Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Project Jukebox Survey

Help us redesign the Project Jukebox website by taking a very short survey!

Einar Pedersen

Einar Pedersen was interviewed on February 28, 1985 by William Schneider at his home in Anchorage, Alaska. In this interview, Einar talks about polar flying and arctic navigation, training other pilots in navigation and arctic survival skills, and about his role in pioneering the "over the pole" commercial airline route from Alaska.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 85-18

Project: Pioneer Aviators
Date of Interview: Feb 28, 1985
Narrator(s): Einar Pedersen
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Alaska State Library, Institute of Museum and Library Services
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

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


Einar's introduction to aviation

The formation of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)

Exploring the Arctic via air

Opening the first regular Arctic air route

Regulating the polar gyro

Using stars and the sun for navigation in the Arctic

Being prepared for a forced landing in the Arctic

Using Arctic survival skills in real-life situations

Overcoming SAS management's skepticism of polar flights

Landing rights in Scandinavia and Japan

History of Scandinavian Air Service (SAS)

Work outside of SAS

Einar's book, "The Polar Germ

Impressions from early expedition to Greenland

A World War II vacation in Greenland

Making friends at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

Meeting Alan Innes-Taylor

Creating new maps for polar flying

Making use of the grid maps

Using new technology for polar communication and navigation

Installing SAS communication stations in the far North

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: Today is February 28th and I have the pleasure of being here with Einar Pedersen in Anchorage at his home. And we're gonna talk a little bit about some of the early history of aviation and some of your experiences and how you got into it and the development of some of the routes over the pole.

So I think the best way to start is for me to say I'm glad to be here and I'm eager to hear about how you developed an interest in aviation.

EINAR PEDERSEN: Well, it just started with the war, course. Like most things do. I was studying geology at the Technical University of Norway before the war. But when the war started in 1939, I joined up in the Norwegian Naval Air Force. And was trained as a pilot and navigator. Before that I had been educated as a sea navigator on ships. So I knew fairly well about navigation.

But in 1939 I joined the naval air force and started flying. And the 9th of April 1940 when the Germany nation came, we were going to have our last examination. The final exam.

And that of course, never happened because of the invasion. We had to start fighting on the ground instead of flying, because we lost all the airplanes the first morning.

And then I took part in some other fighting in Norway. Went on for about 2 months, before we had to give up. And then I went over on skiis to Sweden later on.

And from Sweden I went to Russia, down to Middle East where we joined the 8th Army in Egypt. And were stationed there for a while because Rommel was nearly taking Alexandria and we were there for a reserve. We were about 100 Norwegians on the way to our training camp in Canada, which had been established in 1941.

But when the Russian -- or the invasion of Russia started, the fighting in the Middle East wasn’t so hard anymore so they be -- we were released so we could go to Canada. Where I joined the Royal Norwegian Air Force training camp, Little Norway.

And there I was trained as a pilot and navigator. I took the initial training as a pilot and then I -- we were very short of navigators in the Norwegian Air Force and as I had been educated as a sea navigator I joined up as a navigator and got further training as a navigator in Western Canada on Royal Canadian Air Force stations there.

And then I got into what is called a Ferry Command where we ferried the airplanes from Montreal to Prestwick in Scotland. We were supposed to ferry one airplane, Lockheed Hudson, because we were just starting a Norwegian Hudson Squadron in Scotland. But all the Hudsons were sent by ship and the ships were torpedoed, so we lost the whole squadron.

And I kept on flying in the Ferry Command for quite a while until they had established a new squadron.

And in the meantime, I also flew between Scotland and Stockholm. Across Norway. With civilian airplanes. We had a special route from Scotland to Sweden where we picked up saboteurs in Stockholm and flew back to Norway. Back -- over Norway to Scotland.

Then I joined the Norwegian Squadron that was set up at Sunderland flying boats that had been stationed in the Shetland Islands. And for the last part of the war I was hunting submarines along the Norwegian coast, and up in the Norwegian Arctic, up to Bear Island and on the convoys to Murmansk.

