Into the Wind

Into the Wind

Aviation as Southeast Alaska's Lifeline

Aviation is an integral part of life in Southeast Alaska.

Nestled into the mountains of Revillagigedo Island, Ketchikan is surrounded by multiple waterways as part of the Alexander Archipelago. Our community is not alone in our remoteness. Most communities in Southeast Alaska have no roads connecting to the North American road system.

Where there is a lack of asphalt and bridges, there is an abundance of sky and water.

While commercial jets and the ferries handle mass transportation between larger communities, small but mighty floatplanes - airplanes that operate from the water with the use of floats or pontoons - provide access to the remote places where people live, work, and play.

The only direct access to Ketchikan is by water - boat, ship, ferry, or floatplane. In the early years, it was by steamship. In 1922, commercial aviation came to Ketchikan, connecting our community to the rest of the world. An airport was established on nearby Annette Island and for decades, passengers were shuttled the 21 miles between islands on the Grumman G-21A Goose amphibious flying boat. Ketchikan has its own airport now on nearby Gravina Island but passengers still make the last short leg of their journey via water, on the airport ferry.

We think of floatplanes, helicopters, and jets as people in other regions might think of taxis, trains, buses, and ambulances. Aviation is our lifeline along the rugged coastline of Southeast Alaska.

Sections featured in this exhibit

Check out KPU Live in Ketchikan's video about our newest exhibit! Ketchikan Museums Curator of Exhibits, Ryan McHale, spoke with KPU's Alex Brown about the new feature exhibit, "Into the Wind: Aviation as Southeast Alaska's Lifeline" at the Tongass Historical Museum. Big thanks to Live In Ketchikan for the great video!

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Into the Wind