James "Jim" Hutchison was interviewed on March 12, 1985 by William Schneider at his home in Fairbanks, Alaska. In this interview, Jim talks about coming to Alaska with the U.S. Army and how he became an airplane mechanic. He also talks about repairing planes in the bush and humorous adventures he had with other bush pilots and mechanics.
Digital Asset Information
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Jim arrives in Alaska in 1919
Experiencing train problems
Repairing airplanes in the early days
Ben Eielson's Fokker accident
Jim gets his start in the aviation business
Jim's trouble with sciatic rheumatism
Working with Jess Bachner
Establishing camp near the Red Top Mine
Jim gets a shock
A ruined set of false teeth
Finishing up the job
Continuing to work on airplanes
More repair efforts
A reunion with Walt Johnson
Tracking down a tri-motor Stinson
Getting stuck in Cutbank, Montana
People were desperate to go Outside
Working for different companies
Scrounging for supplies in Unalakleet
Long distance repairs
Jamming the Waco onto a Tanana River bar
Getting off the Tanana River bar
Jim hitches a ride up the Tanana River
Ed Young flies Jim back to Fairbanks
The changes in aviation mechanics
Working on DC3's
Different airplane engines
Being a pioneer in aviation mechanics
Jim stayed grounded for his family
Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.
After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: This is Bill Schneider, it is March 12, 1985 and I have the pleasure today of being with Jim Hutchison, at his historic home here on First Avenue, (in Fairbanks) and we are going to make a recording and maybe use part of it in a radio series if it comes out good. So Jim, I am glad to be here and glad to finally have a chance to meet you.
JIM HUTCHISON: Ya, I’m glad you’re here. WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Let’s start by talking about how you came to Alaska. How did you get interested in -- JIM HUTCHISON: Oh, I came up in the army in 1919. WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Oh my.
JIM HUTCHISON: And uh, ya, I was in the uh -- was right after the first World War, and the, the post down there at Haines was a -- and I guess Valdez too, and Egbert at Eagle and Tanana they were all staffed with home guards, you know. So, what the did -- they wanted to get those home guards were getting pretty mad, they want to get out of there, so they shipped us up from Vancouver Barracks, 21st Infantry.
Couple a hundred of us went to Haines, and we come up on the City of Seattle, a boat. The name of City of Seattle. And we stopped at Ketchikan and Juneau and on up to Haines, and unloaded there. And there was, the 21st had 4 companies, and I was in the one that was supposed to be stationed at Valdez.
So they had it arranged so when the boat came by with our regular company on, why we were to load aboard and go on up to Valdez with them. So it was in the summertime there in 1919 and uh, -- oh July, maybe, a boat went by and sailed on and there we were stuck. They didn’t pick us up. So, about a month later, we got orders oh, to get on The Alaska, it stopped in there and picked us up, about 20 of us, and we went up to Valdez.
Had a heck of a trip too. WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Yeah? JIM HUTCHISON: Oh golly. Going across the big body of water there, what do they call that, the, the uh Alaska? WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: The Gulf of Alaska? JIM HUTCHISON: Gulf of Alaska, my god it was rough and rainy and nasty.
And pretty near everybody got sick I guess. I know I did. Then we get into Valdez, and uh -- I go there in August, 1919. We had a, we had, we all strangers, really, so everybody had to get acquainted, you know. And we had a lot of guys from down in California, and quite a few from the east, Pennsylvania, where I was from, and uh -- we -- I -- I got into the singing business you know a lot so we had a quartet down there.
And the guy that organized it was a, was from LA and he was in the movie picture business. He sang orchestras and stuff like a real good baritone, real good. So he organized this little quartet and we used to go down there when the boats would come in and entertain the people on the boat, and they had, see they come in, they come in and go over to the post first.
The post was right now where Alyeska is, where they have their big deal. So when they come in, why they came in over to our place first, over to post. And they unload the freight and no passengers hardly. Once in a while maybe, some guy would get on, mostly freight, and while they were in there, why we had gone and entertained the people down in the hole, down in the saloon with this quartet.
It was quite the, quite the deal. So uh, we organized this -- we go to put a show on in Valdez and uh, the post had a boat there called the Donaldson, and we’d go across to Valdez every weekend you know where you had a dance over there every Saturday night. And uh, you know, it was dry then, there was no booze around, but there was a bootlegger operating out of Valdez, they called him Rats (laughs) and uh, he was quite the character.
A Spanish-American War veteran. And uh, we, this particular time we were going to go over there, but the bay froze up, you know, they claim Valdez was an ice free harbor, but 1919 the darn thing froze solid, and we get about half way over and had to back up, turn around and go back to the post, we couldn’t make it.
So then it really froze up. And uh, for two weeks never a boat come into that place and then there, an ice cutter come in, call the Algonquin and it come in there and cut the ice out of the bay. They had to start way down at the narrows when the tides started out and they’d chop off a slice, you know, they’d, this boat would go up on the ice and then break it down, and then it would go out see, with the tide.
It took them about, well I guess it took them about 4½ hours to cut the ice out of the bay, working steady. He would cut this side out then he would back up and cut this out and they were bunking around in there. 4 ½ hours, they go, I got pictures of that. Of the Algonquin in the ice, somewhere in my stuff. And I often get a kick about people claiming that the Valdez had never froze up, you know (laughs). WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Ice free port. JIM HUTCHISON: Huh? WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Ice free port. JIM HUTCHISON: You bet -- ice free port. But it’s never froze up since. Ya know, that’s a long time ago.
Yeah, it’s quite a little town. There wasn’t many people there. I knew the Higgens, knew of them. And I met and married my wife there in Valdez. And she knew the Higgens real well, all of them.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: What was your wife’s maiden name?
JIM HUTCHISON: Helen -- Matsen. And she was a telephone operator down there. And uh, kind of took care of the youngsters of the Marshall, Marshall -- I can’t remember his name, but he was the Marshall down there and uh, we got acquainted at a dance and we got married in 1921. And uh, let’s see, April the 3rd 1921, and that’ll be what -- 64 years next year, this year. For sixty…yeah, sixty-four we’re been married. And uh -- but I was discharged in 1922. Then I came up to Fairbanks.
And it was quite a trip, ya know, we had uh, the railroad was uh, a lot of it was laying on top of the ground, it hadn’t been ballasted yet, you know. So that, the you know, the conductor in Anchorage said, the engineer, he said, “If you get us to the Nenana without jumping the tracks boy,” he said, “I’ll give you a big kiss.” So we uh, we, there were 300 of us on this train, we started off from Valdez, or Anchorage for Seward stopped in Anchorage and then kept coming and we jumped the track just on the other side of Hurricane Bridge, that’s Healy or Curry, Curry, so they had uh, 2 flat cars on there with some iron on them, I don’t know but, rail I guess.
