Sitka teen wins 'Paint the Plane' contest

BOEING 737-400: Iconic alaska animals will decorate jetliner.

January 3, 2009 

Alaska Airlines announced today that Hannah Hamberg, 16, of Sitka is the winner of the State of Alaska's "Paint the Plane" contest. Her artwork will adorn an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 jet in honor of the state's 50th anniversary in 2009.

IMAGE COURTESY OF ALASKA AIRLINES — Image courtesy of Alaska Airlines

Someday soon, you might see an Alaska Airlines jet adorned with a most unusual sled team: a bounding dog with a curly tail roped to a bear, humpback whale and other Alaska icons.

The design is the creation of Hannah Hamberg, a 16-year-old high school junior from Sitka whose entry was announced Saturday as the winner in the statewide "Paint the Plane" competition for kids from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The design contest is part of the 50th anniversary of statehood celebration. Gov. Sarah Palin was at the Hotel Captain Cook to reveal the winner. In all, 13 finalists, one from every grade, get prizes: trips to Disneyland for four people.

Hamberg, a dancer, cheerleader, National Honor Society member, class vice president, and more, gets the trip, plus her artwork on a Boeing 737-400.

"It will fly all over the West Coast. It will be seen from one end of the state to the other," said Bill MacKay, Alaska Airlines senior vice president.

Alaska Airlines has about a half dozen other specially painted planes, including three Disney planes and one featuring a wild Alaska king salmon, MacKay said. But this one might become the most famous, he said.

Hamberg said it'll be exciting for her friends to see it when the plane comes through Sitka.

"I know I will be really proud, knowing I had a good design compared to all these other people," Hamberg said.

Thousands of students participated from all over the state. The kindergarten finalist was from White Mountain, near Nome.

Hamberg came up with the dog and musher idea while riding a ferry from Juneau to Sitka on a family trip. She decided to take it up a notch by replacing all the dogs but one with symbols of Alaska from around the state. The team also includes a ferry and a Native boat with four people rowing. Above her design are the words: "We're all pulling together."

Hamberg was born and raised in Sitka and said she was inspired by her state, as well as by Ketchikan artist Ray Troll, known for his quirky, irreverent work that often plays on fish themes.

"This whole experience has definitely made me think about an artistic career," Hamberg said. This summer she will get a taste of that during a six-week program at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she might focus on cartooning, her favored style.

Judges include two former governors, Bill Sheffield and Wally Hickel, and artist Byron Birdsall, among others.

The contest sponsors are Alaska Airlines, the Alaska Statehood Celebration Commission, the state Department of Education and Early Development, and Disney.

To see all the finalists, go to

Find Lisa Demer online at or call 257-4390.

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