Taking Flight: Ketchikan's Commercial Aviation History : A collaboration with Don 'Bucky' Dawson with support from Chuck and A.J. Slagle to celebrate a century of commercial aviation in Ketchikan
Ketchikan Flying Service, 1936

Ketchikan Flying Service was founded in Ketchikan in January 1936, by 36 year old co-owner/pilot Charles G. Anderson. Anderson was a New York native, who was an experienced North American aviator with 10 years under his belt working as a corporate test pilot for the Junkers Aircraft Company. Anderson moved to Ketchikan with his family and was associated with noted local guide Wesley Meyers and fish trap owner Edward N. Lynch. Anderson's flight mechanic Clyde Lynch was the son of Mrs. Maude Lynch and stepfather Ed Lynch.

Anderson purchased a 6-Place Bellanca CH-400 Skyrocket (CFAOA), previously owned by the Treadwell Yukon Mining Company in Canada and flown by bush pilot Charles 'Slim' Gropstis, who'd also worked at Junkers Aircraft Company. The airplane was mounted on Edo K-4650 floats, and powered by a 420 hp Pratt and Whitney Wasp radial engine. The Skyrocket was freshly painted to wear a new bright two-tone green scheme prior to the sale, and given a U.S. aircraft registration number (NC545V). Anderson and his associates took over the empty former Pacific Alaska Airways' floating hangar located next to downtown City Float, which was temporarily used by the U.S. Navy and recently vacated.

On January 25, 1936, Anderson and Lynch flew the Bellanca up to Juneau so Anderson could take his flight physical. On February 15, 1936, Anderson and his two business partners Wes Myers and Ed Lynch jointly filed for incorporation, renaming their charter aviation company as the "Alaska Flying Service". They declared a capital stock funds value of $36,000. With solid local connections and support, the future of the fledgling business looked promising, as the start of that year's busy summer season was getting closer.

In early April 1936, a privately owned Curtiss Robin seaplane carrying a Seattle traveling liquor salesman named Al Almoslino and his new wife on their honeymoon trip to Southeast Alaska went missing, sparking a massive search and rescue relief effort in the Ketchikan area by local boats and aircraft. Juneau aviator Shell Simmons was summoned to fly his plane down to join the search parties. Anderson and Lynch prepared their airplane to go looking as well, and loaded some jerry jugs filled with extra fuel aboard the Bellanca. However, they were notified the night before their planned Friday morning departure on April 10 to stand-down, as there were sufficient search parties already engaged in combing the surrounding sectors.

Instead, the two decided to make a flight to Craig on Prince of Wales Island. A fuel line separated during their takeoff causing the engine to miss and catch fire while the plane climbed for altitude. Anderson made a fatal mistake to turn back around over the timber-covered shoreline in an attempt to re-land to the south. The flames engulfed the cockpit, causing the Skyrocket to fall straight down and crash next to the highway in Saxman, claiming both souls. The tragedy was only the second fatal incident, since the May 3, 1931 crash of Pioneer Airways' Stinson at Upper Karta Lake on Prince of Wales Island with the loss of one soul.

Aircraft Specifications:
6-place Bellanca CH-400 Skyrocket Seaplane on Edo Mod. K-4650 floats. First Flight: 1930. 32 built. Construction: Metal tube and fabric covered airframe and wings. Dimensions: Length: 27' 10"; Height: 8' 4"; Wingspan: 46' 4". Weights: Standard Empty Weight: 2,592 lbs.; Gross Weight: 4,600 lbs.; Useful Load: 1,119 lbs.; Fuel Capacity: 120 gal. Performance: Airspeed: 105 mph cruise, 126 mph max; Service Ceiling: 20,000 ft.; Rate of Climb: 1,250 ft. per min.; Range: 750 mi. Engine: Air-cooled 9 Cylinder 420 hp Pratt and Whitney Wasp C. Propeller: Metal 2-Blade Fixed-Pitch.

Charles G. Anderson

Clyde Lynch

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Ketchikan Flying Service Bellanca Skyrocket in Ketchikan, AK, 1936Ketchikan Flying Service Bellanca Skyrocket in Ketchikan, AK, 1936