Well, they loaded all us 300 people on these 2 flat cars disconnected it from the train, which had jumped the track, took us on into Curry, and dumped 300 of us into a little roadhouse there that didn’t have room for 50 uh, jez, what a night. Well, we spent the night there and the next day, why they, they got the thing back on the track, and we started out and we got to Nenana okay then, and that was in May and the ice was pretty solid yet at Nenana, although the water was running along the edges.
And they had a kind of ramp down into the ice. We had to walk down on the ice, and we had to walk across the ice and there’s a little fish camp down there now, I notice, where we got off the ice. And the narrow gauge train come into there we got aboard it, 9:00 that night we were in Fairbanks.
JIM HUTCHISON: I went to Nordale's, stayed, spent the night or two in Nordale, and then I couldn’t hack that too much so I rented a little cabin up on 6th Street. Lived in that and went to work for the Independent Mill for a while and over to Sampson, and I stayed there for 3 years and while I was at the Sampson, why I go the, work all the uh, um -- Hubert Wilson, or -- Sir Hubert Wilkins airplanes.
It was a tri-motor Fokker and they busted it up right there and the field was over on the corner of the Gaffney and Cushman Street right now where the NC, or where the Sears Roebuck building is. It goes right just kind of southeast across that a way. They had a field in there. And uh, they brought these airplanes in, there was 2 of them. And they set um up, and uh, they flew that tri-motor, and when it first landed, I think the guy didn’t -- it was kind of chilly, there’s some snow on the ground, and yup, and I don’t think they were, the engines or anything was prepared for cold weather flying,
and when they come gliding in, the engine got cold. When the poured the coal into it, they were coming in low, one engine, one of them anyway, or two of them maybe, and he hit a little fence and upset, and -- he didn’t upset, he knocked the landing gear off, that’s what it was and it slid along and went up on the snow and broke the motor mount in the front.
So they brought all these pieces over to Sampson, and I was working over there then. And uh, the machinist which was Ed Ross, and uh, they asked if we could fix it up, you know, and landing gear was real thin stuff. So old Ed and I, we went down to the blacksmith’s shop and got a great big chunk iron and bent it and weld it and put it into the axle. And I welded it together, and took it up and welded the hinge on. The hinge was 12 inches long. Landing gear comes down this way, then down into a tube.
Welding them on. Then, they wanted us to fix the motor mount. Well, we didn’t have no tubing and they didn’t have no tubing. So we took pipe and machined it down and lathe, and drove it inside this tubing and I weld it up. They put the airplane together and flew it. It flew good. And uh, they uh, started for Barrow, there was Major (Lamfear), was the pilot, and Sergeant Wisely was the co-pilot and uh, Wilkins was in it. And uh, he couldn’t get up into the cockpit from the cabin on a count of the gas tanks they had in the thing. They had it plugged up with gas tanks.
See they had 3 engines. And uh, couple a hundred horse power a piece so when they got in the air, why old Wilkins couldn’t get up there, those two guys had a scrap up there. They got into bad weather, somewhere up, getting close to, oh where'd he go over, Bettles, Wiseman, somewhere up there they run into some bad weather and one of them wanted to turn back and one of them didn’t and I understand they had quite a shuffle up there until they finally did turn around and come back. And uh, that airplane, uh, made it alright. I mean, it never did get to Barrow I don’t think on that particular trip. But they come back and then --
Ben was flying the America. That was a single engine airplane. And he, he uh, started down the field and didn’t make it. And he cut the throttle and went off into the tulles there a little bit, into the stumps and knocked the tail skid off, that (inaudible). Well, they called up and I went up and fixed that for ‘em. And the next day they didn’t want to try that one again, so they laid off for 2 or 3 days, and they built another field.
They went over in Rickerts. A beer mart now. Over in Rickerts field, they call it then. And they plowed with horses and graders. That’s the way they fixed up the roads in those days. They had horses and a grader. They guy had to ride the grader, you know, with great big wheels on ‘em. So they plowed this, this field, from Rickerts down and, it was pretty long then, about, oh I’d say 5000 feet maybe. 4000-5000 feet. And it crossed Cushman Street what we called the trail, it went out to the Tanana extension of Cushman Street. So they got all ready and there was big speeches, you know, and picture taking and all kinds of stuff and Ben got in --
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: This is Ben Eielson? JIM HUTCHISON: Yeah, Ben Eielson got in and Wilkins got in and they was all gassed and everything, they taxied up the end of that field, turned around and he poured the coal in it, and he come down when it hit that little thing like that, the old extension road, the wing fell off.
And up on his nose and it broke the prop and that was The America. It was a single engine airplane. It had a Liberty engine in it and had 2 stacks that come up like this in the front, and Ben sitting right out in the open, up there in the front. The Fokker.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: So that was a Fokker, huh? JIM HUTCHISON: Yeah, that was a Fok, but both of those were Fokker airplanes. One was a tri-motor. You know, it had J5’s in it. Or J4’s. Everything outside, all the valves, everything, the mechanism, you could watch it work. Push rods in the valves you know, and them rocker arms and everything. And uh, so that was the end of that God dang thing.
The Fokker couldn’t get over the tri-motor couldn’t get over 5000 feet high with a load, so they give that up and they loaded everything up and went outside and uh, the next year they come back with 2 Stinsons.
And uh, they left one up in the Arctic and the other one, Wien bought. And the Alaska Air, the Alaska Airway I worked for it’s bound up with a -- and while I was at the Sampson there after this was going on why 1924, Noel come in. Noel Wien. And he flew right over the Samson Hardware, he come up the railroad track, flew right over the town and went up and landed and there was a big uh, forest fire in the country somewhere, and the country was all covered with smoke.
So he followed the railroad track. And uh, wasn’t too long after that that he uh, made a trip to Wiseman with his Standard. And got blown off the trail, and went over on the Tanana over to the Tok and landed and uh, didn’t hurt the airplane any, tied it down I guess, and walked out in 3-4 days and Ed Young went in and flew it out, and then in the meantime, water had come up and filled the lower panels with a dirt, you know, a silt.
When they got to Fairbanks and they had another Standard there but it didn’t have no engine in it. So I had some tools and I’d been fiddling around and fixing things and Ralph Wien come over and ask me if I’d go up and help him change the lower panels on the airplane. And I did, I went up there and the 3 of us we, we braced up the top wings and took the lower panels off and took the other airplane all apart and took both panels off, the top one, the lower one and changed them. And we got through about, oh I don’t know, about 15-20 minutes twelve and Noel ask me if I’d like to go take a ride with him, and I said, “You bet!” So he took me up and uh, that -- 1924. That’s how I got, I kind a got started in it that way, ya know. In the aviation business.
