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"Prior to the opening of Russia's Far East to air traffic and refueling, 
Anchorage was named the 'Air Crossroads of the World,' and today it is still
the major air logistics and cargo carrier for Asia, Europe, and North America."
~ The Milepost, 2011 edition, p. 358

This is the summer solstice but it didn't seem light any longer than yesterday because it was mostly cloudy all day. The sun peeked through several times throughout the day but not for long. It was chillier (mid-50s F.) and breezy, too.

It seemed like a good day to do some inside activities on our List of Things to Do in Anchorage.

We snuck in a little bit of outdoor sightseeing, too. Here Jim and Cody are approaching Earthquake Park, located just off the popular Coastal Trail:

This entry is flight-oriented, focusing on photos and information about the Alaska Aviation Museum and float plane activity on Lake Hood.

The next entry in today's series will be about Earthquake Park and the City of Anchorage greenhouses. The third entry will cover the Alaska Heritage Museum and its extensive collection of Native art and artifacts.

That was a lot to do in one day! I think we're going to have to start pacing ourselves . . .


The quote at the beginning of this entry notes that Anchorage has considerable international air traffic for both people and cargo.

More than 25 international and domestic carriers fly in and out of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, carrying over five million passengers each year and many, many tons of cargo.

Sign for sale at the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum

Within the state the air is very busy, too, with thousands of smaller aircraft serving residents who live off the road grid. 

This is something fairly unique to Alaska. The largest U.S. state also has the fewest roads.

People who live in the Bush are more dependent on small aircraft to transport them and the goods they need than any other state because of the dearth of roads and the glut of snow and ice.

Display of old skis used on planes to land on snow

Some planes land on skis in the snow, others on pontoons in the water (sea planes AKA  float planes). Many Bush communities are located next to rivers or lakes where float planes can land and take off.

In the summer planes with tires can land on remote paved, dirt, or grass airstrips that are free of snow. 

This looks like a hybrid with both tires and pontoons.

Small-plane charters are also a practical way for residents and visitors to reach communities along the southeastern coast that are not on the road grid, such as Cordova, Sitka, Juneau, and Ketchikan. They're faster than cruise ships or ferries if you have a long way to go and you can see more of the terrain from the air.

In addition, there are many small charter airplanes used by both residents and visitors to reach remote areas of the state to fish, hunt, and sightsee. We plan to do a flight-seeing tour of Mt. McKinley AKA Denali later this summer. 


This morning we drove to the southwestern side of Anchorage near the airport so we could watch sea planes on Lake Hood.

On peak summer days about 800 planes land or take off from either Lake Hood or adjacent Lake Spenard. It's the world's largest and busiest sea plane base.

We parked near the Alaska Aviation Museum on Aircraft Drive between Lake Hood and the Ted Stevens airport. There are other places around Lake Hood and Lake Spenard where you can park and watch the planes.

I got the best photos of float planes that were stationary:

We also watched several float planes take off:


Another good place to watch other kinds of small planes come and go (about 1,100 a day in the summer) is Merrill Field. We haven't been there yet.

We've heard that the best place to watch BIG planes come and go from the international airport is from the Coastal Trail at the end of the runways. We plan to ride our bikes there tomorrow if the weather is nice.


While we were near the airport we also went into the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum:

We both enjoyed this museum (Jim especially).

If you like either airplanes or history, you'll have fun nosing around this place. If we hadn't had so many other things on our agenda we could have spent even more time there than we did. There is a lot to see and read.

Most of the exhibits in three hangars are about the history of flight in Alaska.

This photo of a float plane caught my attention. Note the date and location (Sitka Bay, AK, apparently a refueling point):

It's an interesting heritage, often centered around float planes and other small, nimble aircraft.

Since the beginning of aviation Alaska pioneers have used these planes as their main mode of transportation while exploring and developing areas of the state that are difficult to access.

There are numerous photos, memorabilia, restored planes, engines, parts, and other items displayed inside -- even an antique car advertising an airline:



Above and below:  an old  plane from a company based in Bethel, AK,
which is well off the highway grid.

There are also some flight simulators Jim had fun with:





Outside are a variety of planes on display, from small wooden ones to an Alaska Airlines 737 you can climb into:


Historic 1943 PBY 5A Catalina Canso (see website for the history)

The Boeing 737 in the next photo is called the "Mud Hen." It is a combination passenger-cargo plane made for Alaska Airlines and flown extensively between 1981-2007.

Check out the passenger seating in the second photo below:


Another hangar holds helicopters, vehicles, and more planes. The last building is a workshop and restoration hanger.

The Milepost indicated current and retired military personnel can enter the museum free but their policy has changed since the 2011 edition of the book was published. Upon entry we showed our military cards but discovered that the entry fee is $10 for most adults, $8 for seniors over 65 and military folks, and $6 for children over 5.

We were interested in seeing what they had but didn't want to spend $16. When we turned to leave the woman collecting fees told us we could enter for free. We thanked her and left a donation. 

Next entry:  visiting Earthquake Park and the City of Anchorage greenhouses

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil