Bush Pilot Hall of Fame
Meet the pilots who created the Alaska bush pilot legend.
- By Linda Shiner
- Air & Space magazine, May 2013
University of Alaska Anchorage
Robert Campbell Reeve
The noted mountaineer and cartographer Bradford Washburn said that Bob Reeve was “without a doubt the finest ski pilot and rough country flier I’ve ever seen.” Reeve arrived in Alaska in 1932, after several years of flying mail for Pan American–Grace Airways (Panagra) in South America. Supplying the mines in the mountains near Valdez, he became a local attraction by flying his skiplane from the slick tidal flats near Valdez Bay. “If I could have charged admission,” he told his biographer, “I would have had it made.”
In 1937, when Reeve set a world record for highest skiplane landing (8,750 feet), the snow was too soft for his Fairchild 51 to take off from. After waiting five days for the glacier to freeze, he managed to get airborne, but then had to dive for hundreds of feet before he could gain enough airspeed to level and climb. He became known as “the glacier pilot” for making more than 2,000 glacier landings. In 1949, he founded Reeve Aleutian Airlines, which his family ran until 2000.
Reeve was also a mechanic. In this photograph, he’s at center working on his Fairchild 51.