And I went from there and fixing -- I stayed at the Sampson, and in ’25, I quit the Sampson and went to work for the uh, uh, FE company. But I kept my hand in the working around airplanes. And uh, 1929, why, Tom (Jerrard) come to see me and he asked me if I want to go to work for Alaska Airways, that’s Ben’s outfit. And he bought out all these companies. And I said, “Sure”, I guessed so anyway. So I talked it over with the people down at the FE company. They wanted me to stay, but I, I was wanting to get into the business.
So I quit and went out there. And I’ve been in the damn thing ever since ’29. And uh, I worked there and then it would come to be Pacific Alaska Airlines, and uh, I got a bad case a rheumatism there and got damn, I had sciatic rheumatism, awful bad, couldn’t walk. So they took me over to Circle Hot Springs, I spent a month over there. It helped all right, but it was not with -- no cure, so I come back and I was just getting to be feeling where I could hack it again, walk around real good and everything. I went, going to go back to work; God, if I didn’t get a letter, they fired me.
Yeah, so that was that. Then I went to work for, back to Sampson again. I worked there for a year or so, and then I went up and worked for Frank Polly. And uh, that’s where uh, that's where we got tangled up with old Jess down there. We uh, Lon Brennen cracked an airplane up there at Moose Creek and uh, it was a brand new machine, practically new, didn’t hardly have any time on it at all. Stinson. 300 horsepower engine there. Nice rig
. But he just overloaded. And uh, going up hill so Frank took me down, we looked at the darn thing, and uh, gosh it was a mess. And on the way down, why we circled around there a little bit and it was in the winter time, ya know, was snow on the ground, quite a lot. And right above they were building a road in there, the road commission was building a road in there to the Kantishna.
And their camp was about 5 miles from where the field was. Well they had a whole bunch of tent frames up there, nice ones. So I told Frank, circle around and let’s take a look up there. So he circled around, took a look and there was one pretty good sized one.
So we come back to Fairbanks and we were talking it over all the time and I, I said, “Well I’ll go over and talk to Frank Nash.” He was Road Commission man, head of it. So I did. I went over and talked to Frank and uh, asked him about if I could use this uh, use this uh, tent frame and he said, “Sure, if you put if back where it was and you don’t hurt it any.”
So uh, then I asked him, I said, “ You guys haven’t got an extra big tent I could borrow, or rent?” Yeah, yeah," so he took me out in the warehouse, there in the warehouse we dug out a 24 foot long tent, a big thing. And I got that and took it up to the hangar, and uh, we got 2 barrel stoves. I don’t know where we got ‘em, but we got ‘em.
And uh, swede saw and a safety for the tent and uh, stove pipe and all this stuff. Then Frank says, “Hey, you’re gonna have to have some helpers. And I said, “Yeah.” “Well,” he said, “There’s a young guy who wants to get, to go down there and his name is Bachner,” and I said, “OK.” I didn’t know Jess then. And then Bob Ausley, he said, “There are 3 of you” and I said -- uh, both kids were young, you know, but I was young, not too old either. So we go down there and Andy Anderson was driving the cat. They had a RD6 down there for the Red Top Mine, that’s up Fannie Quigleys stuff, way up on the hill. Click here to view film of Fannie Quigley.
So we got the cat down here and we got up and told Andy to come down and he pulled up that skid or you skidded down that thing and we got to where we, got the airplane around and got it over off the side of the field. And uh, we took one end of this frame out, you know how they’re built up with 2 by 4’s and one thing -- we took that out, left one end open, uh, we pulled it, lifted up the tail and pulled the thing right underneath the airplane, right up to the landing gear or near. Okay. Then old Andy went about his business and Jess and, and uh, what’s-his-name and I, we go out with a saw and ax, we cut down little poles about 4 inches in diameter. Trees, lots of ‘em, hauled them over there wading through the snow that deep, maybe.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: About 3 feet.
JIM HUTCHISON: And uh, we got everything over there, then we built an extension on this, on this platform. Out of poles, big poles, nailed everything up and I had the spikes and everything. I had it all planned pretty good.
Built a regular frame, just to extend the frame out and we made it heavy enough, that we could lift the engine off the airplane, and put it on the ground. And we took the landing gear off, and we had to put a truss in it, in the middle, we had to get that. So we had all this preliminary work going, you know, and cutting it all out and getting everything and then they were flying down there quite often bringing us food, and all kinds of stuff. Checking on us. I had a radio talk every night with Frank. At 10:00 at night.
Jez, I’ll never forget this one. Now this thing was on the table over in the end of the room, and the door to the building was about 10 feet long. Where we were staying up there with Fannie. And I had this uh, this transmitter was pretty powerful, you know. So I, calling up Frank and talking to him, and I, I touched my nose to the outlet you know, and the next thing I knew, I was on my back laying over against the wall. Up against the door. Just knocked me silly, shock, right in the nose. It jumped I guess, I don’t know.
That was one of the damn things I remember. And then another one was, old Jess had to do all the sawing of the wood uh, this uh, Andy Anderson was hauling timbers from where way down in the flat there somewhere, for the mine. And on his way by, he would, there was a big, a, Bob Bartlett’s dad had hauled ore out there, he hauled ore out of (Antimony,) or whatever it was to uh, McKinley, to the railroad, with teams. He had, I understand, he had 40 teams.
And uh, had this great big, enormous building, old Andy had just thrown a chain over it and then pulled it apart and bring us a log, you know, a nice dry great big beautiful trees, you know. And old, he’s dump one off and maybe two, and ol’ Jess had swede saw and saw ‘em up and split ‘em. And we had 3 pack boards, and every night the 3 of us had to pack wood up the hill to where we were living.
And Andy kept the fires going, Jess did in the han -- in the shop there. We had a good set up. And uh, everything tied down, we had a door in the front, an, all banked up with snow, nice, nice and warm in there. WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: So you had the front of the airplane in the tent frame and the tent was over it.
JIM HUTCHISON: Over the whole thing. Yeah, it was just like a hangar. See, the wings were off, we had taken the wings off. And we just put, we just lifted the fuselage and tail and pulled this thing in, clear up as far as we could, up against the landing gear, left it sit. Then we put the tent up. No we didn’t either. We built the frame. Then we put the tent up. We had a hell of a time with that tent.
