Roy Dickson 1930s Alaska Bush Pilot
JOSEPH E. "JOE" CROSSON - Born June 29, 1903
at Minneapolis, Kansas. He and his sister, Marvel
(1904-1939), barnstormed together before he accepted
an offer from Fairbanks Aircraft Co., in the mid-1920's.
Joe & Ben Eielson were pilots on the 1928 Wilkins -
Hearst Antarctic Expedition & was one of the pilots who
found site of Eielson crash in Siberia in 1930. Flew
bodies of Will Rogers and Wiley Post out of Barrow in
1935. In 1939 Joe was flying the Pan Am Clipper out of
San Francisco. Later headed Pacific Alaska Airways, the
Pan American Subsidiary. Joe died suddenly in Seattle
in 1949 at age 45. He was inducted into the Alaska
Aviation Heritage Museum Hall of Fame in 2002.
ROY SHELTON DICKSON - Born February 10, 1901 at Van Zandt County, Texas.
Learned to fly at Tex Rankin's Flying School in Vancouver, WA. Brought a B-1 Ryan
to Alaska in March 1934. Flew for Alaska Exploration & Mining Co., McGee Airways,
Woodley Airways, Star Air Lines, and founded Bering Sea Airways. Read his
fascinating story in his new book
Roy Dickson 1930s Alaska Bush Pilot.
JAMES M. "JIM" DODSON - Born Philadelphia, PA January
11, 1902. Came to Alaska in 1927 to be commercial fisherman.
Learned to fly in Naval Reserve in Florida. Served on active duty
on carriers
Saratoga & Lexington. Came back to Alaska to fly for
Pioneer Airways out of Ketchikan. Came to Anchorage in early
1930s and flew from Merrill Field to Kuskokwim and Bristol Bay
for McGee Airways and Bowman Airways. Went to Fairbanks in
935 to fly for Noel Wien. In 1936 formed Jim Dodson Air Service
and in 1947 joined with four other outfits to form Northern
Consolidated Airlines. Died in Anchorage in December 1969.
FRANK G. DORBANDT - Born 1893 in Detroit, MI. Came to Alaska in
1929 to join Russ Merrill as second pilot for Anchorage Air Transport. Flew
for Eielson's company, Alaska Airways & in 1929 was flying a Stinson on
same expedition where Eielson lost his life. In 1930 formed Dorbandt-Cope
with Lon Cope selling it to  Pacific International Airways in 1931. Flew for
PIA based in Anchorage, and did a lot of flying in the Valley of the Ten
Thousand Smokes area. Flew mercy flights to the North Coast of Siberia in
1930 & 1931. In 1938 flew a Tri-motor Ford from Los Angeles to Anchorage
for Ptamigan Airways. Was an excellent pilot with a reputation as a dare
devil, often in trouble with the CAA. Died in 1935 of pneumonia in Fairbanks,
buried in Anchorage.
ED DORRANCE - Arrived Cordova early-1930s. Later moved to Copper Center & with Al Lyle started
Lyle and Dorrance Airways with service to 40 Mile Country, Nabesna and Copper River Valley. Died in
airplane crash in 40 Mile Country in 1937. Buried in Dawson, Yukon Territory.
WESLEY EARL DUNKLE - Born Clarendon, PA 1887, graduated Yale University
1908. A mining engineer he came to Alaska in August 1910 to work in the Beatson
Mine in Prince William Sound. Came to Anchorage in 1930. Operated Lucky Shot
mine in mountains near Willow. Learned to fly with Steve Mills in Seattle. Operated
the first ambulance plane which had room for a stretcher and a nurse. He taught
Toivo Aho to fly. Was one of the original investors who helped to start Star Air
Service and was President from 1932 - 1938. He was the main promoter of building
a canal to connect Lake Spenard & Lake Hood to provide a better sea plane base for
Anchorage. Went back to mining & died at Golden Zone Gold camp in 1957, buried
in Anchorage.
BEN EASLEY - Flew Curtiss Robin out of Candle in mid-1930's. Died in aircraft accident in Norton
Sound, between Kotzebue and Deering in mid-1930's.