And during this work I was very fortunate because we happened to sink German submarine just outside my hometown of Trondheim in Norway. And you know, the submarines were not very easy to get, but we were very lucky to have a definite kill then.

When the war ended and I was extremely lucky because I was navigator on the first airplane that brought the Peace Commission from Scotland to Norway. So we landed in Oslo the 8th of May with the commission that went up to the German general commanding Norway, and he had to give up all the fighting in Norway.


EINAR PEDERSEN: Yeah, so when the war ended and I was supposed to go back to the Technical University and start studying geology again, but I got an offer from Scandinavian Airlines, which just had been formed, to start as the first navigator there. And my job there was to train all the pilots in navigation because they had to pass an exam to get their civilian licenses.

And so I had to start teaching immediately in -- in SAS. And later on, we went over to California to Santa Monica to pick up the two first DC4’s which Scandinavian Airlines had got and ferried them home to Scandinavia.

And then of course, we started flying regularly on the North Atlantic, which I knew fairly well from the Ferry Command where I had been working almost a year. So during the flying over the North Atlantic I tried to get further and further north up to the Greenland area, because before the war I was on an expedition to East Greenland. And that's one of the most beautiful areas in the world.

So I tried to get the routes further and further north because we could save a little time on flying far north on the way from Scandinavia to New York.

And then during the war I had studied polar navigation, of course, I was extremely interested in the Arctic, and in 1947 I started the first course in polar navigation for the Scandinavian Airlines navigators.

That was a little too early of course. Nobody believed in the polar routes at that time, but I -- I always started this course in navigation saying that one day sooner or later we will have to do a flight or two over the Arctic and then it’s a good thing we are prepared to do that, when that day comes.

So I was practicing this theoretical part of the polar navigation on the North Atlantic then. And we soon found out that the gyros we had on the airplane were not good enough for -- for accurate navigation.

I got in contact with this ferry company but they refused to work together with us because they had such large military contracts at that time. And then I got the SAS management interested in this Arctic flying and we formed a group.

And in this group I was given the job of taking care of the planning and navigation of the polar routes. And during this work I had to set up the specifications for a polar gyro to be used for commercial airliners.

I got in touch with a good friend of mine who was an engineer in the Bendex Corporation. And through him we managed to manufacture one single specimen of a polar gyro.

Which we had ready in 1952. And at that time, we were taking delivery of a DC-6B long-range air craft, and I suggested we should fly it from Los Angeles across the Arctic to Norway or to Copenhagen, and the management agreed on that. And in the fall of 1952 we made the first trans-Arctic air flight with the commercial airline from Santa Monica to Thule in Greenland, and then on to Copenhagen.

So that really started the project. On this flight we had a chance to study our methods and also this special gyro which we had made up. And we found it very accurate. And the next airplane -- next three airplanes that was being delivered from the Douglas factory in Santa Monica in California was also flown across the Arctic to Scandinavia, the same route.

And thus we got a little practice in polar navigation. This was in the middle of the winter by the way.

So no -- no airliners had ever flown across the Arctic during the winter, not even -- not even in the summer time, but especially not in winter time.

So we were very interested in finding out how the flying weather was over the Arctic in the winter. And we found out that it was extremely good flying weather, most of the part, in the winter season.

And that resulted in a regular route being opened from Copenhagen across the Arctic to Los Angeles in 1954. At that time, we had also started planning the route to Japan. And in 1953 we made the first flight from Norway to Thule in Greenland and then from Thule to Anchorage and then to Shemya and then to Tokyo.

And the passengers on this flight was Red Cross personnel going to Korea to the Norwegian field hospital in Korea. And we made a number of charter flights over the same route next time was in 1954.

That time we went over the North Pole. We went from Norway to Bodø in northern Norway, and then up then up to -- across Spitsbergen Islands and the North Pole and came in over Barter Island and then landed in Fairbanks. And then from Fairbanks on to Shemya and Tokyo.

It's same type of personnel there at -- or the Red Cross personnel for the field hospital.