You know, three of us, goddamn that was heavy. But we made it. And uh, while I was there, I got blood poisoning. I opened up a Hormell’s Ham can about that big, ya know, those kind of funny shaped things, and I opened it up and uh, scratched my knuckle on this hand and uh, I’m sitting up there one evening and I noticed I had a bump under my arm here, a knot.
Then I get to worrying about it a little bit, and I remembered this thing, ya know, and I'd cleaned it out good and made it bleed and put murocurochrome in it and everything, kept a band-aid on it and uh, anyway, I noticed streaks going up my arm. Red streaks here. So I got ahold of Frank that night on the radio, it was a New Year's Day, and um, I told him, I thought I had blood poisoning, better come and get me. Well, Fannie told me I had.
Because he got some Epsom salts, old Epsom salts he had, and I soaked it, but it didn’t do me not good. So I, Frank got down there at 9:00, was still dark when he landed there. And uh, picked me up and I got me into Doc (Sutherland) and, he didn’t have any penicillin or nothing, in those days, ya know, but he give me something, I don’t know what. And then he told me to get Epsom salts and soak my arm and he told me if I hadn’t come in right then, I’d a probably lost my arm. The, the stuff was r -- r -- streaks were real bad.
Well, I spent a week in town, got rid of that. I went back -- while I was in town on a particular trip I had new teeth made, ya know, I had uh, in the early days, when they pull your teeth they tell you to go for 6-8 months, with no teeth at all till everything get settled, and then they build you a set of teeth.
Well, I was going through that, and uh, I had the old Doc helping his, the guy that worked for him, build my teeth and everything, were good. But they uh, you know, they bother you a little bit to started with. So here I am, up there one night and uh, I was sitting there and my teeth started bothering me, we was all reading, all quiet, no noise.
Reading some of Fannie’s old books ya know, and stuff, and uh, it gets kind of chilly in there and I -- I had taken my teeth out and put them in a bowl on the stove on the edge of the stove. I was sitting about uh, I don’t know 3-4 feet from the stove. It was kind of a small cabin. And by golly, ya know, pretty quick I begin to feel warm.
You know, Jesus, I thought of my teeth first thing, I went over there and they were just the shape of the bottom of the bowl. Bob Ausley had gone over and stoked the fire, put some wood in it. Opened it up, and my teeth were sitting on the stove, and they just got the same shape as the bottom of the bowl. Well, goddamn it, I fooled around for a week, or for an hour, two, trying to, I’d get them just warm where I could get them in my mouth and try to clamp down on them, ya know, but I couldn’t do it. I had to finally give up. I put them off to the side and uh, went along gumming my food again for another 2 weeks. And, ya know, Jess, he got a big kick out of that.
And we, when I was in town, a guy by the name of Smith went out, took my place. He afterwards was one of the head mechanics, or a good mechanic anyway, for Pan Am. He went out and kept going on the job that I was doing. And, uh, at the end of a week, well, I was all right and they took me back and brought him in. Ah, we finished it up and welded everything up and got it all done, and uh, tore everything apart.
Took the tent down, was in spring then, then we took the tent down, tore everything apart, nailed up all the 2x4’s in the back. Andy hauled the thing back up where it was. And we didn’t finish the airplane up real good, we just, enough to fly it. Lon came down, we flew it out, and took it to Fairbanks and then we all come in and finished it off in town. And I don’t recall Jess from there on out, what the heck he did. Whether he kept working for Frank of just what he did.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: What were you doing then? Did you continue to work on airplanes? JIM HUTCHISON: Oh yeah, yeah sure. I worked, shucks I went over into Forty-mile and we built a wing over there. Spent a month and half in there, for Frank. Yeah he cracked up an airplane. He lost an engine on the way to Chicken, and a guy by the name of Norm Weaver, was the head mechanic then.
I was just a mechanic working, I had a license and everything. And uh, Frank took him over there and they looked at it, no way could they fix that wing. He landed, the engine blew up, rod broke and he came down into this Joe-village, it’s a little, nothing there. Come down on this field, they had built a field there between a bend of the river, come down the river, and when he got down where he could get down, why the wind had reversed and was on his tail and he was going to beat the bands, so he had to dump it.
Right on the end, pretty hear on the end, where he had gone over into the river. And he had a passenger in there, a woman with a 10 day old baby, and the baby never woke up, by golly. And course, he had to spend the night. Then the next day Bob Ausley was in flying and he went over there and found him, and landed, and picked ‘em up, took ‘em on into Chicken.
Then the next day or two or three days later, why he flew Norm in there and Norm took a look and he says, “No way, you can’t fix that airplane, that wing. So Frank wasn’t satisfied. He took me in there and I looked it over and figured out a way to fix the damn thing and so he told me to order the stuff and I did. He took me overt there and another guy, young fellow by the name of Johnson, and uh, there was a trapper’s cabin across the creek, we had to take boots every night we’d have to wade over, you know, and then sleep and eat and wade back to work.
So, one morning we woke up and a big flash flood had come along, God darnit. And uh, we couldn’t go to work for three days. And we thought we’d do a little fishing and we took the poles, went up the river, but we couldn’t catch anything on the account of it was kind of murky. Like today you know, you read about all the pollution in the creeks, caused by mining?
There’s certainly no mining over there, but that creek was the dirtiest thing I ever saw. And while we were standing there, Johnson and I fishing, why great big bull moose walked out, right behind us, not sixty feet and I don’t think the thing knew we were there, even. We was on the bank, of course, and a few willows and he waded out in the creek and got out in the middle and kind of laid down.
You know, the bugs or something were after him or something, I don’t know. Yeah, he got out in the middle of the creek and just stood up, waded off and left. Never bothered us at all. Well, after the water had gone, why we tried to build a, a raft to go over there, but we couldn’t manage to do it, nothing to saw with. Had an ax, small little hand ax. So we give that up
And we waited and three days went by and Frank come over one day and threw us some meat. When he threw it out of the airplane, it landed right on the edge of the river. Steaks! And he couldn’t throw anything else out, eggs or anything like that. Although they had thrown eggs out of airplanes. It happened not to bust them.
JIM HUTCHISON: Yeah, we had quite a time over there. And this Johnson and I, we fixed that thing. It took me, it took me about five weeks, I think, altogether. And uh, about the end of the month, why, I was ready to come in.
Hadn’t been nowhere. I need some clean clothes and a bath good. Although I had taken a spit bath a time or two. And uh, so Frank brought Tillman in, Warren Tillman, he’s got a couple of youngsters in the fire department up there yet. Flew him in and a guy by the name of Cleve Smith. And they covered the wing. They brought me back in for a week of R and R, they call it now, Rare and Rich?
Well I come back and spent a week at town and in the mean time I went up and tore an engine apart, because the airplane wasn’t big enough to take in a big engine you know, full size all together. So we split it.
