46 and DC-3.
We flew camp to camp and our field explorations in a ERA Bell Jet Ranger helo.
At the end, I flew in a Kotzebue based bush plane from Driftwood to Kotzebue, then in the Fairbanks Air DC-3 to Fairbanks. A Wein airliner returned me to Anchorage."

ALaska DEW-station, by Francis Blake
A closer view of the former DEW station. We had a cache of fuel there, so landed to fill up our Jet Ranger.
Saw 5 people but none came over to talk to us."

Kotzebue from the air; by Francis Blake
"Kotzebue Airport and town. Two runways: dirt parallel to shore and paved perpendicular to shore.
Saw a derelict 'Connie', and a firefighting PBY. Wing tip of DC-3 at right."
Neil Aird wrote (Oct.2017: "That Connie landed wheels up at Kotzebue (not while I was on it!) in a snowstorm;
crew forgot the all important wheels!" See Neil's photos of Fly Alaska N7777C.

Francis wrote with the following: "several more pics taken in 1972 on the North Slope.
I kept a daily journal of my time there and have re-read it.
We spent 10 days at Sagwon. Slept in barracks and ate in a small cafeteria."

DC-3 N46496, by Francis Blake
"The DC-3 N46496 at Umiat, loading up to take our equipment for transport to Driftwood.
I later flew in this DC-3 from Kotzebue to Fairbanks. Said to be owned by Fairbanks Air, ex-Interior.
No info on Fairbanks Air. The airstrip of Driftwood was too short for C-46's."

Umiat,Alaska - from the air
This is Umiat, the airstrip is in the background.

Dirt strip at Driftwood.
Dirt strip at Driftwood.

Accommodation at Driftwood,AK
Francis: "How we lived at Driftwood. Largest tent was the cookshack and dining mess..."

 Cape Sabine DEW Intermediate Station at Cape Beaufort
"Former Cape Sabine DEW Intermediate Station at Cape Beaufort.
Taken out of service in 1963, removed in the 2000's. It was a storage area in '72, for oil/mining company geophysical equipment during summers. A N-S airstrip is visible on the bluff, beyond tower and station."

Umiat, checking equipment
Umiat, Alaska. Checking equipment near the Wien office.

Curtiss C-46 N1312V at Umiat,AK
Curtiss C-46F N1312V (c/n 22575) at Umiat,AK.
Probably in use / operated by Great Northern Airlines / Fairbanks A/S.
N1312V was destroyed on 10Jul197s at Beluga Airport,AK. From ASN: "The aircraft crashed 152 feet short of the runway when the main gear struck a bank, which was located 18 inches below the runway level.
The pilot tried to go around but the left engine quit. The C-46 crash-landed. Damaged beyond repair".

'Downtown' Umiat, AK
'Downtown' Umiat, AK

Old Point Lay, Alaska
Francis: "This is old Point Lay (newer Point Lay is across the lagoon).

Sagwon, Alaska
"This is Sagwon, Alaska - back in the day!"




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Created: 14-Sep-2017