And just having made a couple of successful flights we found out that this could be a good idea to start a regular route there. But there we got into difficulties with the management, because they didn’t think it was a good market for passengers across the North Pole. They thought the people might be afraid of flying over the Arctic. Especially in winter time.

But by very thorough planning and also by educating everybody in polar navigation and arctic survival among the crews we managed to set up a proposal to the management which was accepted. And in February 1957 we opened the first regular route across the Arctic to Japan.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: We’re talking about how the gyro works. And I see you have the original gyro here that you --

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, that was the first one that was made. The gyro itself is just a wheel. Very heavy wheel. It’s made of a material called tungsten, which is very heavy. And it rotates around its axis at 23,000 RPM. Which makes it very stable in space. Which again means that if you point the axis of the gyro towards the star it will keep that direction towards the star as long as it rotates with the same speed.

And that was the basis for our navigation system. Then you had to combine this with a controller, because if you point this axis of the gyro towards the star, the star will -- at the North Pole it will drift.

Seems to drift about 15 -- or move 15 degrees an hour. And that would -- if you were steering after an instrument that was drifting 15 degrees an hour, you would fly in an arch and that was not the thing we wanted to do.

For that reason we invented the controller, which really was a small clock that forced the indicator or moved the indicator of the gyro system 15 degrees an hour toward the opposite side at the North Pole.

At the lower latitudes it was 15 degrees times sign to the latitude. And on the equator for instance it's zero and on the North Pole it's 15 degrees an hour.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: So did you have to keep changing and compensating?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yea, we had to find out -- we had to compensate for the mean latitude of the area we were flying over and set different compensations in as we moved along the flight path.

In order to be quite sure that you were flying in the correct direction, we had to check the gyro every twenty minutes with the stars in wintertime or with the sun in summertime.

And in between in the twilight periods, you had to use something we called the Pfund Sky-Compass. It was a special instrument which was invented to pick up polar light from the sky and giving you the direction to the sun when it was underneath the horizon.

And fortunately over the Arctic, you always have very nice weather above 10,000 feet. And most of the time we were with a DC-6’s we were flying at 10,000 feet.

With the DC-7's, we flew at 18,000 feet and with the DC-8's we flew at 36,000 feet. So we were always up in clear air and had the marvelous opportunity to use the stars in wintertime and the sun and moon and planets in summertime.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: So that worked out real well. You mentioned that there was a lot of planning and training of crews involved in this?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, one very important thing was to train enough people to keep these flights running all the time. And for that reason I had to train 600 pilots and about 19 navigators from SAS on the special flight school we had set up in Stockholm for polar flying and navigation.

And included in this training was also Arctic survival training. We were very fortunate to get Alan Innes-Taylor from Alaska to run the Arctic survival courses for the -- all crews, pilots, navigators, flight engineers, and stewards and stewardesses and pursers, of course.

So in the case that we had to make a forced landing in the Arctic we would be very, very prepared to take care of the passengers on board.

Fortunately that has never happened. We have been flying for 30 years across the Arctic without any special incidents where we have had to use the Arctic survival training.

But all the airliners, at least all Scandinavian Airliners, still carry Arctic survival equipment on board. Tents and guns and food for several weeks and the special suit for each passenger so he can survive in the Arctic.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: That’s a lot of extra weight.

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, it's -- it is extra weight, but still we found it necessary to have that extra security on board. Or extra safety on board the airplanes.

Because if it sometimes would happen that an airliner had had to make a forced landing, which you can do quite successfully in the Arctic on the ice, it would be a shame if the passengers would freeze to death because we didn’t have any Arctic survival equipment on board.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: You say, you think it would be possible to make a forced landing on ice?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, yes, it's quite possible. In fact, I made a flight across the Arctic with my wife in a small single engine airplane flying at 500 feet all the way across the Arctic just to study the ice conditions and see if it was possible to land the airplanes at different places in the Arctic.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: And the navigation on that flight with your wife, were you using a gyro of sorts?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, we used the same type of navigation. Yes.