Took the cylinders off and the rear case and then the flew that in and I went in and took fifteen gallons of gas with us, an engine, and a prop, landing gear. And old Tilly and I, he took Cleve Smith out and Tilly and I stayed there and finished her up. Put the landing gear on, dug a hole in the ground, put the landing gear on, made a ramp, puuuullllled it out.
Got it up on the ground. I got in the airplane and primed the engine and had a booster. It’s a magneto, you operate by hand. And we had that thing hooked into the mag and old Tilly gave her a big flip and I boosted it and away she went. So we, he climbed in, we sat there and run it for about, oh I guess we run the engine for about an hour and a half.
And shut her down and Frank come over then the next day. Flew it out and when we flew the Stinson out, the one we fixed, Ausley, who come in there with him, took Tillman, we went to Chicken and back to Fairbanks and left me there alone. I thought well hell I’ll do a little fishing now, be here by myself. And I got the fish pole and waded over to the cabin, got my fish pole and gear, come out.
Golly I don’t more than get out the field and I hear an airplane. And this darn Frank had got to town and got the big Bellanca, big airplane, come in there and landed and we loaded everything aboard and I left some food on the table and away we went. And that’s the end of it. WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Okay?
JIM HUTCHISON: Yeah, this, here about a year ago, year and a half ago I’m sitting here reading in the evening and came a rap on the door. And I went to the door and there was a guy standing there and he said, “Jim Hutchison?” I said, “Yeah.” He said “My name is Walt Johnson.” And I said, “Walt Johnson.” Don’t ring a bell.
I said, “Well, come on in anyway, so he came in and he says, “You don’t remember me, huh?” I said “No.” He had, he was in uniform. Very -- in the -- the flyer business, what do you call them? Military?
And he come in, sat down and he said, “You don’t remember me.” No. Well he said that’s a long time ago, but he said my name is Walt Johnson and I was the guy who helped you over at Joe-village fixing airplane wing. And I liked to fell over. Yea, we had a, we had a darndest conversation here for a couple of hours. And he’s in the military, he’s a captain now, flying. Flies --
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Commerically? JIM HUTCHISON: Hm? WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Does he fly commercially? JIM HUTCHISON: No. No, in the Air Corps. WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Air Corps. JIM HUTCHISON: Yeah. Yeah, Captain.
He said get got to fly into, into Land Field -- Eielson and thought he would look me up and see if I was still around. And he said you know, he said, that the highlight of my life, he said every time I get tangled up with guys I tell them about going into the brush and fixing an airplane for a month. Nice guy.
And let’s see, from there on, well we didn’t have no more trouble then, Polly, for a long time, then he sent me outside when work along you know. Not the war really, but the threat of war I think with the Japs. And the people were leaving the country like you wouldn’t believe.
Anything, they’d fly in anything. And we had everything we had going from here to Whitehorse. All kinds of flights. Stinsons, Bellancas, anything. And he sent Terrence McDonald and I out to look for a tri-motor Stinson. So we went down to L.A where there was one down there parked in a garage, a hangar. And we looked, wasn’t too bad, it was kind of ratty, but not too bad, needed some work on it.
The FAA had licensed it to have some work done on it, so Terrence stayed there and I flew on to New York for another one. And by golly I went over there and this airplane, the one I looked at, had, belonged to the RJ Reynolds Tobacco outfit. And it wasn’t a real nice, it was a good airplane, well taken care of and everything, but the engines were out of time and it had four parachute seats in it, beautiful seats.
Swivel seats and each seat had a parachute in it. When you get in there you get into it. You could real easy you know. And huh, so I called, I got, I wrote, I wired Frank, I told him about it and he wired back to go ahead and buy it and look for seats. So I got to rootin' around and Casey Jones had a school in New Jersey, Casey Jones School of Aeronautics, and they said there was one over there, a tri-motor, so I went over, went underneath the tube you know, under the ocean where the Hudson River cross, God what a thrill.
Went out there and where you come up out of the tunnel, or out of the subway, why by golly, you heard, not a block away, was this place I was looking for. I saw a big sign, Casey Jones School of Aeronautics up on top. So I went up top up there and talked to those people, and I asked about buying seats out of that tri-motor upstairs, they had it up on the third floor.
And the only reason they used it was for teaching mechanics about raising the landing gear and lowering the landing gear and taking it off repairing it putting it back on making it work, taking engines out and stuff like that. Any they didn’t need the seats, the seats were busted down, because the students there had been climbing aboard the thing in and out.
And I talked to the head guy and yeah he said he’d sell them to me for fifty dollars apiece, so I bought ‘em, eight of ‘em. And uh, I cut 'em up, I took a covering all off of them , he said -- I asked him if I could work there a little bit, yeah, so I cut 'em all up and bundled them all up and I asked them if they would ship them over to Roosevelt Field, which they did.
Then I got down the tube, went across, went home again. I was staying with my brother, in Flushing New York. And I had the engines overhauled and the uh, new radio gear installed, and then I called up Terrence over there in New York or L.A and had him come over. And by golly we flew the thing, got the pilot to take us to Fairbanks and we started out and we got down to Winston-Salem, that’s where the pilot was from.
And he wanted to go home and get some clothes and stuff and tell his wife where he was going. So we flew to Winston-Salem, North Carolina and spent the night there and then took off and went across, stopped at Indianapolis and so on got into Cutbank, Montana.
We got to Cutbank where our passes were supposed to be you know. Gaffney or somebody set up a ruling you couldn’t get into Alaska without a pass, somebody did, the Air Corps or the Army or somebody. So we had, I had gone through all this stuff getting a pass in New York city and Terrence had done the same thing, with the police.
You get finger printed, you get mugged, everything. In New York it took me four hours before they would finally do it. They thought I was some foreign spy, I guess or some God darn thing. Finally they did, they said okay, we got to do it. They finger printed me and took my picture and made out all the paper work and I shouted to the, to the people that let you in, now what the heck is it, the huh Customs?
Sent it to them and Terrence did the same thing they said we shipped it to Cutbank. So when we got there, nothing. So at the end of fourteen days we getting awful tired just sitting in Cutbank. In the mean time Terrence had checked out in the airplane, we went down to Helena, and FAA and they checked him out and we shipped the other bird home, the pilot and Terrence and I did some flying around so we could get some time in.
And I worked on the engine a little bit changing the oil, fiddled around. And you know, by golly we got an order one day from, telegram, the Customs there, to leave us go, from General Gaffney right here in Fairbanks.
And huh, so we waited a minute or two, and day or two so they shipped up four carpenters and all their tools from L.A. And they come in on a train and we load them aboard and we took off for Fairbanks.
