Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Pete and Renee Merry

Pete and Renee Merry were interviewed on October 29, 2002 by Bill Schneider and David Krupa at their home in Fairbanks, Alaska.  Pete talked about his experiences flying in Alaska with particular emphasis on the Gates of the Arctic National Park area. He flew for Wien Airlines for many years in most parts of the Northern region, working his way up to piloting the jets. He still flys and works for Everts Air Fuel as an engine mechanic. He also has guiding camps in the Gates of the Arctic area.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2002-27-01

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Oct 29, 2002
Narrator(s): Pete Merry, Renee Merry
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, David Krupa
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) Pete's personal background, including learning to fly and his early days of flying in Northern Alaska

2) Guiding and flying experiences in the Brooks Range and northern Alaska

3) Key Brooks Range pilots, dangerous places to fly and land in the Brooks Range, and flying during construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline

4) History of aviation and building runways in the Brooks Range

5) Land use in the Brooks Range and effects of Gates of the Arctic National Park and the Haul Road

6) Flying experiences around Alaska, and memories of guiding and hunting

7) The future of guiding in the Brooks Range and what he is doing during his retirement

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.


Section 1: birthplace -- Oregon\ childhood -- Seattle area\ learning to fly\ flying lessons\ Kurtzers Flying Company\ Seattle\ Petersburg\ Korean War\ France\ flying -- instrument rating\ flying -- engine rating\ job -- Alaska Coastal\ wife -- Renee\ airplane -- types\ G5 Lockheed Vega\ Shevens, Shelt\ Holden, Alex\ airplane -- 196N\ helicopter\ job -- disatisfaction\ Saseed, Merryl\ Borland, Bill\ Reeve Airlines\ Rayburn, George\ Wien Airlines\ Fairbanks\ McGauffin, Jim\ airplane -- Witchett\ job -- Point Barrow\ Barter Island\ airplane -- Norseman 725\ airplane -- floats\ airplane -- draining oil\ King, Dick -- chief pilot for Wien Airlines\ job -- Wien Airlines\ Barrow\ Brooks Range\ charter -- Mobile Oil Company\ Bettles\ Chandalar Lake\ Kayro\ Umiat\ Demarcation Bay\ Umiat\ camp -- moving\ helicopter\ camp -- hauling supplies\ airplane -- 180 on floats\ Cape Lisburne\ Ipewik River Valley\ No Luck Lake\ Lower Koyukuk River\ North Fork of Koyukuk River\ Gates of the Arctic\ Itkillik River\ hunting -- polar bear\ hunting -- sheep\ hunting -- guide\ Loche, Ray\ Chandler Lake -- cabin\ Paneak Family\ Pinnell, Bill\ Anderson, Andy -- Wien pilot out of Bettles\ Summit Lake\ Ernie Creek\ Oolah Lake\ sheep -- population\ land -- ownership\ cabin -- building|

Section 2: Schneider, Sam -- guide\ Oolah Lake\ cabin -- building\ supplies -- hauling\ Bettles\ Fairbanks\ Rampart\ season -- hot\ hunting -- guide\ hunting -- guide area\ hunting -- sheep, caribou, grizzly bears\ hunting season -- bear\ Anderson, Andy\ season -- end of\ end of season -- dangers of\ Oolah Lake -- elevation\ Summit Lake -- elevation\ job -- Wien Airlines\ Mulchen, Mike -- Tok guide\ Wien Airlines -- schedule\ guides -- licensed\ Barrow -- flight routes\ Wainwright\ Point lay\ Meade River\ Atqasuk\ Colville River -- Wood's camp\ Barter Island\ Anaktuvuk Pass\ Chipp River\ Avilavik\ white fish -- hauling\ airplane types -- 180, Norseman, Beaver, Twin Beech\ Dew Line sites\ oil exploration\ geologists -- Mobile Oil\ exploration -- camp personnel\ exploration -- flying supplies\ airplane -- floats\ landing sites\ Kokulik Lake\ helicopter\ Ipewik Lake\ Point Hope\ fuel -- hauling\ fuel -- cardboard boxes\ oil -- gunny sacks\ grizzly bear\ flying -- lessons learned\ flying -- Brooks Range\ Point Barrow\ McGauffin, Jim\ flying -- difficulties of\ navigation -- ADF\ pilots -- lost\ airplane -- Twin Beech\ navigation -- IFR\ airplane -- DC3\ Brooks Range\ weather -- watching\ Barter Island\ fog\ Wein Airlines\ Umiat -- establishment of\ navigation -- beacon|

