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 (NCA) and Wien Alaska Airways. The company was famous for being the first airline in Alaska, and one of the first in the United States.

History[edit]

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, controlling owners since 1979,[1] then dumped its investment in the airline and sold the company to Wien’s President, Jim J. Flood in 1983.[2][3] He shut down the airline,[4] 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[edit]

  • Wien Alaska Airways 1927–1930
  • Northern Air Transport 1930
  • Wien Alaska Airways 1930–194?
  • Wien Alaska Airlines 194?–196?
  • Wien Air Alaska 196?–April 1968
  • Wien Consolidated April 1968–1974
  • Wien Air Alaska 1974–1984
  • Wien Airlines 1985[3]

Fleet[edit]

1920s[edit]

1930s[edit]

1940s[edit]

1950s[edit]

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

1960s & 1970s: Prop & Turboprop[edit]

1960s & 1970s: Jet[edit]

A Boeing 737-200 Combi aircraft of Wien Air Alaska
  • Boeing 737-200 – Wien was the launch customer for the B737-200 Combi passenger/freighter aircraft, and one of the first U.S. operators to commence operations in May 1968 with aircraft N461GB. These aircraft were equipped with a large cargo door on the side of the fuselage just aft of the flight deck near the nose of the 737. One former Wien aircraft was later acquired by First Air, a Canadian airline, which then crashed operating as First Air Flight 6560 at Resolute Airport in the high Arctic region of Canada. Other primary users of the Boeing 737-200 Combi version in Alaska were Alaska Airlines and MarkAir.

1980s[edit]

Destinations[edit]

By March of 1984, Wien Air Alaska had expanded its scheduled passenger flights into the western U.S. in addition to continuing to serve many destinations in Alaska. All of the cities in the lower 48 states were served with Boeing 727-200 and/or Boeing 737-200 jetliners at this time. The following destination information is taken from the March 2, 1984 Wien Air Alaska system timetable route map.[5]

  • Albuquerque, NM (ABQ)
  • Anchorage, AK (ANC)
  • Aniak, AK (ANI)
  • Barrow, AK (BRW)
  • Bethel, AK (BET)
  • Boise, ID (BOI)
  • Cordova, AK (CDV)
  • Denver, CO (DEN)
  • Dillingham, AK (DLG)
  • Fairbanks, AK (FAI)
  • Galena, AK (GAL)
  • Homer, AK (HOM)
  • Kenai, AK (ENA)
  • King Salmon, AK (AKN)
  • Kodiak, AK (ADQ)
  • Kotzebue, AK (OTZ)
  • McGrath, AK (MCG)
  • Nome, AK (OME)
  • Oakland, CA (OAK)
  • Phoenix, AZ (PHX)
  • Portland, OR (PDX)
  • Prudhoe Bay, AK (SCC)
  • Reno, NV (RNO)
  • St. Mary's, AK (KSM)
  • Salt Lake City, UT (SLC)
  • Seattle, WA (SEA)
  • Unalakleet, AK (UNK)
  • Valdez, AK (VDZ)

Incidents and accidents[edit]

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[edit]

  1. ^ Huntley, Brian A. (July 21, 1979). "Wien sale announced". Anchorage Daily News. p. A-1. 
  2. ^ Kleeschulte, Chuck (July 2, 1983). "New Wien owner plans to spread the wealth". Anchorage Daily News. p. C-8. 
  3. ^ a b "A Wien Chronology". Anchorage Daily News. October 29, 1985. p. A16. 
  4. ^ "Wien won't fly for 25 days as it restructures operations". Deseret News. Associated Press. November 7, 1984. p. 6B. 
  5. ^ departedflights.com, March 2, 1984 Wien Air Alaska system timetable route map.
  • Ira B. Harkey Jr., Noel Wien - Pioneer Alaska Bush Pilot, and discussions in 2005 with Merrill and Richard Wien, sons of the founder.
  • [1] Merrill Wien interview, by Joe Godfrey Avweb 2002
  • [2] Wien Airlines, a good example of how to bankrupt a company by Charlie Dexter, U. of Alaska, Fairbanks
  • CHAPTER FOUR - The Wien Brothers The Last of the Bush Pilots (Mass Market Paperback - Bantam Air and Space Series)

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

External links[edit]