And it was very successful flight. We -- we left Fairbanks and had a flight plan of 21 hours. And we used 21 hours and five minutes on flight from Fairbanks up to the North Pole and then to Nord in Northern Greenland and then on to Norway.

But the main purpose of this flight was to study the landing conditions in the Arctic in case you had to make a forced landing.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: And in your own experience you’ve had to draw on those survival skills?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, fortunately SAS had never any forced landings in the Arctic, but on one flight ferrying a twin engine airplane from Fairbanks to Oslo in Norway, we were three people on board. My friend the pilot, owned the airplane, and was going to use it as a trainer in Norway.

And we took off from Fairbanks towards Inuvik in Yukon or in Northwest Territories. Just as we had passed the Canadian border we got engine trouble on one engine, and the pilot decided to try to fly up to Shingle Point on the north coast.

But we had to cross the Richardson Mountains and on one engine the airplane couldn’t take us over the 6,000 foot high mountains. So the engine got too hot and we had to find a place to make a forced landing.

Unfortunately, the landing was a little harder than expected. We -- it became more or less a crash. And the pilot and the co-pilot were badly hurt and I myself broke my right arm.

But as we had -- as I had been trained in Arctic survival by Alan Innes-Taylor I knew exactly what we should do. The first thing was to build a shelter.

And we managed to get the pilot who was most -- or worst hit or hurt -- to get him in a sleeping bag and then we established a camp.

And we were very fortunate because we had gas and oil from the airplane, which we could burn all the time. So we had three fires burning all the time.

And we survived quite well. We had food for a couple of weeks, but we had to ration very thoroughly because we thought we might be staying there a whole winter.

After 10 days, one aircraft discovered us and the Royal Canadian Air Force sent an Albatross in and dropped supplies for a year, at the place, so in case we should leave the camp we would have been able to survive for a very long time.

But later on they sent up a helicopter which picked us up. But this was a personal experience which I was very fortunate to that I had gone through this training by Alan Innes-Taylor.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: And this was one of the things that you used in training pilots and navigators?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, yes it was. Later on, you know, when I came back to Scandinavian Airlines I had to give lectures on my experience as a survivor in the Arctic. And that was very popular, of course.

They were very interested in seeing how they could survive even if things looks bad.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: So overcoming some of those earlier attitudes of the management were difficult in getting the over the pole flights?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yeah, yeah, the management was very skeptical to this type of operation, because it had never been done before. And if something had went wrong on the first flights, you know, that would have set polar flying back at least 10 years or maybe more.

So it was very important that it was very well planned and that everything worked very well.

But as we were already flying from Scandinavia to Japan or the Far East we had a special route that way and the management thought that the market in Japan wouldn’t be big enough for this polar route.

But at that time Japan was just trying to build itself up as a big industrial nation. It hadn’t started the large export that came later, but we could see that by cutting down 15 to 20 hours on the flying time between Scandinavia and Japan we could save a lot of money, of course, and flying time.

And sooner or later the management grasped the idea that we could save or even make money on this route. And it was decided in 1957 to start up with two flights a week from Copenhagen to Japan.

They proved to be a great success because we had plenty of people that wanted to fly the Arctic. The management thought that people would be afraid of it, but on the contrary people thought it was very exciting. So it became a much more popular route than the route over the Far East.

And that ended with that they had to stop flying in the route from Scandinavia over the Far East to Japan because all the people, mostly the Japanese of course, wanted to fly the Arctic. So it became a very large or great success.

But for the first couple of years we were flying alone over this route, because all other airlines thought this would be a flop. They didn’t believe in it. But when they saw it was a great success they came and wanted to go through the training which we had built up for our own people.

And during the next couple of years, I had to train navigators and pilots from I think it was around 10 different airlines. And I also had to go to Japan and train all the Japanese navigators and pilots.

When they opened their first route from Japan to Scandinavia I even had to go on the first flight as an advisor, which was quite exciting.

And at that time, Japan Airlines was just a small airline, you know, and later on it became of the world’s largest airlines. Today they have maybe 20 flights going over the Arctic every day while we still have three flights a week. Unfortunately, we were never allowed to fly more than three flights a week into Tokyo over the Arctic.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: We’re talking about landing rights and how that got established.

