Wien Air Alaska

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Former Wien Air Alaska hangar in Fairbanks, Alaska

Wien Air Alaska (IATA: WC) was a United States airline formed from Northern Consolidated Airlines and Wien Alaska Airways. The company was famous for being the first airline in Alaska, and one of the first in the United States.

Contents

History

Noel Wien flew an open cockpit biplane, a Hisso Standard J1 from Anchorage, Alaska's "Park Strip" to Fairbanks Alaska on July 6, 1924.

In 1925, Noel Wien purchased a Fokker F.III monoplane with a cabin built in 1921 in Amsterdam for the Fairbanks Airplane Company and it was shipped to Seward, Alaska via boat. Then shipped in pieces via the Alaska Railroad to Fairbanks. Ralph Wien, Noel's brother came with him, to work as a mechanic. They assembled the Fokker F.III Monoplane in Fairbanks.

Noel taught Ralph how to fly. Ralph was killed on October 12, 1930 while flying a diesel powered Bellanca Bush plane.

The airline was started in June 1927 by Noel Wien in Nome, Alaska, but traces its roots back to Noel's 1924 to 1926 flights out of Fairbanks with Bennett Rodebaugh's Fairbanks Airplane Company, which was later absorbed into Wien Alaska Airways.

His brother Sigurd Wien was a mechanic from 1935 to 1937, when Noel taught Sig how to fly. Starting in 1937, Sig was also a bush pilot. Sig managed the Nome, Alaska Office and flew the North Slope bush flights. Sig Wien, as a bush pilot, flew contracts for USGS geologic exploration activities including geologist Marvin Mangus. Sig Wien became CEO of Wien Airlines after his brother Noel Wien retired from management activities [1940 to 1969].

Expansion came at a price, as Wien was pushed to the brink of bankruptcy. Household Finance then dumped its investment in the airline and sold the company to Wien’s President, Jim J. Flood. He shut down the airline, and on November 23, 1984, Wien was liquidated for profit. Noel's son, Merrill, said the end of his family's airline came when it "was bought by a corporate raider on a leveraged buyout and was liquidated for about twice what the stock was selling for. The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 made this possible." in an interview with Avweb.[2]

Before Wien Air folded in 1985, they were known as the second oldest airline in the United States.

The company pioneered jet service to gravel runways[citation needed], and developed the B737 Combi configuration which allowed a maximization of freight and passenger loads on the upper deck of jet aircraft. Wien Air Alaska at one time flew to more places in the world than any other airline, excluding Aeroflot[citation needed]. By the early 1980s their route network extended from Point Barrow and dozens of Alaskan towns all the way down to Phoenix, Oakland, and Denver. Their main bases were in Anchorage and Seattle.


Noel Wien's son flew in an open cockpit biplane from Anchorage, Alaska's Park Strip to Fairbanks Alaska on July 6, 1999 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of his father's solo flight in a Hisso Standard J1. The municipality of Anchorage allowed the reenactment plane to take off from the grass park, which was used as a runway in 1924.

Timeline

Fleet

1920s

1930s

1940s

1950s

A Wien Alaska Airlines Cessna 170 met by a M29C weasel at Oliktok Point, Alaska (North Slope), Summer 1951

1960s and 1970s

A Boeing 737-200 Combi aircraft of Wien Air Alaska

1980s

Incidents and accidents

On December 2, 1968, Wien Consolidated Airlines Flight 55, a Fairchild F-27B, crashed into Spotsy Lake, Pedro Bay, Alaska. All 39 people on board were killed.

On August 30, 1975, Wien Air Alaska Flight 99, A Fairchild F-27B, crashed on approach to Gambell, Alaska. 10 of the 32 passengers and crew on board were killed.

References

by Harmon Helmericks, copyright 1969, pages 43 to 58 ISBN 0-553-28556-4

External links