Bush Pilot Hall of Fame

Meet the pilots who created the Alaska bush pilot legend.


Joe Crosson

(University of Alaska Fairbanks)

The first pilot to land on Mount McKinley, Crosson became known for flying humanitarian and rescue missions, among them the delivery of medicine to villages on the Arctic coast where doctors were battling a diphtheria epidemic. He had come to Alaska in 1926 as a 23-year-old, recruited by the Fairbanks Airplane Corporation. By 1932, his common sense and flying skills had won him the position of chief pilot for Alaskan Airways, which he helped integrate into the Pan Am system that year.

In 1928 Crosson joined Carl Ben Eielson and Hubert Wilkins on Antarctic surveys, and the following year, he was the first in the air to search when his friend Eielson went missing. (In the photo, he is standing by Eielson’s crashed airplane.) In 1935, Crosson was tasked with a sad mission of the type many bush pilots undertook, though with less famous cargo: He flew to the lagoon outside Barrow to recover the bodies of Wiley Post and Will Rogers; Post’s airplane crashed as he flew north into the Arctic to survey a route to the Soviet Union. Crosson had advised Post to postpone the flight so that mechanics could do further work on his modified Lockheed Orion, but Post was impatient to get under way.

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