And huh, let’s see, when we got -- when we got to Fairbanks why the thing went right on the job. They didn’t let me, I repaired the seats, I put them all together, welded them all up and everything and then we took them over and were going to have them upholstered. And the meantime they wanted to use the airplane so bad you know flying here to Whitehorse and back.
We used it all the time. And we could only haul six people, I think. Four in the seats, no five, five passengers. But huh, God they would pay anything to get to Whitehorse. So people were coming in from Anchorage and down the chain and Nome, everywhere. Wanting to go Outside.
So they used the airplane and on one of, they didn’t lay it up long enough for us to get a good chance to winterize it. Okay come winter time, Terrence McDonald took off and went to Whitehorse and on the way back he run into some nasty weather and he had to land at Northway or somewhere. Tok, Northway?
I don't think -- no -- Tanacross, the military had built a field there at Tanacross. And they had no facilities there, no heaters no nothing. And his engines got cold and he’d run them a while, shut them down and then run them a while and shut them down. Finally he couldn’t stand it no longer and he loaded his passengers aboard and took off.
And he come down right on the bar opposite Harding Lake out in the Tanana, busted the airplane up pretty bad landed on his belly. Well all those guys had to do, he knew where he was all the time, all they had to do, the engines quit, two outboard motors quit. And they walked across the river, crawled up the bank and they were one the old Rich Road. Well they waited there a while and a car come along, picked ‘em up, took ‘em to town.
JIM HUTCHISON: So I went out the next day and looked at the thing and of course there was nothing we could do. We just tore it apart. We got Munchler, Dave Munchler, he had a cat and a sled. We went out and hauled it to Fairbanks. And we never rebuilt it. Crunched pretty bad all through the bottom and everything.
In the mean time Frank sold out to Alaska Airlines and I worked for them for a while and finally got out of there, I didn’t like their operation too well. I went back to work for Frank, he bought out Gillam’s outfit. Flying the Kuskokwim, mail there to Bethel. And I worked there and uh, let’s see, from there. Yeah I went to work down at, from Alaska Airlines, I went to work for the NC company and I worked there for three or four years.
Then we moved, ’52 we moved down the Field. My son in-law had built a hangar down there and leased it to the NC company and for a year and they didn’t take it up. Then I run, then I quit there, run my own business there for three years. And the guy, my son in-law, Randy Acord, he decided too much for you know, running two businesses, he had his own business going.
So, Magoffin wanted to buy, Jim Magoffin wanted to buy this thing so we sold it to him. And then I went to work for Magoffin, that’s Interior Airways. And I stayed with them ever since. Interior to AIA too, well I never worked for Mark Air yet. So that’s pretty near the extent of my aviation business.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: There’s two stories that you’re pretty famous for. One is that plane you worked on, up by Unalakleet.
JIM HUTCHISON: Oh hell yeah. That was a, why I passed over that one. I, when I was working for Alaska Airways, yeah Ben got himself killed over there in Siberia. And on the way over why, we got forced down in a snow storm. On the Ungalik River, and we fixed a week there fixing the wing up.
Knocked five feet of the wing off when he landed. And it was snowing to beat the band and we had to run back up the trail and pick all the pieces up. Forty feet under the snow, couldn’t find ‘em this Bill Hughes and I. And we got back and then we parked the airplane, drained the oil, folded the wings.
Fairchild 71 that was a good feature of them, you could fold the wings back, big airplane too. And we folded the wing back now the wind didn’t blow it away you know, like it would in a -- if you left the wings up. So we went to bed that night, next morning we took everything out of the airplane, put it underneath the airplane, so it wouldn’t get snowed on. We went in our sleeping bags, went to bed, went sleep.
Woke up in the morning, went to work on that thing. Well had, as I recall we had four gas cases, and all these gas cases was full of, for airplane supplies stuff. Like dope, an uh fabric, and uh needles, and uh tape, all kinds of stuff, brushes but no nails, we forgot the nails. Brads you know, little nails and stuff.
So I, very carefully took all these boxes apart, salvaged every nail, straightened them all up good an everything. And then we would take the little ax we had a big ax and a little ax, we’d lick the ax and then we spliced as far with gas cases, nailed them together with nails and made ribs out of willows and anything we could find around there. And we finally got the thing together, put the cover on. We had just enough dope, one cord of dope, to cover the whole thing, top and bottom.
Well it was pretty weak, we put the little tapes on the top and rib stretched it and everything, just like real fancy job you know. But we didn’t quite have enough dope to bring it to life, good tight. But it flopped a little bit, it was alright. Oh then we just sit, we did nothing for days, we fixed it in four days.
The fifth day we just sat waiting for the weather and the sixth day same thing, sitting, waiting for weather. The seventh day, by golly we woke up and sun was shining it was nice and we fired up.
On the fifth day, we fired up and taxied way back up the river. Turned it around and got it all ready to go. So the seventh day we took off and went down, land at Unalakleet. And we spend four days in Unalakleet and flew on to Nome, and uh, in the meantime there too, a week I was supposed to be over in Siberia fixing ol’ Gillam’s airplane.
Why uh, they had fixed it. They had a Russian boat was froze in close to (Nananacott) there, where the search was going on. They had some drills, and stuff like that you know on the boat. So they fixed this thing so Gillam could fly it, fixed the landing gear. The wing wasn’t bad, they didn’t do anything to the wing.
And uh, so they tell me I don’t have to go over to Siberia. So I come home, I spent about a month over there fixing airplanes, monkeying around. Then I come home. It was in March and Pat Reid went over there and cracked up the same airplane that we had already fixed, busted it up. And then I had to go the next time to fix it up.
So I got to go over there after the search was over, the bodies were found, the fellows were buried. Ben was shipped outside. Harold was buried up here on the hill. And we just cleaned up everything, bringing the airplane back. And I had to go over there, and a fellow by the name of Herb Larson, went over first.
He was going to fix it, they weren’t going to send me over, he was going to fix the airplane, but I got over there and the landing gear fittings were all pulled off the fuselage you know, bad. He had to go back to the boat then, ninety miles by dog team.
And old Bob Gleason got on the radio and called for Hutch to bring the welding outfit. Well that meant two or three more trips over there for Joe Crosson and these guys. Now I went over and welded it on and then get got up the (Nanuk) and spent eight days there and then flew both airplanes out loaded with fur.
And uh, let’s see, that was, yeah that was before I got the rheumatism. And uh, we got home and uh -- yeah I pretty near lost my life on one trip. This thing was all over then, that trip was gone, the airplanes were all back. They were building uh, they were showing -- they were making a movie picture up in Teller and I can’t recall the name of the darn thing. Alaskan, or something, MGM.