ANSCEL ECKMANN - Made first non-stop flight between Seattle & Juneau in 1929 in Wasp-
powered Lockheed Vega on floats for Alaska Washington Airways. Flight took 9 hours 35 minutes. Jack
Halloran was mechanic on the flight & R. E. "Bob" Ellis was navigator. Continued to fly in Southeastern
CARL BENJAMIN EIELSON - Born at Hatton, North Dakota in 1897. The second
most famous American aviation pioneer after Charles Lindbergh. Arrived in
Fairbanks in 1922 as a school teacher. In 1923 pioneered air mail service in Alaska
flying twice monthly mail from Fairbanks to McGrath in an open cockpit
DeHavilland. In September 1928 Eielson & Joe Crosson were pilots on the Wilkins -
Hearst Antarctic Expedition. Also in 1928 Eielson received the Distinguished Flying
Cross for flying Sir Hubert Wilkins from Point Barrow to Spitzbergen, Norway in a
Lockheed Vega, the first flight across the North Pole. Purchased Anchorage Air
Transport in 1929 and changed the name to Alaska Airways. Obtained a contract to
fly 15 stranded passengers & six tons of furs from the trading ship
Nanuck which
was stranded in the ice off Siberia. Carl and his mechanic Earl Borland were killed in
their Hamilton Metalplane in Siberia November 9, 1929 on their second flight to the
ship. He was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1985, & the Alaska
Aviation Heritage Museum Hall of Fame in 2003.
DON EMMONS - Came to Juneau in mid-1930's as pilot for Clarence Walter's Alaska School of
Aeronautics. Then flew for Hans Mirow in Nome. Later for Star Air Service in Fairbanks and Point
Barrow. Died in pulp mill accident in Southeastern in 1959.
ROBERT E. "BOB" ELLIS - Born St. Albans, VT January 20, 1903. At age 16
attended US Naval Academy where he received navigation & flight training. In 1929
Anscel Eckmann asked him to plot a course for the Alaska Washington Airways
record breaking nonstop flight of a Lockheed Vega from Seattle to Juneau. Ellis went
along to begin his long aviation career in Alaska. He flew all over Alaska with a
variety of airlines. In 1936 he purchased a Waco float plane & established Ellis Air
Transport in Ketchikan, later renamed Ellis Air Lines which merged with Alaska
Coastal Airlines in 1965 to become Alaska Coastal-Ellis Airlines, which became part
of Alaska Airlines in 1968. Was a Senator in the Alaska Territorial Legislature
1955 - 1958. Bob died in May 9, 1994 at Ketchikan. In 2004 he was inducted into
the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum Hall of Fame.
JACK ELLIOT - Learned to fly in Oakland, CA before 1930; came to McGrath in 1934 to work for the
game warden, then to Anchorage as a pilot for Star Air Service. Flew Bellancas, Stinsons, Ford
Trimotors out of Anchorage. Left Alaska in 1943 and was chief pilot for Consolidated Vultee Aircraft in
San Diego, CA. Last flew in Alaska in 1947 on Kenai Peninsula on a bear hunt.
ARCHIE R. FERGUSON - "Christ, I like to fly," sums up this colorful character of
Northern Aviation. Born January 24, 1895 in Ohio, arrived in Alaska in 1917.
Ferguson family hired Chet Browne from Colorado in the 1920's to teach Archie to
fly. Once described as the craziest pilot in Alaska. He owned a restaurant in Kotzebue
and operated his own flying service out of Kotzebue for many years. Died of natural
causes in Mexico in February 1967.
HAROLD GILLAM - Charles Harold Gillam was born 1903 Kankakee, Illinois and
raised in Nebraska. In 1923 came to Cordova & Chitina as a "cat skinner" for the
Alaska Road Commission, then Bennett-Rodebaugh Airplane Transport Co. in
Fairbanks. Learned to fly in Fairbanks in 1929 & with only 40 hrs training & no
license, flew a Stearman across Alaska in the search for the Eielson crash & was the
pilot who spotted the wreckage. In 1929 he was engaged to Joe Crosson's sister
Marvel who was killed during the Cleveland Air Derby. Gillam flew a mail route
from Fairbanks to Bethel. In 1931 he left Fairbanks & founded Aircraft Charter Co.
in Cordova & Copper Center. In about 1932 he founded Gillam Airways. He died
following a Jan 5, 1943 crash in a Lockheed Electra 10B near Ketchikan on a flight
from Seattle to Anchorage with 5 passengers. All survived the original crash; one
died from injuries, & Harold froze to death trying to walk out for help. The
remaining 4 passengers were rescued by Coast Guard Cutter
McLane after 33
days. Harold is buried in Fairbanks.
ED FAGEROS - Flew briefly for McGee Airways, then for Noel Wien in Fairbanks. Died in aircraft
crash in McGrath.