Alaska, home to some pretty awesome aviation stories

It’s the 1980s, Alaska Oil industry is blooming with oil flowing down the Alaskan Pipe line from Prude Bay to Valdez. People came to Alaska to get rich since oil was 34 dollars a barrel. Alaska was booming. The question is now how does the Oil industry move a ton of equipment at once? The answer… Hover barges. In June 1982, Columbia Helicopters was hired by Sohio to participate in a test on Alaska’s North Slope. The purpose of this test was to evaluate the ability of a helicopter - the Boeing Vertol 107-II - to tow a fully-loaded hover barge over water, snow and ice. The test began in Prudhoe Bay on June 17. The Vertol’s 600-foot long line was connected to hover barge ACT-100, jointly owned by Global Marine Development and VECO. Air blowers on the 170-ton barge forced a cushion of air under the barge, which was kept in place by rubberized skirt material. This first test was run around Prudhoe Bay with an empty barge, and was successful. During this and subsequent tests, the aircraft often flew with a nose-down angle approaching 25 degrees. Next, ACT-100 was loaded with 40 tons of cargo for another close-in test run. Once more, the helicopter showed it could move the barge despite the additional weight. The final aspect of the test was to tow the hover barge over a 50-mile course to a drill site named Alaska Island where Sohio had just completed an oil well. During the tow to the island, headwinds over 30 knots were encountered, and snow and ice buildup were also factors. Regardless, the Vertol was able to bring the empty barge to the island successfully. On the return trip to Prudhoe Bay, when this photo was taken, the barge carried 50 tons of cargo, bringing the total weight to 220 tons. As with the previous tests, this task was accomplished successfully. This photograph is one of longtime Columbia Helicopters’ photographer Ted Veal’s most famous photographs.


Whoa, that looks so dangerous! You can count on Alaska for having some great stories, wether it’s this, bush flying, or anything else. Alaska has it all.


Alaska has some legit helicopter stories like this!


Call me crazy but there is no way that is the safest, or easiest, or most efficient way to do that… 😂

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Alright guys, story time.

I heard this story at Civil Air Patrol, during an aviation safety meeting from a retired Alaska Airlines pilot. He said, one day, his friend was flying VFR (a long time ago) from Wrangell (PAWG) to Petersburg (PAPG). His co-pilot was doing takeoff and turned right slightly into a valley between two mountains. Well, you were supposed to turn into the valley to the left. Luckily one of the passengers on board fished the area quite regularly and was able to alert the pilots to climb, resulting in them not hitting a mountain. This is a good reminder that if you see something while you are flying (even commercial on an A380), say something.

-Captain Merka


Alaska will kill you if you don’t respect her


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