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes. In order to get landing rights in Japan you have to give the Japanese airline landing rights in Scandinavia.

And Scandinavia could only offer three landing rights in the whole area in Norway, Denmark and Sweden. So against these three landing rights we got three landings every week in Tokyo in Japan.

So we didn’t have so much to bargain with, as the Japanese have with their hundred million people. We are only about 15 million people in Scandinavia. So the market isn’t that big.

But with those three landing rights we have, we manage to carry full loads all the time and that is, of course, the most important thing because the airline has to make money in order to survive.

And Scandinavian Airlines has been very fortunate in being able to make very good profits, at least the last ten years.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Talk a little bit about the history of SAS, Scandinavian Air Service, and how you got involved.

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yeah, Scandinavian Airlines was formed in 1946 from three countries, Norway, Denmark and Sweden which contributed to the capital of this company. The Swedes, which hadn’t been hit by the War so much as Norway and Denmark, were better off financially in 1946 so they contributed 3/7ths of the capital, and Norway and Denmark contributed 2/7ths of the capital to this -- to forming this airline.

This was a new experiment. It was the first time three countries had gone together and formed an airline. And very many people were very skeptical about it because there are always little differences between three different countries.

But fortunately we seemed to work very well together and the crews on each flight were mixed crews. We never flew one crew from a special country. Always had some Swedes, some Danes and some Norwegians in each crew.

The only difficulties was that the -- the Swedes couldn’t quite understand the Danes and the Danes had a little trouble understanding the Swedes. And after a while it was decided that the official language in the Scandinavian Airlines should be English.

So we came into the funny situation that on board the airplane we always spoke English. All the procedures and everything was set up in English. And all the training was in English in order to not have a preferred language among the Scandinavian languages.

And in 1946 the first routes that were flown was across the Atlantic to New York. Later on, the airline started expanding and started flying to South America, to the Far East, and then finally to the --across the Arctic.

And we even had planes flying over the Antarctic. We had set up a flight in 1956 from Australia across the Antarctic to South America. Thus making a flight around the world, because we were flying from Scandinavia across the Arctic to Melbourne, when they had the Olympic Games there, and one of those airplanes were supposed to fly over the Antarctic back to Scandinavia.

But in the last minute the management decided not to make the flight, so I was very heavily involved in planning of this flight and I was very disappointed when it didn’t come off.

I had hoped that Scandinavian Airlines in the future would have been flying the Trans-Antarctic routes, too, as well as the Arctic, Trans-Arctic routes, but it never came off.

However, I made the flight myself just to prove that it was possible to fly across there very safely. I made the flight around the world in 1970 from -- we started from Oslo to Australia and then from Australia, New Zealand to, across the Antarctic to Chile. Punta Arenas. And then over South America, North America to Point Barrow and then across to the Arctic to Oslo again.

So I -- I had very, very fortunate to be able to make the flight even if it wasn’t my company that made it. It was a personal flight.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: What plane did you use on that flight?

EINAR PEDERSEN: We used a Cessna 421. It’s a twin engine Cessna with piston engines.

The thing was that we took part in an air race from London to Sydney in the 1969. And we won the third prize there, and that prize money was used to buy gas to fly over the Antarctic. Back to Scandinavia over South and North America and the Arctic.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Besides working for SAS, you’ve also done some specialized flying and navigation work in the high Arctic?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, I used to take a leave of absence three months every year from Scandinavia Airlines.

Because flying for a large airline, you know, you get spoiled. Everything is so safe and you're treated so well. You stay at the best hotels. You eat all the good food, you know, and you have per-diem. You are very well off.

But then I thought it could be very interesting to see something different from the high altitude flying as the airlines did. After a while, when we got the jets, you know, we all flew very high.

So I made a lot of expeditions. I took part in a lot of expeditions with small single engine airplanes where they needed navigators. I was on different expeditions to northern Greenland with the Danish expeditions.

