Colleen Mondor

Have you ever waited for a plane to depart into the bush only to groan when a weather delay is announced? Do you vent your frustration on the customer service employees and the pilot? As a pilot, have you waivered in your decision to fly, only to have your mind changed by the people around you? These scenarios happen everyday in Alaska, but lately are receiving some increased scrutiny. The fall issue of the Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation newsletter tackles the issue of pressure and how it can cause pilots to make unsafe decisions. According to Mark Madden, a professor with the University of Alaska Anchorage Aviation Technology program and a Master Flight Instructor, pressure can come from internal and external sources and be very difficult to resist: “Quite often,” writes Madden, “...Colleen Mondor
A new film from National Geographic, "Living in the Age of Airplanes," which includes footage filmed in Alaska, is showing at the Anchorage Museum planetarium. Director Brian Terwilliger and his crew filmed in 95 countries for the 47-minute film, which is narrated by actor and pilot Harrison Ford...
Colleen Mondor
On May 16, 1932, pilot Jerry Jones was in trouble. One of his company’s customers, a member of a climbing party on what was then Mount McKinley, was desperately ill in a tent on Muldrow Glacier and needed immediate transport. Unfortunately, the snow was gone in Weeks Field in Fairbanks. Jones needed skis to land on the glacier; but couldn’t take off with them. Someone suggested that the fire department turn their hoses, pump and water wagon on the airport and transform the dirt runway into mud, according to a Daily News-Miner report. The experiment worked, Jones was able to take off, the sick man was rescued. “His splasho return landing is probably the only one on record ever accomplished in a man-made mud pie,” Grant Pearson, who later became superintendent of Mount McKinley National...Colleen Mondor
As news broke earlier this month of a floatplane crash of near Iliamna that killed three passengers and injured seven others, some observers turned their attention to the plane. The Sept. 15 crash involved a single-engine de Havilland Otter DHC3, a model that's seen a series of high-profile crashes in recent years. In 2010, an Otter crashed into a mountain north of Dillingham , killing former Sen. Ted Stevens and four of the eight other people aboard. In 2013, all 10 people aboard another Otter died when that plane crashed on takeoff at the Soldotna airport , the deadliest Alaska aviation accident in decades. Earlier this year, an Otter flying cruise passengers on a flightseeing trip in Misty Fjords National Monument outside Ketchikan crashed, killing the pilot and eight passengers . And...Colleen Mondor
New Zealand photographers and filmmakers Richard Sidey and Aliscia Young visited Alaska last month and created this short video to share some of their experiences. Using a camera-mounted DJI Phantom 3 drone, they filmed in Katmai National Park, the Sawyer Glacier in Tracey Arm, Elfin Cove and...
Colleen Mondor
Confusion over the potential airspace restrictions during the President’s upcoming visit has presented a case study in how little understood Alaska’s aviation environment remains to many in the Lower 48. With little information coming from official sources at first, rumors about what might happen reverberated through Alaska's aviation community, fueling worries over how businesses and long-planned trips could be affected. And when more detailed information on the Temporary Flight Restrictions was released Wednesday, those worries turned to disappointment for many pilots and charter companies. This was in large part because it was decided that Palmer Airport would serve as a security checkpoint , or "gateway airport" for all incoming chartered aircraft and general aviation to Ted Stevens...Colleen Mondor
Aviation has been closely associated with Mount McKinley for decades, and the perils of flying there have been considered from the very beginning. When Joe Crosson made the first landing on the mountain in 1932, he intended to drop off his three climbing passengers at the 5,600-foot level and quickly depart. Things did not go as planned. After unloading their supplies and seeing Crosson taxi away, the climbers lost sight of the Fairchild 71 in the swirling wind and snow. They assumed he had taken off, but as he told them later that night, he only made it up to about 300 feet before a sudden downdraft forced him back onto the glacier. Conditions had rapidly deteriorated, destroying all visibility, so Crosson cut power to the engine to avoid hitting a ridge. After the aircraft finally...Colleen Mondor
In this National Park Service video, pilot Lynn Ellis flies through Wrangell-St. Elias Park and Preserve, the largest national park in the U.S., providing a deeply personal narration along with views of truly stunning scenery. Ellis is uniquely positioned to show off the park; he grew up in the...
Colleen Mondor
Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report on the recent crash of a sightseeing flight in Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan that killed the pilot and eight passengers. But that report is only the beginning of an extensive investigation. It will likely be a year before a probable cause for the accident is determined, and during that period the NTSB will conduct a staggering amount of research into the circumstances surrounding the crash. This is familiar territory for the agency and also, sadly, all too familiar for Alaskans as well. Examining the physical evidence Pilot Brian Krill was flying a single-engine turbine de Havilland Otter aircraft for the air taxi service Promech Air. Once the Otter's wreckage is transported to Ketchikan by...Colleen Mondor
81 Days Below Zero: The Incredible Survival Story of a World War II Pilot in Alaska's Frozen Wilderness By Brian Murphy; Da Capo Press; 2015; 264 pages; $24.99 On Dec. 21, 1943, a B-24 Liberator on a cold-weather training flight departed from Ladd Field in Fairbanks and disappeared. The aircraft’s last reported position was 10 miles east of Big Delta; 81 days later, the sole survivor walked out of the Bush. First Lt. Leon Crane’s incredible story, along with that of a modern journey to the wreckage of the Iceberg Inez, is shared through Brian Murphy’s new book, “81 Days Below Zero.” As survival tales go, this one is epic, which makes it all the more surprising that it is so little known in Alaska. Ladd Field, now known as Fort Wainwright, was home to a staggering amount of aviation...Colleen Mondor