Colleen Mondor

May is nearly here, which means it's time for the Valdez Fly-In and Air Show -- and the jaw-dropping display of short takeoff and landing skills for which the event has become famous nationally. Participants flying aircraft from Piper Super Cubs to Cessna 180s to all manner of experimentals compete in multiple classes and take advantage of the airport’s sea level location and steady light breeze to tease out extreme levels of performance. Last year’s Light Sport Class winner Frank Knapp of Palmer, took off in 21 feet and landed in 40. The Alaska event is so popular in general aviation circles that in 2014, the Experimental Aircraft Association held its first "Valdez" STOL competition at AirVenture OshKosh in Wisconsin, the world’s largest annual fly-in with some 500,000 visitors. Adding a...Colleen Mondor
Several Alaska organization offer aviation scholarships but deadlines are rapidly approaching. The Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation offers an annual scholarship to students "currently enrolled in an accredited college, university, trade school or approved training center" who intend to pursue a future career in the aviation field. Applicants must have at least a private pilot license, fulfill certain Alaska residency requirements and have completed two semesters or 30 percent of the work towards their professional goal." For more information see the foundation's website . AASF also administers the Dale Carlson Memorial Scholarship which at least annually awards a Spidertracks device via Northern Lights Avionics in Anchorage. This scholarship was created by the family of pilot Dale...Colleen Mondor
Alaska’s Skyboys By Katherine Johnson Ringsmuth; University of Washington Press; 2015; 237 pages Author Katherine Ringsmuth balances popular history and academic research in her fascinating new book, “Alaska’s Skyboys: Cowboy Pilots and the Myth of the Last Frontier.” Focusing on the pilots of the eastern region, Ringsmuth writes of their exploits in the Wrangell, Chugach and St. Elias mountain ranges and the towns of Valdez and Cordova. By her own admission, this is only a small geographic part of the Alaska aviation story, but it is a critical one, full of intriguing characters whose adventures more than fill the pages. Ringsmuth is concerned with more than recounting mercy flights and life-and-death struggles against the elements. As she outlines in her introduction, the author seeks...Colleen Mondor
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Author Katherine Ringsmuth balances popular history and academic research in her fascinating new book, “Alaska’s Skyboys: Cowboy Pilots and the Myth of the Last Frontier.” Ringsmuth writes of the pilots' exploits in the Wrangell, Chugach and Saint Elias mountain ranges and the towns of Valdez and...
Colleen Mondor
Last Friday the National Transportation Safety Board released final reports for two multiple-fatality accidents in St. Mary's (2013) and Kwethluk (2014). Both aircraft were operated by Hageland Aviation as part of the family of airlines known previously as Era Alaska and now Ravn Alaska. While the Kwethluk crash occurred during a training flight and was determined to be due to the check airman’s actions, the board found that in St. Mary's the pilot, flight locators, company and Federal Aviation Administration were at fault . These crashes were the last in a line of accidents and incidents over two years that prompted the NTSB to issue an urgent safety recommendation to the FAA in 2014 regarding Ravn’s safety and regulatory compliance. The FAA was also directed to audit its own oversight...Colleen Mondor
Alaska Airlines' announcement late last year that they plan to phase out of their 737-300 "combi" or combination aircraft means the end of an era for the state's commercial aviation industry. The aircraft’s innovative design, which combined both freight and passengers in the main cabin, brought larger aircraft to Bush destinations for decades. And it was one of several aviation innovations that originated in the Last Frontier but would eventually be used around the world. Use of the combi in Alaska dates to 1958 when Northern Consolidated Airlines purchased the first Fokker Fairchild F-27B aircraft. The F-27B was a twin turbo-prop with an oversized cargo door, a modification to the best-selling F27 aircraft which seated 40 passengers. (It was also used for a military version of the...Colleen Mondor
On the morning of September 5, 2012, Era Alaska Flight 874 departed Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport for what was scheduled to be a 40-minute flight to Homer. The de Havilland DHC8 twin-turbine aircraft, more commonly known as a Dash 8, carried 15 passengers and a crew of three (two pilots, one flight attendant). At about 11 a.m., according to a preliminary report later filed by the National Transportation Safety Board, the aircraft “experienced an uncommanded left roll and uncontrolled descent during climb at about 12,000 feet.” The flight crew regained control at about 7,000 feet and the flight returned to Anchorage with no injuries or damage to the aircraft. More than three years later, The NTSB hasn't issued a final report finding a probable cause for the incident. NTSB...Colleen Mondor
Paul Claus' unusual twist on geocaching got its start in an unexpected way. As his daughter Logan tells the story, the Alaska pilot, guide and owner of Ultima Thule Lodge was hosting a friend from Switzerland several years ago, when that guest spotted a moose shed from the air and returned with a set of coordinates and a challenge: Could Claus locate the shed, too? The flight that followed inspired Claus to develop an annual invitation-only event that combines a treasure hunt sensibility with two of the best aspects of the state's aviation environment: stunning scenery and off-airport operations. The event is launched each spring from Claus’ lodge in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. It engages about a dozen invited competitors in two days of fun that mimics the popular activity of...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