I took part in an expedition to the North Pole with a guy -- an Italian millionaire that wanted to go to the North Pole with 333 dogs. So I spent time as a navigator on twin Otter which flew out every day to this expedition dropping 300 kilos of dog food every day,

And at the same time we made a navigation for the expedition. We took the position every day of the expedition and more less navigated him up to the North Pole and back.

And later on I took, with my wife -- we have a single engine Cessna 185 -- with my wife we made a lot of flights for the Norwegian Polar Institute up to the area north of Spitsbergen. And between Spitsbergen and Greenland setting off -- landing on the ice and setting up automatic weather stations, mostly to measure the drift of the ice.

And that was very exciting work to land on the polar ice there, because you had to be extremely careful when you select an area to land on. You have to do what the pilots call dragging.

You have to land first and look at the land and fly with high -- fairly -- well you have to fly with log speed over the area just dragging your skis in the snow, you know, and see if the ice is good or not.

If it's water on the ice, you will see black lines in your ski trails, you know. Then you wouldn’t land there.

But if it's solid white, you know, you can land there safely.

So we made a lot of exciting flights. Even over on the Russian side, we were logged by the Russians to set off a couple of these stations. And north of the Franz Joseph Land in the Soviet Arctic.

And we also ferried a lot of airplanes from Alaska across the Arctic to Norway. Just as ferry flights across.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Those were during your times off?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes. That was in my free time, yes.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: And then you spent a lot of time writing, too, I know.

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, I -- after this forced landing, you know, where I broke my right arm, I had to stay away from flying for one year until the arm healed, because it was paralyzed. The hand was paralyzed.

So I couldn’t fly for a year. During that time I wrote a book about polar flying. And that became quite a success in Norway. So the publisher asked me to write a new book and I’m just finished with that now.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: And the title of the first book is?

EINAR PEDERSEN: "The Polar Germ." "Polarbasillen" in Norwegian. "The Polar Germ." It tells about how you get the bug, polar bug.

More or less you -- as a young man, I was hit by the polar bug, you know, and couldn’t stay away from the Arctic. So I spent almost 40 years in the Arctic, mostly flying but also on the ground, quite a lot.

I have tried to visit all the places where I would fly over with the airliners from -- on the ground, even the North Pole. So I -- its interesting to see everything from the ground you know, or from the ice.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Do you have a title yet for your second book?

EINAR PEDERSEN: No, I haven’t decided the title yet. No, no.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Tell us how you first got bit by the germ of the Arctic.

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yeah, that -- that is quite interesting because I was studying geology at the Technical University in Trondheim and then a friend of mine was a trapper in Greenland and he was making an expedition to Greenland, so we made a combined scientific and economic expedition.

The scientists did climbing around in the mountains, taking samples of the stones or minerals in the mountains. And of course the trappers were hunting musk oxen and fishing salmon. They have a special type of salmon called the Greenland Salmon, which we also fished along the coast there.

And this summer in 1938 was a special, beautiful summer up in Greenland. We didn’t have a cloud in the sky for three months. And the area is very colorful. You have lots of red and yellow, and different colors in the mountains, you know. So they are really beautiful area.

And also you have a lot of wildlife. You have, of course, musk oxen. You have the Arctic hare. You have hundreds of different geese, types of geese, and ptarmigan and everything. It was paradise, you know, for a hunter, and we really enjoyed life up there.

At that time we were allowed to shoot musk oxen, where today they are protected, you are not allowed to shoot them anymore.

So I -- and also in coming into Greenland we were stuck in ice for ten days, so we have -- we shot ten polar bears while we waited in the ice there. That wasn’t very sporty hunting, because we burned blubber, you know, in the -- on board the ship.

And the polar bears came homing toward the ship you know, when we shot them from the ship. It wasn’t -- I didn’t like that type of hunting, but at least I got acquainted with the polar bear hunting, too.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: So that was your first real taste in the Arctic?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes. And I was a fairly young man. I was 19 years old at that time.

And that visit to Greenland made a very deep impression on me, so I decided that I will -- would spend most of my time in the Arctic after that.

