Alaskan Bush Pilots have earned a unique place in aviation lore and history -- and rightfully so. It's sad that so few of their stories have been published over the years. So this month, we bring you one such book -- the story of pioneering Bush Pilot James "Andy" Anderson.

Simply a wonderful Alaska flying book comes from the small, regional specialty publishing house, Epicenter Press, in Kenmore, Washington. Arctic Bush Pilot is the memoir of one of Alaska's finest, the pioneer Bush Pilot Andy Anderson, who flew alone across the northern reaches of Alaska's Brooks Range from Bettles in everything from a Cessna 170 to a Republic Seabee, to a Noorduyn Norseman and beyond.

Between flying pregnant women to the hospital to taking hunters into Alaska's barely charted (and often incorrectly charted) mountainous north for caribou, dal sheep and bear, to hauling fisherman and medical supplies, this is the real story of Alaska's early years of aviation. It covers a time when such pilots had to do everything, from storing fuel, fixing engines, to running their flight operations out of a tent alongside a small grass strip in the middle of native Alaskan wilderness.

Co-authored as an autobiography by Andy Anderson and Jim Rearden, the book is a light, fun, and wonderful read -- shedding insight into the non-textbook type of flying that is still allowed in Alaska where "Bush Pilot" is an honored title for those who are experienced and skilled, given special privileges and somewhat different regulations from the FAA to fly small scale commercial operations across the one of America's last, untouched wildernesses. Even today, to be a Bush Pilot is an incredible line of work, but by looking back fifty years through this book, you are taken along on an incredible journey over the ridges and pine forests of the frigid north.

Below, dal sheep dot the mountainsides, looking like popcorn from a distance, and the flash of the sun off a moose's antlers can be seen from thirty to forty miles away in the cold winters, where CAVU is really a truthful term. It was a type of flying where strapping a farm wagon to the underside of the landing gear of a Noorduyn Norseman to haul it into a small grass airstrip in the Koyukuk Valley was no big deal.

The style of Rearden's writing and Anderson's story telling is to divide stories into short vignettes, each of which are fascinating and offer real lessons about flying in the north as well as humorous interludes throughout. Take for example the smoker who hires Anderson to fly him out into the wilderness, "where there are no cigarettes", so he can finally quit the habit. After a few weeks, Anderson returns with food supplies and lands on the lake nearby. The man races into the plane, clearly out of his mind, begging to be flown to Bettles, at any cost, or "anywhere else to buy a smoke!" Such is the timbre of the book -- fun reading, through and through.

You probably won't find Artic Bush Pilot on the shelves of your local book store -- it goes that way with most really good books so it would seem -- but you can buy it through for now. We highly recommend it, it's a great book from a specialty house that you'll just have to have on your shelf.

Book Review by: Thomas Van Hare





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