Hearts Are Heavy This Week in Alaska


Aug 13, 2010

From the time I first heard of the plane crash near Dillingham this week, my eyes have been near tears, and my heart heavy. As the wife of a pilot and daughter-in-law of another pilot involved in a serious crash years ago, I know the fear, freedom, and acceptance that comes from having pilots in the family. It’s been hard for me to bear the sorrow this week after learning that some dear friends of ours were closely related to the pilot, one of five who died in the crash. Four people survived.

My husband can tell you of losing some very special people in his life over the years to this mode of transportation. I’ve had a more limited time in Alaska than him, but I can tell you of at least one person who made a difference in my life and was lost in a plane crash like that of the Stevens party.

We have no roads in most of the state. If you stay on roads here to travel and see the state, you definitely will not see much. That is why airplane travel is so common here, and, with it, unfortunately, come crashes.

I know of no seasoned pilot, or the family of one, who doesn’t take their flying skill very seriously every time they climb into an aircraft. The skills required to fly in much of Alaska are numerous and those who do it for a living are special in my book. Take that into account when you hear all the ‘they should have’.

Please keep in your prayers all the victims, their families, and those who were affected that you will not even hear about. It is a sad time for Alaskans but we will marshal on after some time of reflection.



8 Responses to “Hearts Are Heavy This Week in Alaska”

  1. alaskapi Says:

    Thank you Vic.
    My family’s hearts were broken this week.
    Losing my cousin has been so hard- his immediate’s family’s loss is so much harder…
    I am glad to see the people who knew him as a pilot speaking up clearly and carefully and in some cases standing up for him. They have also written about realities of flying here and the changes in attitude about commercial flight –

    ( they got the by-the-seat-of-britches thing wrong at WSJ though- those young pilots never met our uncle…now, HE flew by the seat of his britches…enough to scare the daylights out of anyone )

    This IS something we all have to deal with here, far too regularly.
    For those from Outside who have been reading about this crash this week there is information here about the Capstone project and Medallion program which you may have seen references to.


    The Alaska Dispatch has worked hard to address issues about bush flight while we all wait to hear what the investigation reveals.


    I send prayers of healing and strength to the survivors and all who lost someone or have been have been touched by this crash. It’s going to be awhile, but , yes we will marshall on.
    Thank you my friend.

  2. elsie09 Says:

    I share your sadness, you two.

    I saved some info about flying in Alaska from one of Rachel Maddow’s programs this week.

    *One in 58 people there is a registered pilot.

    *The entire state of Alaska is 666,000 square miles, but in all of that, there are only 2,000 miles of actual roads in the entire state!

    *In Alaska, 70% of the communities can only be accessed by planes.

    *And I think she said that there are 14 times the number of airplanes per capita in Alaska as in any other state.

    Obviously, Terry Smith was right at the top of the list of best Alaskan pilots. That four people lived in that horrendous crash speaks well to his ability to place the plane down on the alder trees instead of on the boulder-strewn path a few yards off from the side of the plane.

    I’m so very sorry, my friends. I grieve with you tonight.

  3. boodog Says:

    I am so sorry for all who lost or knew someone in these crashes. As the daughter of a pilot, I know the thought ‘what if’ is always there, but to have these fears become reality must be heartbreaking. My thoughts are with you all.

  4. GreatGranny2C Says:

    My condolences and prayers to all of your wonderful people who survive the harsh realities of living in Alaska. My uncle was an Air Force pilot and once he retired, he spent most of his time in the air exploring the US. In the last few years of his life, he had the opportunity to spend some time flying around Alaska, and to his dying day, he proclaimed it the very best time of his life, even with all the scary moments. I’m sure most pilots who traverse that area have felt it to be the best place on earth. {{{{{HUGS}}}}}

  5. fishlady Says:

    Uncle Ted was really my cousin….we called him Uncle Ted long before the people of Alaska did.. I will miss him every single day……

  6. alaskapi Says:

    the losses for all of us are huge.

  7. elsie09 Says:

    Aw, fishlady, my condolences to you, too. I’m so very sorry for your loss and that of all the other members of Uncle Ted’s family, and all of his friends, who mourn his loss.

  8. jim Says:

    When I was a kid my dad had room on a twin engine plane that he had chartered to fly over the arctic ocean to check out some ice islands that had calved off the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf on Ellesmere Island (he always required two engines over the ocean in case one blew– and one did blow one time). Anyway, in this instance around 1967 the pilot was Don Jonz– 6 or 8 years later he crashed with Congressmen Nick Begich and Hale Boggs, never to be found. I flew with two other pilots who later perished on the job.

    Bush pilots are heroes. They take huge risks. Four (at least) rules if you are a client of a bush pilot– 1. Don’t fly if they say it isn’t safe. 2. Pay them for their service– you’re getting more than you may realize– four or five hundred bucks an hour may seem expensive but it isn’t. 3. Don’t overload the plane– take an extra load if necessary. 4. If the pilot is acting weird or depressed or in any way unusual, just don’t fly. Stay home.

    I’ve flown with three pilots who have later died on the job. Two of them were good pilots.

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