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Joe Sallison
Joe Sallison
Joe Sallison talks about learning to fly, experiencing difficult weather conditions, and finding ways to land when you can't see the air strip.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2011-27-02

Project: Bethel Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Jan 26, 1996
Narrator(s): Joe Sallison
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
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Learning how to fly

Story about flying during whiteout conditions

Looking for a break in the clouds so he could land

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Barry Toelken: How did you guys learn to fly. Did you learn from other guys?

Joe Sallison: I took up flying in Anchorage under Jack Carr's flying service.

I think it was about February and I kept on flying until I got my private there. My instructor was telling me to keep on flying and get my commercial rating.

I told him I'm too homesick. I'm gonna go home. I was in the Army for two years that time.

When I got out I took up flying. So I went on home. A lot of people were surprised that I was flying an airplane.

Barry Toelken: What year?

Joe Sallison: That was in 1948.

Diane Carpenter: Was Ray Peterson operating here then? Was Ray Peterson operating out here then?

Joe Sallison: I think so. Yeah. Yeah. Northern Consolidated.

And it was probably a year later I got my commercial rating.

Olaf was telling me the flight training, flying an airplane was very hard. And I decided it was.

So sometime later I asked him again. Olaf, is it very hard to fly.

He said, you'll never make it Joe. So I asked him a week later and asked him the same thing.

Is it very hard to fly Olaf? He says, Joe, you'll never make it.

So I thought, if it's that hard it's best to try.

So I got into the flight training and I found out that aircraft is very easy to fly. The hard part was landing it. It takes off okay.

The hard part was landing it. It'll take off by itself. So I took 40 hours on that and then got my private license and went on home.

Joe Sallison: I was flying for Jimmix when I made this trip and we took off from here. The weather was good over here. But when we were going down to Tununak the weather was marginal.

So I went on down to Tununak and unloaded three passengers and took three more on.

And we took off, it was getting lower and lower all the time. I went out into the ocean there and the stuff just came on down to the top of the ice there.

I tried to go back to Tununak but it was closed in. So I tried for Newtok but it was closed in.

So I just went out, made a heading and climbed right into the overcast and flew into Bethel.

It took me about oh, probably 40/45 minutes to get out of that.

And picked up a lot of ice but it's a good thing there was no mountains between there and Tununak cause I couldn't see.

I got out of that just about 20 minutes out of Bethel. That was good. I went right on in to Bethel.

Diane Carpenter: You probably had a lot of little narrow escapes like that. Come on, tell us some more. Come on.

Joe Sallison: What was that?

Diane Carpenter: Go ahead. Keep talking.

Buck Bukowski: Tell another one.

Joe Sallison: Oh, another time I went down to Tununak and Mekoryuk.

And I, I unloaded two passengers and took one on and was talking to Henry Shavings.

And he kept telling me, he said it's about 700/800 overcast but he said, there's a hole up there.

So, I started out but I couldn't even get under it so I had to keep climbing.

And I kept going on out there for 30 minutes. I kept flying.

I was right on top of the clouds. Even at 6,000 feet I couldn't find that, Henry's hole.

I just, I went out to the east and I went west, north, south. I told Henry I can't find that hole.

I'm returning to Bethel. So I went on back.

Diane Carpenter: Probably well.