Each year, production teams visit this airport to shoot footage for movies set in the WWII era, and airplane enthusiasts from around the world scan the skies for a glimpse into the past.
Industry experts know that Fairbanks is one of the few places in the country—and the final in the state—to witness daily takeoffs and landings by a historic fleet of airplanes still hard at work for Everts Air Cargo and Everts Air Fuel. This tried and true fleet of vintage aircraft from the early 1950s flies daily cargo and fuel delivery to small and remote communities across the state. The planes are rugged models built to last, and remain the most reliable aircraft for the tough work of the final frontier.
“We do operate a number of vintage World War II aircraft,” Karen Wing, Manager of IT Services, says of the seasoned fleet. “The C-46 is one of them, and the DC-6 which actually operated in the civilian world. Pan Am used it for a passenger carrier and the Navy and the Air Force used them in military operations.”
These two models—C-46s and DC-6s—have kept their spot in the fleet thanks to several advantages over new releases. C-46s in particular (Everts still has four in operation) are great at landing on rough surfaces, which is important when flying into rural villages which generally lack paved runways. More often, pilots will find gravel, ice, water, or snow as their landing strip. Newer planes have “gravel kits” that can be added to an aircraft to sustain a rough landing, but they don’t work quite as well.
“Right now, there’s just no replacement for DC-6 or C-46,” Karen says, gesturing. “We do a lot of ice landings. With the 46—the tires are this tall so it can land in a foot of snow and even if it throws up a little slush at the back, it’s not likely to damage the flaps.”
In the family-owned companies of Everts Air Cargo and Everts Air Fuel, the C-46s in particular have long been a favorite. Karen’s father, Cliff Everts, first flew the planes as a pilot with Wien Air Alaska, the oldest airline in the state. Cliff purchased his first C-46 to start Everts Air Cargo from Wien, and eventually bought their former hangar at FIA to house Everts Air Fuel (visible from the east end of the terminal by the Era Alaska check-in counter).
As for what goes into the historic airplanes on their delivery runs—that’s up to the villages. Many require regular fuel drop-offs to heat and power their homes, and others need cargo service for mail parcels, canned and fresh goods to stock the grocery stores, and pretty much anything else an isolated town might require.
“It’s basic freight going into the village for the community and for the stores and that type of thing,” Karen describes. “Mail, appliances—we’ve moved animals, we’ve moved telephone poles, we’ve moved mining equipment. Basically—if it can fit through the door of our aircraft, it’s going in our aircraft.”
If you get a chance to watch an Everts flight take off or land at Fairbanks International Airport, take a moment to appreciate the grit and durability of the aircraft. Then, try to guess what might be inside.
Directly across from the bar (The Bush Pilot) on the second floor of the terminal, hanging on the north wall next to the security exit is a Global Time Indicator donated by Everts Air.
- Photo #1 by Kurt Hoein
- Photo #2 by Hannu Uwe Kratz