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Legends in Alaska Aviation step out of cockpit for spot in limelight

Alaska Dispatch
Alaska Division of Statewide Aviation photo

It should come as no surprise that Alaskans love their aviators. We live in a state that's zig-zagged by more than a dozen mountain ranges and countless streams and rivers; communities cling to coastlines from the forested Southeast to the frigid Northwest Arctic, cut off from highways and road systems.

And that leaves aviators to deliver everything -- fuel, food, medicine, friends and family, fresh water -- to more than 80 percent of Alaska's settlements, many of which are only accessible year-round from the air. Pilots and flight controllers, crews and cargo movers who work in hangars and cabins, float-plane cockpits and on the runway -- all of these aviators have profoundly impacted the course of Alaska history.

The project is coordinated by the Alaska Aviation Museum and Alaska Air Carriers Association (AACA), a commercial aviation business industry group.

Aviators are Alaska's living history, explains says Joy Journeay, AACA executive director. "We are excited that many of the men and women who have built the foundation of aviation in Alaska are still with us, and we're honored to have the opportunity to recognize them, and to capture their unique personal qualities.

MORE: Aviators shape Alaska (+VIDEO) | Bush Pilot

"Their impact on understudies in aviation -- whether they be aspiring pilots or mechanics -- these people starting out in aviation when they're exposed to the knowledge and the breadth of experience, it's just phenomenal and their contributions cannot be underestimated," Journeay said. "the inspiration they give to others is just as important as the foundation they've built."

So when organizers of the Living Legends of Alaskan Aviation project approached Bush Pilot and Alaska Dispatch about publicizing this year's recipients and banquet, how could Alaska's best aviation blog say no?

In the coming weeks, we'll be profiling this year's aviation legend winners. But first, a bit of background, like:

Why honor living aviators?

Good question. It's all about paying respects to the men and women of Alaskan aviation -- celebrating their contributions to the Alaskan way of life -- before they're dead and gone, explains the AACA.

The project also serves to: 

  • Relive events, places, and conditions in Alaska's aviation history.
  • Cherish the unique personal qualities embodied by Alaska's aviation community.
  • Capture through narrative and imagery the stories of Alaskan aviation, many of which now only exist in the minds of these legends (or perhaps in cardboard boxes and dusty closets) before these recollections are lost.

How do I nominate an Alaska aviation legend?

New living legends are nominated and selected every year; winners are recognized every other year at a special banquet in Anchorage, home to Lake Hood, the world's busiest seaplane base, and Merrill Field, which houses nearly 1,000 General Aviation aircraft. A panel of Living Legends award winners and advisors select new honorees. Those chosen this year will suggest future winners, and so on.

Nominations for the project are accepted until March 1 of each year. Do you know a living legend of the Alaska skies? Recognize that aviator by submitting his/her nomination via email to Joy Journeay or to the Alaska Air Museum. Nominations also may be faxed to (907)277-0072.

This year's banquet is Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Find out more.