Wien Air Alaska
Boeing 737-200 Combi in 1983
|Commenced operations||June 1927|
|Key people||Noel Wien|
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; it ceased operations 34 years ago in 1985 when it was operating as Wien Airlines.
In 1925, 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, by 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. Yet, Noel and Ralph quit the company in Nov. 1925.:123–126
Noel and Ralph Wien went into partnership with Gene Miller, and purchased a very used Hisso Standard from the Fairbanks Airplane Co. in 1927. In June they established their business in Nome, servicing Candle, Deering, Kotzebue, and Point Hope. At the end of the summer of 1927, Noel went into business for himself, purchasing a Stinson Detroiter he could fly year round, from Hubert Wilkins. Noel, and his Wien Alaska Airways, started a regular weekly round trip flight between Fairbanks and Nome. Noel also secured special air mail flights during the spring and fall breakup.:183,194,199,212–216
On 20 Oct. 1928, Wien Alaska Airways, Inc. was incorporated with Noel as president, Ralph as vice-president, and Miners and Merchants Bank president Granville (Grant) R. Jackson as secretary. The new company built a hangar at Weeks Field and promptly ordered a Hamilton Metalplane.:255–256:55–58
Noel taught Ralph how to fly in 1924. Ralph was killed on October 12, 1930, while flying a diesel-powered Bellanca Bush plane with Fr. Philip Dolen, Superior general of Alaskan Catholic missions, and Fr. William Walsh, a diocesan priest from Oakland, California, on board.
In 1929, Noel, Ralph and Grant Jackson sold Wien Alaska Airways to Avco. Noel's company plus Anchorage Air Transport and Bennett-Rodebaugh were merged into a new company called Alaskan Airways, Inc. Noel flew for Alaskan Airways from Feb. 1931 until Jan. 1932. In Aug. 1932, once his non-compete clause ended, Noel restarted Wien Airways of Alaska, Inc. Northern Air Transport of Nome merged with Wien in 1936. In 1936, Wien had the first air-to-ground radio links in Alaska, and by 1937, Noel had 3 other pilots flying Wien's 8 aircraft, and 3 other mechanics worked with Sigurd Wien, his brother, while 3 people administered their offices in Fairbanks and Nome.:288–291,294,303–305:128–129,244–245
Sig received his commercial rating in 1937.:334 Sig managed the Nome 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.
Noel Wien was forced to sell his shares to Sig in 1940, so Noel could pay for his wife's medical care. He returned as a vice-president and continued to fly for the airline into the fifties. Noel then worked public relations for the company into the 1970s.:336,340
Northern Consolidated Airlines (NCA) was formed on 8 May 1947 with Ray Petersen as president. The company was an amalgamation of Ray Petersen Flying Service, Northern Airways, Walatka Air Service, and Northern Air Service. Ray Petersen had started Ray Petersen Flying Service in 1937, based in Bethel, Alaska, supporting the platinum mining operations in Platinum, Alaska. In 1941, Ray moved his headquarters to Anchorage, and in 1943, he purchased Bristol Bay Air Service and Jim Dodson Air Service. After WWII, NCA purchased several war surplus Douglas DC3s.
The front cover of the September 16, 1968 Wien system timetable stated, "Alaska's First Airline with America's Newest Jet the 737". This timetable listed Boeing 737-200 jet service being operated on the following routes: Anchorage-Fairbanks, Anchorage-King Salmon, Fairbanks-Barrow and Fairbanks-Galena-Nome-Fairbanks with the latter being a "triangle" routing.
Also in 1968, Wien merged with Northern Consolidated Airlines (NCA). Sig was named chairman, Ray Petersen president, and Noel and Fritz board members. The new company was called Wien Consolidated Airlines until 1973, when the company name became Wien Air Alaska. Sig retired and Ray assumed the roles of chairman, president and CEO. By then the airline had more than 800 employees and five Boeing 737-200 jets as well as various turboprop and prop aircraft including Fairchild F-27s, Fairchild Hiller FH-227s, de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters, Grumman Mallards, Pilatus Porters, and Short Skyvans. Ray stepped down as president in 1976.:319:341:188–189
Expansion came at a price, as Wien was pushed to the brink of bankruptcy. Household Finance, controlling owners since 1979, then dumped its investment in the airline and sold the company to Wien's President, Jim J. Flood, in 1983. 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.
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, and helped develop the Boeing 737-200 Combi aircraft configuration which allowed mixed freight and passenger loads on the main deck of the aircraft. By the spring of 1984, the Wien route network extended from Point Barrow in north to dozens of Alaskan communities as well as to cities in the lower 48 states in the western U.S. including Albuquerque, (ABQ), Boise (BOI), Denver (DEN), Phoenix (PHX) , Oakland (OAK), Reno (RNO) and Salt Lake City (SLC). Their main bases were located in Anchorage and Seattle.
According to the Official Airline Guide (OAG), Wien was operating interchange passenger service in conjunction with Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) with Boeing 727-100 jetliners in the fall of 1981 between Alaska and destinations in the lower 48 states. The OAG lists these no change of plane through flights to Alaska operating a routing of Miami (MIA) - New Orleans (MSY) - Houston (IAH) - Seattle (SEA) - Anchorage (ANC) and from Alaska on a routing of Anchorage - Seattle - Houston - New Orleans with Wien flight crews operating the service between Anchorage and Seattle and Pan Am flight crews operating the Houston, New Orleans and Miami service with Seattle being the interchange point (also known as a "transport hub") between the two airlines.
