Special Report

Flight in Alaska


Can there be a more suspenseful man-against-nature story than the history of the airplane in Alaska? For more than 100 years, pilots there have contended with the hazards of mountain flying, the unpredictability of the weather, and the vast, wild spaces to be crossed. Until only very recently, the scorecard has been uncertain: Pilots lost almost as many contests as they won.

Here we offer a series of articles reporting the experiences of the men and women who rely on the airplane as their only practical means of transportation. From the emergence of airmail and barnstormers, to the rise of commercial aviation, and the legacy of bush pilots, our "Flight in Alaska" series examines the airplanes and experiences that have shaped the nation's largest state.


(Floatplane on Inland Lake in Ketchikan, Alaska, by Emilio D'Alise, submitted to the 2014 Air & Space/Smithsonian Second Annual Photo Contest.)

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