January 22, 2010
By Alton K. Marsh
Anyone familiar with Alaskan flying history will remember Ryan Air before it changed its name to Arctic Transportation Services. The company, still owned by the Ryan family, said it is naming itself Ryan Air once again.
The announcement came at an event honoring legislators and cargo air carrier founders who built the Alaskan bush transportation system that today sustains entire native villages. The honorees include Eben Hopson, Howard Rock, Eddie Hoffman, Robert G. “Bobby” Sholton, Holger “Jorgy” Jorgensen, Raymond I. Petersen, Frank Ferguson, Neal “Willie” Foster, Martin L. Olson, Wilfred P. Ryan Sr., and Eva Ryan.
The group was honored as “the toughest people on Earth.” Some of them are Alaskan natives such as Holger “Jorgy” Jorgensen who, with one good eye, landed a Douglas DC-3 in the Aleutian Islands with an engine out and 6,500 pounds of dynamite onboard.
Ryan Air was founded by Wilfred P. Ryan Sr. and Eva Ryan. “It takes a person with grit and nerves of steel to fly in 50-below-zero weather with radial engines and an 800-foot dirt airstrip. Someone like dad, who was the sole pilot in the early days of the business,” son Wilfred “Boyuck” Ryan Jr. said. While her husband flew, Eva Ryan raised nine children, worked full time as a teacher, and managed Unalakleet Air Taxi (Ryan Air’s original trading name).
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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