So when I got into air force, we started flying airplanes across Greenland, you know. I was very fortunate, we had to land on the Blue West 1, on this southern part of Greenland every trip we flew across and I spent a lot of time there during the war.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: What was the name of that place?

EINAR PEDERSEN: We called it Blue West 1. It was a military base on Greenland. On one of my last trips the pilot got sick. He got an attack of appendicitis, so he couldn’t fly the airplane. I had to fly it from Goosebay to Greenland.

And I had been trained as a pilot as well as a navigator, so I could do most of the flying, except in the landing, he wanted to sit up in his captain’s seat, you know. So just as we had landed he was taken into hospital and operated.

And I had spent a month in Greenland waiting for him to get well again, you know. And that was in the middle of the war. That was a very nice vacation, of course.

It was a very strange thing with ferrying airplanes, you know. When you landed and the airplane was staying on the ground for a while, all the people that needed spare parts, you know, they took it from your airplane. And after a while we didn’t have anything left of our airplane.

So we had to wait quite a while to get a new engine and propellers and everything, you know. But that was in the middle of the war. That was a really enjoyable vacation.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: We’re talking now about over the Pole flights to Fairbanks and on to Japan.

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yeah. Yeah, we usually have flew from Norway to Fairbanks and then we had overnight stop in Fairbanks. We stayed in a hotel there and then went on to Shemya and Tokyo the next day.

But in 1954, the directory -- the President of Scandinavian Airlines was on the charter flight and I got very well acquainted with him. So he gave me the opportunity to spend the summer in Fairbanks.

I joined the University of Alaska and was studying Arctic Meteorology there for a couple of months in the summer time. Which I enjoyed very much because during that time I got acquainted with Sig Wien and with Alan Innes-Taylor and several other people.

Kåre Rodahl who was Norwegian working in the -- for the Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory and several very interesting people.

Also Max Brewer on the -- from the station up on Point Barrow. So I got very many good friends in the area there, which has been very valuable later on.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Yeah, some of those people were then helpful in developing -- ?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, yes, they were extremely helpful. Yes.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: That’s when you first met Alan Innes-Taylor?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, that was in Fairbanks in 1954. And of course by being acquainted with Sig Wien I could fly free on all the routes of Wien Airlines. So I visited all the places in Alaska which I could reach by his airline. Which also was very interesting.

Up in Point Barrow I got acquainted with a man that I still have -- I still have a connection with. His name was Charlie Edwardsen. He was half Norwegian, his father was Norwegian and his mother was an Eskimo. And I met him as a young man there in 1954, I think, and I still meet him here sometimes. Here in Anchorage. He always comes by our house here when he's in Anchorage.

So worked at the Geophysical Institute where they had all the maps of the Arctic, all the weather maps of the Arctic. And I went through all the weather maps and made a summary of the flying conditions over the Arctic in summer and winter.

And I also was invited by the Air Force to make one of the Ptarmigan flights to the North Pole from Eielson to the North Pole, which also was very interesting because it was a low level flight.

We flew at 500 feet all the way to the North Pole and back. And that gave me a good chance to see the ice conditions also.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: So it's that combination of on the ground looking at things, flying with Sig Wien and getting out in the country, and also the studying of the climate and the weather and the maps?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yeah. Yeah. So when I got back to Scandinavia I had to make a report, of course, of my studies in Fairbanks. And based on this report of the weather conditions over the Arctic, we decided to start regular flights across there. So it was quite an important visit to the university there.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Another side of the story that you were just mentioning to me was the development of these maps, these airline maps for over the pole.

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, it was quite impossible to buy good navigation maps over the Arctic. The U.S Air Force had some maps, but they were so large and bulky that they were not very practical and they didn’t contain the information which is very important for commercial airliners.

So we had to construct our own maps. We had a special company, the SLT in Stockholm, which made the maps on my own specifications. In fact, I started producing maps a long time before the management had decided that we should fly the polar route regularly.