Section 3: Anderson, Andy\ Bettles\ Gates of the Arctic\ White, Sam -- game warden\ Wien, Noel\ flying -- learning\ Hughes\ Indian Mountain\ Indian Mountain -- difficult conditions\ runway -- one-way\ airplane -- Twin Beech\ airplane -- Twin Otter\ wind direction\ turbulance\ John River -- Hunts Fork\ weather -- marginal\ weather -- trapped by\ landing -- difficulties\ airplane -- F27\ Dew Line\ St. Lawrence Island\ Whitehorse\ Juneau\ Trans-Alaska Pipeline -- building\ Anchorage\ flying -- jets\ Barrow\ Wien Airlines\ Trans-Alaska Pipeline -- role of aviation\ camps\ Coldfoot\ Middle Fork of the Koyukok River\ Kiball, Bob\ airplane -- propellars\ runways -- gravel\ Happy Valley\ runway -- snow\ Galbraith Lake\ Toolik Lake\ airplane -- F27\ airplane -- Federal Express\ airplane -- selection of\ runways -- soft conditions\ airplane -- load carried\ Savoonga\ runway -- volcanic ash\ runway -- take-off\ airplane -- fuel mixture\ airplane -- turbine wheels\ water\ fuel -- methanol|

Section 4: Evert, Cliff\ aviation -- history\ Anaktuvuk Pass\ Fort Yukon\ Merry, Marcy\ Parsons, Ed -- Wien Airlines\ radio guy\ Umiat -- TD14 CAT\ runway -- construction\ Tuluga River\ wannigan\ snow bank\ rescue\ airplane -- support expedition\ Ridel, George\ Sutton, Bob\ food drop\ Anaktuvuk Pass -- first runway\ John River\ runway -- impact of\ Anderson, Andy\ season change -- no landing\ Bettles -- runway\ WWII\ village -- location\ FAA\ Evansville -- establishment of\ Old Crow\ Frost family\ airplane -- Norseman\ airplane -- landing\ lake\ landing -- willow bar|

Section 5: land -- ownership\ Oolah Lake\ Merry, Renee\ land -- homestead\ Itkillik Lake\ Summit Lake\ Long Lake\ land -- patent\ land -- use of\ hunting\ fishing\ berry picking\ fish -- Dolly Varden\ Ernie Creek\ land use -- commercial\ caribou\ road -- effects on animals\ Toolik Lake\ caribou -- numbers of\ noise -- effect of\ National Park -- impact of\ operate business -- difficulties\ winter -- cold\ sheep -- population\ Itkillik Valley\ animal populations -- changes in\ wolves\ moose -- lack of\ North Slope\ Ulu Lake\ Island Lake\ Itkillik Lake\ habitat -- changes in\ moose -- range\ Colville River\ Brooks Range\ guiding -- Park Service policy\ Long Lake\ hunting -- moose\ guide area -- lose of\ Summit Lake\ Ernie Creek\ Itkillik Valley\ Trans-Alaska Pipeline route\ Atigun Pass\ Park -- boundary|

Section 6: Kotzebue\ airplane -- mail run\ Fairbanks\ Indian Mountain\ summer route\ Hog River\ Ogotsa\ winter route\ Kobuk\ Shungnak\ Ambler\ Kiana\ Kotzebue\ flying -- round trip\ flying -- spending overnight\ flying -- winter\ Kotzebue\ Gregory, Frank -- Wien Airlines pilot\ landing -- beach \ Point Hope\ airplane -- oil burning\ airplane -- fuel tank\ airplane -- re-fueling\ Kobuk\ Hughes\ Tanana\ Myberg, Pete\ oil drum -- outside\ Manley Hot Springs\ Hetherington, Sy \ Fairbanks\ landing -- darkness\ mail runs -- routes\ Fairbanks\ Old Minto\ Manley Hot Springs\ Rampart\ Livengood\ Circle Hot Springs\ Central\ Eagle\ Boundary\ Chicken\ terrain -- amount covered\ Kotzebue\ Barrow\ Fairbanks -- based out of\ Nome\ Kotzebue\ Galena\ Bettles\ Fort Yukon\ Gates of the Arctic area\ guiding -- participation in\ hunting -- polar bears\ Dr. Gilley -- Chatanooga, Tennessee\ airplane -- Supercub\ hunting -- sheep\ Summit Lake\ John River\ hunting -- caribou\ Crevice Creek\ hunting -- grizzly bear\ hunting -- moose\ hunting -- goose\ Yukon River\ Beaver\ Fort Yukon\ Bettles -- lodge\ FAA\ goose -- cooking|

Section 7: Brooks Range\ guiding -- short season\ airplane -- wheeled operation\ Park -- hunting in\ guiding -- license and insurance\ fees -- increase in\ business -- operation of\ guiding -- opportunities\ Tikchik Lakes\ airplane -- 07 Fox\ flying\ Brooks Range\ Long Lake\ Yukon River -- fishing\ fishing -- commercial\ fish -- sale of\ , Virgil\ Bettles Lodge\ flying -- stopped\ Old Crow\ Selawik\ Everts, Cliff\ retirement\ Wien Airlines\ airplane -- refueling in winter\ Fairbanks\ airplane -- winter storage\ work schedule\ retirement -- bored\ job -- engine mechanic|