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Bush Pilot

Photos: Bush planes

  • Author:
  • Updated: June 30, 2016
  • Published January 21, 2013

It's the site of the first aviation beacon ever erected in the Territory of Alaska, later becoming the first airport for Alaska's largest city. Hundreds of aircraft and several aviation businesses, along with the University of Alaska Anchorage's Aviation Technology Division, now call old Merrill Field a scenic home away from home between the Chugach Mountains east of Anchorage and Cook Inlet to the west.

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport may be where you'll arrive or depart the 49th state, but for many, Merrill Field is where you head to truly enter Alaska. Merrill Field is operated by the Municipality of Anchorage and is one of 23 municipal airports scattered across the Last Frontier. It's also the largest General Aviation airport in a state reknowned for its many aviators and aviaiton industry workers.

Merrill Field is situated just a mile or so east of downtown on 436 acres between the 5th Avenue corridor and Anchorage's medical district and Airport Heights neighborhood. The field was established in 1930 and remains a unique feature to the Anchorage cityscape.

More: Bush Pilot on Alaska Dispatch

Merrill Field was the first real airport in the area before the construction of Anchorage International and is named after Russell "Russ" Hyde Merrill, an early pioneer in Alaska aviation. The field was dedicated Sept. 25, 1932 -- more than 50 years before statehood. Part of the field was built over a section of landfill, requiring what seems like perennial maintenance and compaction -- with massive, earth-pounding beasts that rattle nearby structures -- in order to keep runway asphalt in place and the ground from shifting.

The airfield has three runways that service GA aircraft, public and amateur aviators, pilots in training and several air taxi services that cater to Bush Alaska. It also is home to the University of Alaska Anchorage's Aviation Technology Division, two locally-owned flight schools and a runway that serves the Alaska Regional Hospital for MEDVAC operations.

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