And, they hired, they hired an airplane from my company Alaska Pacific Alaska. They had this Stearman, we put it on floats. No it was a Waco, no a Waco, we put on floats and Jerry Jones went up there to fly it for them. They needed it in the, this picture taking business.
So by golly he come in to land one day, and his, the engine had quit, and he come in landing the floats, hit the back of the bank like that, the back of the floats and bend the struts, didn’t hurt nothing, the airplane was wishy-washy, but it didn’t fall off or nothing, didn’t hurt nothing. So I flew up there with Robbins, him and I flew up and we took a Stinson up there a SM8A.
And we picked up the Waco, I fixed the Waco up. And Jerry and I, or this Robby and I are to fly it back to Fairbanks, and we left Nome and we got to Ruby and landed at Ruby, put some gas in and the weather was lousy from Ruby to Fairbanks. This side of Tanana somewhere. But Robby’s wife was just coming in on the train that night and he wanted to be here to meet her.
So we decided to go. So nothing I could do, I got in the front and away we went. And I had to help him start the engine, they got a crank on the side you know, varoom varoom, inertia starters, you pull a button you know and then it flips the prop, you got to have that on floats. So I, -- we come along, and he says, “I notice the weather deteriorating awful fast." We were getting closer to the water.
And finally nothing, Robby pulled the throttle back, we went about, oh I don’t know, after we hit the water, we must have went about a hundred feet and wheeeew and up on a bar, right out in the middle of Tanana. Holy Christ here we are right out in the middle of Tanana, can’t see the bank. And I know darn well that the, he just raised hell with the pontoon, because anytime you hit that hard, tear the bottom out. So about that time down stream we could see just a little snow was, the fog was raising just a little bit, or what ever it was.
So he hollered at me, he said, “Get out and lift the thing off the bar and we’ll get down and go over on bank over here.” Well he had just been operated on a month before that for appendicitis and he wasn’t too healthy. So I, I was just wearing shoe packs, you know what they are? No rubber boots or nothing,
I wade out, wade in water that deep, cold, snowing, nasty. And I got my back under the wing, raise up the wing and then he would give it the throttle and I’d run ahead four or five steps and we walked it off the bar. Got it in the water and he said, “Crawl aboard!”
So I crawled aboard and he opened her up and we started and about half way over he closed off the throttle a little, you know we started upset, no this way, it was this float, we started upset. And he poured the coal to it right quick, opened up the engine. And this float just barely would come up out of the water. And there we were, going crooked, we went over onto a, onto the beach on the low side on a bar. Holy Christ, and there we are.
Put the airplane up as high and dry as we could, and I, I got out and he didn’t have the very good gear. I had a parky and a heavy coat my feet were wet and I was freezing. I was cold. But I rushed off into the woods with the ax and I cut some wood and scraped the snow around, built a big fire and got it going good, poured a little gas on the fire pot on it to get it going.
You know, fire pot. I got it going and old Robby says,” Gee willikers,” he said, “I’m freezing.” I said, “Well here you use my parky.” So he put the parky on. I kept the fire going. Made it, I made a deal where reflect, the heat would reflect back on to us, and I kept the fire going all night and he did some sleeping and snoozing, and I worked my neck off that night.
Never did get a wink of sleep. And in the morning, why, we got up and it was nice. You could see. If we’d waited in Ruby, there would be been nothing to it that night. So anyway, there we are I went out and put the covers off the pontoon and a whole piece is ripped out of the float that long. Great big hole. And ragged edges of the pieces were bent back.
Well, the only thing I could do, I, I straightened them up. I got with my hands underneath and the water and bent those pieces back up into the hole a little bit ya know, try to fill the hold up, and we unloaded the airplane. We had 75 thousand dollars worth of film, unexposed film not developed.
It was taken on that picture up there. It was insured for 75 thousand dollars right there on the card, the card right on it and we took that out, took all the seat covers and the seats and all the tools and the firepot, crank everything. No, I left the crank.
And got a pump, so I told Robby, I said, “Now goddammit, we’ll get the engine going, I had to heat the engine to get it going. I put the fire pot under the engine, put the motor cover on, heated it up and we turned the airplane around, pulled the tail up on the bank.
And then I pumped to beat the band you know. We got the engine all warm and everything, and in the meantime that night, while I was sitting there building a fire you know I got up and went out took a look at the airplane, my God I could hear dogs barking.
And right across the river was a cabin, dogs and everything over there. But the guy wasn’t there, he was up town, he couldn’t get home, the weather was so bad. He had run in the boat. Ah, anyways, we pumped, I pumped that float I pumped like a son of a gun. The other one was good, it didn’t get hurt any. So I pumped this one and I got it pretty dry.
Most of the water out of it, and in fact we raised the wing up and drained it out through the hole in the float. A lot of it. So, we got the engine to run, everything was fine, warm, so Robby got in and I pumped, and pumped and then I gave big shove ya know, in the back and away we went, ya know and the farther he went out in the creek the lower he got. Finally he was able to take off. He got in the air, that’s the last I seen of him.
So I went back to my fire, and I went out and got some more wood, and built it up, and about that time I hear “chug chug chug,” here come a little boat down the river. And the guy come over, he says, “Uh, you in trouble,” and I say, “You bet.” I said, “Couldn’t hire you to take me up the Tanana whereever it is?" He says, “Ya know how far it is?” “Only about 15 miles,” so we turned the boat around loaded all my stuff aboard and out the fire out, away we went.
I got up there and, I can’t remember the guy’s name that was running the, the roadhouse there. (Baschon) I think was his name. And he had a roadhouse there and he had a bath, and I asked him if I could get a good hot bath I was freezing to death or something was wrong. So I got in and took a bath and went to bed.
And I was going to get some sleep fact he gave me a couple of hot drinks. And I don’t think I got to sleep and here comes an airplane. It was Ed Young. He come down, picked me up. What he did, he was going to fly down Tanana and hire a boat to go down and get me and then come back and fly me to town.
Well, he didn’t know I was there, until he talked to the guy you know, “Ya, he’s in here.” Well he woke me out of bed and I was hot and put on my clothes and open cockpit it was cold in the air, and I got in the goddamned thing and flew to Fairbanks, and it was it’s wasn't not shortly after that I got this rheumatism.
Sciatic rheumatism in my hip, back. Well they took Ed, took me over to Circle Hot Springs, and I spent a month there, but and then when I come back, why I was about ready to go to work and I got a letter saying they fired me! But that was all right. What the hell. OK.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: You’ve seen a lot of changes in aviation over the years, and the mechanics job has changed some. JIM HUTCHISON: Uh hum. WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: This is a tape that maybe school kids will listen to some day, and they might like to kinda hear some of the changes that you thought about.
