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
Baranof Mild Cure Company, 1928

When Davis and Merrill's business partnership in an Alaskan aerial service dissolved in Ketchikan at the close of 1926, so did the promise of the frontier border town enjoying aero-logistical options during the following season. There were no private or commercial airplanes operating in Southeast Alaska at all in 1927 or again the following year - save one worth mentioning, that did have a significant Ketchikan connection.

The Baranof Mild Cure Company, Inc. of Seattle purchased a Long Wing Alexander Eaglerock biplane in March 1928 that was mounted on a set of Edo seaplane pontoon floats to employ for fish spotting duty and air logistics. The three seat, double open cockpit aircraft was considered to be underpowered, with its liquid cooled 90 hp Curtiss OX-5 engine. Walter H. Reamer was hired to be the pilot. The spotter occupied the extra compartment. The company had assembled a small flotilla comprised of the 65 ft. ex-purse seiner Lemes and a pair of 30 x 80 ft. power barges, which departed mid-May of 1928 with the airplane secured to ride atop the deckhouse of one of the barges for the voyage. The flotilla sailed up the Inside Passage to Southeast Alaska on a mission to buy fresh caught King and Coho Salmon for mild-cure processing and commercial sale.

After arrival in Ketchikan to top off fuel tanks, the vessels made their way up to their base at Noyes Island and anchored the barges at Snail Point and Kelly Cove. Reamer went to work with the Eaglerock, and made a round trip business shuttle flight to Juneau on May 24. The fishing run was a failure and the fishermen went on strike. Then the plane suffered a crackup back at Kelly Cove, and was promptly barged back south to Seattle for a rebuild, accompanied by the pilot. Walt Reamer supervised the repairs, which included upgrading the bird to a more powerful 150 hp Hispano-Suiza Model-A motor, and it headed back north on July 24 aboard a scow under tow by F/V Dorothea. Once the Eaglerock was back on duty, the operation moved to Port Alexander on Baranof Island, and then to Chichagof.

While conducting operations out of Elfin Cove, an urgent radio message was received on August 31 at the Port Althorp Cannery from the Territorial Governor of Alaska, George A. Parks, in Juneau with an emergency request for the airplane to make a relief flight to Ketchikan to pick up a supply of vaccination serum for transport up to the Capital to address a raging cerebral meningitis epidemic there. At 9 a.m., Reamer promptly took off from the cannery in bad weather loaded with extra gas tins loaded into the second cockpit. After a fuel stop at Petersburg, he made another landing by Wrangell Narrows to deal with a fouled spark plug. He broke his windscreen during the fix, but still managed to get back into the air - arriving at Peninsula Point to complete a four-hour leg. He quickly refueled, and made his turnaround-departure at 4 p.m. with the serum received from local physician, Dr. R. V. Ellis. Flying amid darkening skies, Reamer successfully delivered his precious cargo to Juneau's Territorial Health Officer, Dr. DeVighne, after logging a harrowing seven and a half-hour round trip mission.

After getting a much needed good night's rest at the Governor's Mansion, Walt Reamer left at noon the next day to return to Elfin Cove. The fishing venture was a bust for the company, which soon filed for bankruptcy after returning to Seattle around October 1. The company liquidated all its assets, selling the Eaglerock to a green new owner-pilot, who wrecked it at Lake Union. Reamer got a new job flying a Waco 10 seaplane transporting Canadian hootch, but that story is 'classified', and outside this author's topic focus.

Aircraft Specifications:
A-1 Landplane. 1926 Long-wing Alexander Eaglerock. 88+ built. Construction: Spruce and fabric. Dimensions: Length: 25' 11"; Height: 9' 10"; Wingspan: 36' 8". Weights: Standard Empty Weight: 1,470 lbs.; Gross Weight: 2,230 lbs.; Useful Load: 1,000 lbs. Performance: Airspeed: 110 mph cruise, 130 mph max; Service Ceiling: 17,900 ft.; Range: 590 mi. Engine: Initially fitted with 90 hp Curtiss OX-5 V8 Cylinder and replaced with 150 hp Hispano-Suiza V8 Cylinder. Occupancy: Pilot: 1; Passengers: 2.

Walter H. Reamer

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Baranof Mild Cure Company Long Wing Eaglerock at Hoonah, AK, 1928Baranof Mild Cure Company Long Wing Eaglerock at Hoonah, AK, 1928
Walt Reamer Takes Off from Hoonah, AK, 1928Walt Reamer Takes Off from Hoonah, AK, 1928