And I spent quite a lot of Scandinavian Airlines’ money in this map project. And I was very heavily criticized by the economical people because I had used this money because they thought they would never -- these maps would never be used.

But fortunately we started the regular flights, and after a while we had used up the first -- first stock of maps and we had to produce more of them. And after a while as other airliners started flying the Arctic, like Japan Airlines and other airliners, they bought our maps and it became a good economic proposition for Scandinavian Airlines.

We also had to train, as I have mentioned before, navigators from about 10 different airlines. Also the Norwegian Air Force came to our flying school and took polar navigation training as well as arctic survival training.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: On those maps you were using grids?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, we were using grid lines because on an ordinary polar map, you know, the meridians converge towards the North Pole. And if you should fly a distance away from the pole area it will cut a lot of meridians. Your true heading will change all the time, and it's very impractical.

But using a grid system, you can fly one single heading all the way across the Arctic Ocean and that is very practical, of course. This system was invented by an American Admiral, his name was He invented it in 1928, but it was more or less forgotten.

But I found his papers in the library of the American Geographical Society in New York. And based on his papers I made the recommendations for our own polar maps.

Of course, the Royal Air Force in England and the United States Air Force had made their own navigation maps for the Arctic, too, but they differed very much from ours because they didn’t contain all the commercial information which we needed, like the radio beacons, the Loran stations and all this stuff. They were more or less strategic maps.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Very good. Thank you very much.

EINAR PEDERSEN: It was another thing that we also had to start up before we could fly regularly over the Arctic. That was communication stations.

You know, in the 1953, '54 high frequency radio communication was very difficult in the Arctic. You had a lot of trouble with the Northern Lights and things like that.

And for that reason we couldn’t use high frequency communication on very long distances, so we had to build up a network of radio stations along the route. We had to set up one radio station in northern Norway at Andalsnes.

One station in the Spitsbergen Islands at Isfjord. One station on the northern tip of Greenland at Station Nord. And one in Resolute Bay in northern Canada and one in Point Barrow in Alaska.

In order to be able to keep in touch with the airplanes all the way across the Arctic Ocean, because flying over this area you had to report every half that you were safe and sound.

You had to send in operation normal every half hour and every hour you had to send a position report. And if for some reason this shouldn’t go through and you are flying one hour without having sent -- having been able to transmit your position, search and rescue would start looking for you.

And we didn’t want to have them alerted all the time just because of radio blackouts, you know. So I happened to be on this work, erecting this stations at different places like Spitsbergen and Resolute Bay and also at Point Barrow.

I remember we had just set up the antennas in Point Barrow and everything lookw very fine. It was a very, very long antenna that was set up, with big or quite strong guide wires, you know.

And then the dog team came and cut one of the wires and the whole antenna fell down, you know. So that was quite amazing. But we managed to get it up again.

And at Point Barrow, we’re at Barrow, the Wien radio operator took care of the operation of the station. We didn’t have our own people. We used local people at all the different stations.

But I remember, it was an Eskimo girl working this station at Point Barrow, she had a very beautiful voice. And all the people on the airliners flying across the Alaska, they called her “The Rose of Alaska.” She became very popular, you know.

Some people on their stay over in Anchorage, made the trip up to Point Barrow just to meet the girl, you know. So it was one of the highlights of Arctic flying, you know.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: Well, that's great. The choice of locations for those stations, were those the farthest north locations that you could choose?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, more or less because the one in northern Greenland, for instance, was the furthermost land station we could set up.

But we also tried to set them up at stations where you had weather stations from before, so the local people could operate the SAS transmitters that was put -- or transceivers that was put up there. We didn’t have our own personnel there.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: So you had the support?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yeah. We paid for the service because -- and paid for the installation of the antennas and the radio stations. And paid for the service from the local people.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: So SAS made a major commitment -- ?

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yes, we sure did, yes,
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER: -- to over the Pole flights.

EINAR PEDERSEN: Yeah. Later on we set up more stations in Canada, and later on the Canadian government decided to take over the stations.

We also had a route flying across the northern Canada to Los Angeles, you know, so we had to build some stations in that connection, too.