Noel Wien's sons flew in an open cockpit biplane from Anchorage's 'Park Strip' to Fairbanks on the 75th anniversary of their father's flight. The municipality of Anchorage and the FAA allowed the plane to take off from the grass park, which was used as a runway in 1924.
- Wien Alaska Airways 1927–1930
- Northern Air Transport 1930
- Wien Alaska Airways 1930–1940s
- Wien Alaska Airlines 1940s–1960s
- Wien Air Alaska 1960s–April 1968
- Wien Consolidated April 1968 – 1974
- Wien Air Alaska 1974–1984
- Wien Airlines 1984-1985
- Standard J-1
- Fokker F.III (operated by Noel Wien at the Fairbanks Airplane Company)
- Stearman C3
- Stinson SB-1 "Detroiter" (the 1926 biplane version of the Detroiter)
- Hamilton Metalplane H-45
- Fairchild Pilgrim
- Bellanca CH-400
- Travel Air 6000
- Noorduyn Norseman
- Republic Seabee
- Stinson SR-9 "Gull Wing"
- Boeing 247
- Douglas DC-3
- Curtiss C-46
- Cessna 165 Airmaster
1960s & 1970s: Prop and turboprop
- Beech 18
- Cessna 185
- Curtiss C-46
- de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver
- de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter - some ex-Northern Consolidated Airlines (NCA) received
- Douglas DC-3
- Douglas DC-4
- Fairchild C-82
- Fairchild F-27B - Mixed passenger/freighter Combi aircraft variant with large cargo door ordered by Wien, some ex-Northern Consolidated Airlines (NCA) received
- Fairchild-Hiller FH-227
- Grumman Mallard - some ex-Northern Consolidated Airlines (NCA) received
- Lockheed L-749 Constellation
- Pilatus Porter
- Shorts Skyvan
1960s & 1970s: Jet
Wien was the launch customer for the Boeing 737-200 Combi aircraft passenger/freighter, 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.
- Boeing 737-200
- Boeing 727-100
- Boeing 727-200
- Douglas DC-8-63 Freighter (contract cargo operations for UPS)
Destinations in 1984
By March 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. Some smaller destinations in Alaska were served with commuter turboprop aircraft. The following destination information is taken from the March 2, 1984 Wien Air Alaska system timetable route map.
Wien previously served Juneau (JNU) ans Ketchikan (KTN) in Alaska as well as Whitehorse (YXT) in the Yukon Territory of Canada with Boeing 737-200 jet aircraft.
Incidents and accidents
- December 2, 1968 – Flight 55: Fairchild F-27B crashed into Spotsy Lake, Pedro Bay, Alaska; all 39 people on board were killed.
- August 30, 1975 – Flight 99: Fairchild F-27B crashed on approach to Gambell, Alaska; 10 of the 32 passengers and crew on board were killed.
- http://www.departedflights.com, Sept. 1, 1984 Wien Airlines system timetable
- Harkey, Ira (1991). Pioneer Bush Pilot. Bantam Books. pp. 89–95. ISBN 0553289195.
- Rearden, Jim (2009). Alaska's First Bush Pilots, 1923-30. Missoula: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Inc. pp. 39–43. ISBN 9781575101477.
- Dickson, Jr., Roy; McLaren, Dorothy D. "Biographies (W-Y) of 1920s-1930s Era Alaska Bush Pilots". Roy Dickson 1930s Alaska Bush Pilot. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
- Llorente, Segundo (1990) . Memoirs of an Alaskan Priest (PDF). Washington, D.C.: New Directions Publishing & Georgetown University Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-87840-494- 5. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
- Bennett, Bo (2000). Rods & Wings. Anchorage: Publication Consultants. pp. 70–72, 81. ISBN 9781888125627.
- http://www.timetableimages.com, Sept. 16, 1968 Wien Consolidated Airlines system timetable
- Ringsmuth, Katherine (2013). At the Heart of Katmai: An Administrative History of the Brooks River Area, with Special Emphasis on Bear Management in Katmai National Park and Preserve 1912-2006 (PDF). US Government Printing Office. p. 45. ISBN 9780979643279. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
- Huntley, Brian A. (July 21, 1979). "Wien sale announced". Anchorage Daily News. p. A-1.
- Kleeschulte, Chuck (July 2, 1983). "New Wien owner plans to spread the wealth". Anchorage Daily News. p. C-8.
- "A Wien Chronology". Anchorage Daily News. October 29, 1985. p. A16.
- "Wien won't fly for 25 days as it restructures operations". Deseret News. Associated Press. November 7, 1984. p. 6B.
- http://www.departedflights.com, March 2, 1984 Wien Airlines system timetable & route map
- Oct. 15, 1981 Official Airline Guide (OAG)
- Wien, Noel Merrill (2016). Noel Merrill Wien, Born to Fly. Portland: Alaska Northwest Books. pp. 201–202. ISBN 9781943328758.
- departedflights.com, March 2, 1984 Wien Air Alaska system timetable route map.
- "39 die in Alaskan crash". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. December 3, 1968. p. 1.
- "Propjet crashes in Alaska". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. August 31, 1975. p. 2A.
- "Eskimo villagers rescue crash survivors". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. September 1, 1975. p. 2A.
- Ira B. Harkey Jr., Noel Wien - Pioneer Alaska Bush Pilot, and discussions in 2005 with Merrill and Richard Wien, sons of the founder.
-  Merrill Wien interview, by Joe Godfrey Avweb 2002
-  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)
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