Aviation Milestones in Fairbanks

  • 1911: A man from Nome ordered and built a kit airplane, but ran into issues when the engine couldn’t muster enough power to move the plane forward. He missed the chance to become the first aviator in the state by one year.

  • July 4th, 1913: The first flight in Alaska takes off from a ball field in Fairbanks. A pilot from Seattle was hired to do a flight demo for the Fourth of July. Organizers tried to charge for the event, but most Fairbanksans watched for free from their front porches.

  • 1920: Four military biplanes made the first air link to Alaska by flying from New York to Nome (via Fairbanks) and back.

  • July 3rd, 1923: Carl “Ben” Eielson makes his first flight for the Farthest North Airplane Company in a Curtiss JN-4 (“Jenny”), a surplus plane from World War I.

  • 1924: Eielson made the first air mail deliveries in the state of Alaska, flying from Fairbanks to McGrath. He delivered 164 lbs. of mail at a rate of $2/lb. paid by the government. This same year, Noel Wien pilots the first nonstop flight from Anchorage to Fairbanks.

  • 1929: Fairbanksans build a custom landing field for a special visit from the Graf Zeppelin, a giant aircraft scheduled to stop while on a research trip around the arctic. The stock market crashes soon after the field is built. Much to Fairbanks’ dismay, the flight is cancelled.

  • 1933: Wiley Post stopped over in Fairbanks while completing his record-setting round-the-world solo flight in eight days.

  • 1938: Howard Hughes stopped over in Fairbanks while setting a new record by flying around the world in under four days. He had packed his cockpit with thousands of ping pong balls for emergency flotation while flying over the Pacific, and unloaded the balls in Fairbanks.(An original ping pong ball from this flight can be found at the Pioneer Air Museum in Pioneer Park)

  • 1940: The first plane lands on a runway at Ladd Field, six square miles of land near Fairbanks designated by Congress to train military pilots in cold weather techniques.

  • 1942: Fairbanks becomes a key exchange point in the transfer of aircraft from the U.S. to the Soviets as part of the Lend-Lease Agreement. By the end of the program, 7,924 aircraft pass through Fairbanks on their way to Russia to aid in WWII.

  • 1950-54: The Fairbanks International Airport (FAI) was built and opened with a 6,000-foot runway. The federal government paid $5 million for its construction.

  • 1960: Pan American brings passenger service to Fairbanks residents with a first flight from Seattle. It is soon the largest air operator in the Interior—a position it maintains for years.

  • 1969-70: the East Ramp is constructed at FAI, creating a separate space for small air carries, air operators, and private planes.

  • 1974-1977: Passenger and cargo traffic through the new airport surge during construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.

  • July 4th, 2013: This year, Fairbanks will celebrate the centennial of the first flight in Alaska.

Getting There

Latitude: 64.81758
Longitude: -147.8676
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