JIM HUTCHISON: Ya, well, when I went to course, everything was a lot of the airplanes were made out of wood. Uh, the spars are wood, you know. And the, a lot of the structure was wood in the fuselage. And then came the advent of a 10-25 carbon steel tubing, which they used to build the fuselage with, then came the uh, right after that was a 41-30 which was Chromalloy, which was great, and sheet, Chromalloy sheeting for making fittings and finally, went from fabric of course to all metal airplanes.
All riiveted, like the 180 and Cessna 180, and now the Fairchild 71 that I did lots of work on was a tubing and fabric and wood spars. The spars were wood. But they were heavy and big and strong. And then of course, a, after a while came a metal spar, metal ribs, now pretty quick everything’s all metal.
Like a, Beach Craft, Bonanza, that was nice little airplane, and Navion all metal, and, but they still, they still, hang in there with like the Super Cubs are still tubing and fabric, and I imagine they’ll always be around. New kinds of grade fabrics you know, like secanite, and we had Irish linen, we had grade A fabric, and we got all kinds of stuff now, and good, real good.
Ya, it’s been, been a great experience. And of course, then '46, during the war, all the quick changes that had to make right now, like the DC3, the DC2, DC3 and Lodestars. And all metal. Then of course, I don’t know who made the first jet, but it wasn’t long until you were blowing them around the sky. Look at 'em today.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Did you work on the DC3’s?
JIM HUTCHISON: Oh yeah, ya um hum. Ya, I worked on the DC3. We changed the that was a good airplane, that was, a I, I really believe that the DC3 maintenance-wise was an easy airplane to maintain. Because the 46 was pretty good, but a, but the well in fact, it still is, there using quite a few 46’s yet. But uh, a DC3 has got something else again, there a lot of 'em around yet I guess. I liked work on a DC3, yup.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: How about in the power plant, you’ve seen a lot of changes in engines?
JIM HUTCHISON: Yeah, yeah, well I never did do much for that end of the business, I did a little of it, over all a couple of engines. And uh, the big change that I could think of was in the s -- the light aircraft. The, what I was interested in more then the big airplanes was the smaller airplanes. At that phase. And uh, like the OX5 went OXX6, it’s the same engine only it had a OXX6 had two mags on it.
And a hissole, water cool all of um. And of course came the air cool engines. Which were developed in the first World War I guess. During the first world war. Chrome and uh, ok, I can’t think of the names of these things. Well anyway, first I got tangled up with was a J5, J4, as I was telling you. I come up here in a Fokker, that was a good engine.
But it didn’t have enough power, you see. So they kept scooping up the power all the time, figuring out ways to do it, and they, they uh, the J5 which Lindberg had in his airplane, and there’s still a couple of ‘em around Fairbanks that run. Uh, it was overhead lubricated. Which made it great.
Uh, the J4 that I was interested in, in the Fokker and we had them in Stinson was every 20 hours you have to take a push rod out and grease push rods and rocker arms with a marfax, we called it, kind of a green grease that’s stickier than the dickens. WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: What did you call it?
Marfax,the grease, I remember that -- every 20 you have to do that and we've had a few accidents -- due that -- due to the fact that the mechanics wouldn’t tighten up the a, little screw that hold the adjustment for the valves. Oh, yeah, then the J4’s and then the more power up to the Wasp Jr. and uh, and the J6’s. Of course the Wrights had some good engines, but they were light and developed a lot of power but they didn’t stand up like the Pratt-Whitney engines, later.
And uh, they're all, there’s a lot of 'em around yet I guess, still flying.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Well, I need to ask you one more question here. If that’s all right? JIM HUTCHISON: Uh huh. WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: You said the other day that you don’t consider yourself a pioneer.
JIM HUTCHISON: Oh, well, that you know, that slipped out. I hadn’t really um, what I was think of when I said that was the fact that I didn’t arrive in the country here until 1919 and all the mining was practically over ya know. And uh, so uh, I’ll never forget this I, you had to belong you had to be in the country 30 years to get into the Pioneers you know, so I uh, I put a they -- they had a big deal going there, and I was going to they come down and ask me if I wanted to join.
And I said, “Well, I haven’t been in the country 30 years yet. I lack a few months being 30 years.” Oh, “That’s Okay sign off” and I paid up the money and they put the application in and the damn investigating committee turned it down because I wasn’t 30 years. So I had to wait another 3 months before I could get in. An uh, often, I often thought about being a pioneer.
And the old Pioneers I had associated with, a lot of 'em, curled with um, years ago. Ya know, guys that come up here in 19-6, 7, 8 here I come in 1919 and I was a, I figured I was a tea chalker. But uh, I got Pioneer and then in the aviation business. So, believe me, that’s what I say, I’m a pioneer in the aviation business. Yeah know, the rest of these guys were Pioneers in the mining business. Yeah, I got in on the ground floor in the flying business. Loved it.
JIM HUTCHISON: Everybody wondered why I never learned to fly. Well, ya know, I’ve often thought about that myself. And uh, I think one of the main reasons I didn't -- never learned to fly was the fact that, that uh, I had five children when I could have learned to fly real easy. Five young youngsters and I figured that their uh, without a father it would be real rough, ya know, you go out and get yourself killed or something and all the guys that I knew or quite a few of them ya know, had done that.
Yup, Ralph Wien started to teach me to fly, I flew about 45 minutes with him and I was doing pretty good ya know, in those days, if you could land and take off, they let you go, you were a pilot. You didn’t have to have any, you could haul people around or anything. You didn’t have to have a license or so many hours.
Now you got to have what, 200 hours before they let you have a license in anything. Yup, Ralph was a good guy, he uh, I flew with him in that Bellanca. And I’ll bet you there isn't too many guys left that have flew in a Packard diesel engine in an airplane. And uh, Brother Feltes, Catholic Priest here brought one in and uh, I helped him work on it and Ralph asked me if I’d like to go up with him when he checked it out.
He brought a fellow to check it out, so I said, sure so I rode in the front seat with Ralph. And we made six touch and go’s around the field, ya know, land never stopped, take off go around and land. And I notice, I told Ralph at the time, I said, “Ralph, this is a real rough machine.” I said, “There must be something wrong with the engine or the prop, out of balance or something ya know.”
Well it wasn’t that at all, was the engine, rough engine ya know, so on the trip to Nome, when they left here they went to Nome and, and before they got up there they shoveled they fiddled up the uh, oil tank, ya, busted the oil tank, they had to build a new oil tank up there.