(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) – National Aviation Day is observed on August 19th each year to celebrate the history and development of aviation. It was December 17, 1903 when Wilbur and Orville Wright made four brief flights at Kitty Hawk with their first powered aircraft. Ten years later, Alaska saw its first flight.
James V. and Lilly Martin brought a “Martin Tractor Aeroplane” to Fairbanks for a demonstration flight on July 4, 1913. The Martins shipped their crated airplane from Seattle to Skagway by ocean steamer and from Skagway to Whitehorse to Fairbanks by steamboat. Once at Fairbanks, Martin and his wife, who was England's first aviatrix, assembled their airplane. On the evening of July 3, Martin took off from a ball park and flew the plane over Fairbanks at an altitude of 200 feet and speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. During that time they tried unsuccessfully to sell their airplane. Since it could not be sold, they crated it up again and shipped it via St. Michael to their home in San Francisco.
“The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities proudly recognizes this historic day while emphasizing the importance of Alaska’s century of flight,” said Deputy Commissioner Steve Hatter. “The aviation heritage of Alaska is rich and exciting. Today, the air mode of travel in our vast and beautiful state is vital as ever considering 82% of our communities are not connected to a highway or road system.”
Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) Division of Statewide Aviation has released two videos illustrating the vital lifeline aviation provides for communities and demonstrating some of the unique project and fiscal challenges faced while developing aviation infrastructure in Alaska. The videos can be viewed at these links: Aviation – Alaska’s Lifeline and Aviation Lifeline – Counting the Costs.
Organizations promoting aviation history year-round include the Alaska Aviation Museum in Anchorage and the Pioneer Air Museum in Fairbanks. There are also websites with activities and art contests for kids.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities oversees 237 airports, 10 ferries serving 35 communities, more than 5,600 miles of highway and 776 public facilities throughout the state of Alaska. The mission of the department is to “Keep Alaska Moving through service and infrastructure.”
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