Probably the best known of Alaska’s first bush pilots, Noel Wien had something most of the others didn’t: a long life. Wien died at 78, after seeing the airline he founded 50 years earlier expand, under his brother’s management, to provide flights from Alaska to as far away as Denver, Colorado. By 1985, when Wien Air ceased operations, it was the second oldest airline in the United States. It had come a long way from its 1927 beginning as the first scheduled air service in Alaska, with a single biplane flying one weekly round trip between Fairbanks and Nome. (In the photo Wien is standing with his wife Ada next to the airline’s Stinson Detroiter.)
Wien was a cautious and highly skilled pilot. When he first arrived in Alaska, he refused to fly in winter, regardless of the conditions. But as he gained experience in the country, he too had plenty of adventures, including making the first landing north of the Arctic Circle.