Alaskas Skyboys: Cowboy Pilots and the Myth of the Last Frontier

Hardcover | August 27, 2015

byKatherine Johnson Ringsmuth

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This fascinating account of the development of aviation in Alaska examines the daring missions of pilots who initially opened up the territory for military positioning and later for trade and tourism.

Early Alaskan military and bush pilots navigated some of the highest and most rugged terrain on earth, taking off and landing on glaciers, mudflats, and active volcanoes. Although they were consistently portrayed by industry leaders and lawmakers alike as cowboys—and their planes compared to settlers’ covered wagons—the reality was that aviation catapulted Alaska onto a modern, global stage; the federal government subsidized aviation’s growth in the territory as part of the Cold War defense against the Soviet Union. Through personal stories, industry publications, and news accounts, historian Katherine Johnson Ringsmuth uncovers the ways that Alaska’s aviation growth was downplayed in order to perpetuate the myth of the cowboy spirit and the desire to tame what many considered to be the last frontier.

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From the Publisher

This fascinating account of the development of aviation in Alaska examines the daring missions of pilots who initially opened up the territory for military positioning and later for trade and tourism. Early Alaskan military and bush pilots navigated some of the highest and most rugged terrain on earth, taking off and landing on glacier...

Katherine Johnson Ringsmuth teaches history at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and is owner of the public history consulting business Tundra Vision.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:280 pages, 9.26 × 6.32 × 1.02 inPublished:August 27, 2015Publisher:University Of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295995084

ISBN - 13:9780295995083

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This fascinating account of the development of aviation in Alaska examines the daring missions of pilots who initially opened up the territory for military positioning and later for trade and tourism. Early Alaskan military and bush pilots navigated some of the highest and most rugged terrain on earth, taking off and landing on glaciers, mudflats, and active volcanoes. Although they were consistently portrayed by industry leaders and lawmakers alike as cowboys—and their planes compared to settlers’ covered wagons—the reality was that aviation catapulted Alaska onto a modern, global stage; the federal government subsidized aviation’s growth in the territory as part of the Cold War defense against the Soviet Union. Through personal stories, industry publications, and news accounts, historian Katherine Johnson Ringsmuth uncovers the ways that Alaska’s aviation growth was downplayed in order to perpetuate the myth of the cowboy spirit and the desire to tame what many considered to be the last frontier.The story of manned flight in the twentieth century is about rocketing into the future and going ever higher and faster. So why do Alaskans embrace a nostalgic past filled with daring bush pilots who stick their heads out the window to read the weather and terrain? Katherine Johnson Ringsmuth answers this important question in her fascinating and important book. - Ross Coen, author of Fu-go: The Curious History of Japan's Balloon Bomb Attack on America