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 Airways, 1931-1934

Ketchikan Airways was founded in 1931 by owner/pilot James V. Hickey, who also owned the Ketchikan Yellow Cab franchise with a fleet of Model A Fords. On August 22,1931, Hickey purchased the assets of Pioneer Airways, which included the remaining Stinson SM-8A Junior pontoon seaplane "Northbird II" (NC991W) and their hangar building on the Ketchikan Hydroplane Landing Port deck, located at North Tongass Highway and Shoreline Drive. Hickey's one plane operation was kept busy flying charters all around the Southeast Alaska Panhandle during 1931-1932. He eventually moved his base up to Juneau, but continued to work in flights periodically between the capital city and Ketchikan.

Much to Jim Hickey's dismay, his Ketchikan Airways company couldn't seem to shake off the hard luck gremlins and misfortunes that had dogged his predecessor Pioneer Airways. On November 3, 1932, the Northbird II was heavily damaged while occupying rented space in Alaska Southern Airways' floating hanger in Juneau when the roof collapsed during a fierce storm. Ketchikan Airways' sole airplane had to be shipped south for repairs.

Following its repairs in Seattle and renamed "Mitkof", Pilot Chet McClean and copilot Jim Hickey flew the Stinson to Ketchikan on December 14, 1932 to make their return back to Juneau. Things looked promising for the 1933 season with the airplane operating regularly through the rest of that winter into early spring. However, Hickey's dreams of fielding a profitable flying business were dashed in April 1933 when the Mitkof crashed into Juneau Harbor while pilot Murrell Sasseen was taking off on a flight. The suspected cause was thought to be due to control cable failure due to corrosion. Whatever the reason, it would spell the end of Ketchikan Airways for good.

Aircraft Specifications:
4-place Stinson SM-8A Junior (aka "Detroiter") Seaplane Version on Edo Mod. 3300 Floats. First Flight: 1928. 321 built (all variants) from 1928-1933. Factory Price: $5,775 (April 1930, without floats). Dimensions: Length: 28' 11"; Wingspan: 41' 6". Weights: Standard Empty Weight: 3500 lbs.; Fuel Capacity: 61 gal. Performance: Airspeed: 100 mph cruise; Service Ceiling: 14,000 ft.; Range: 500 mi. Engine: Air-cooled 9 Cylinder 215 hp Lycoming R-680 Radial. Propeller: 2-Blade Fixed-Pitch.

Jim Hickey Sr., Ray Howard, A. C. 'Chet' McClean, Murrell Sasseen, and Gerald Smith.

Most of Ketchikan Airways' pilots were also experienced aircraft mechanics.

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Ketchikan Airways' Ketchikan Airways' "Northbird II" at Lake Near Ketchikan, AK, 1931
James V. Hickey Sr. at Flight Instruction in Los Angeles, CA, 1930James V. Hickey Sr. at Flight Instruction in Los Angeles, CA, 1930
Ketchikan Airways Article in the Ketchikan Chronicle August 22, 1931Ketchikan Airways Article in the Ketchikan Chronicle August 22, 1931