2012 Hall of Fame Inductee
Almer A. Bennett
The Twenty-seventh Alaska State Legislature is proud to honor pioneer aviator Almer A. Bennett upon his induction into the Alaska Aviation Museum"s Hall of Fame on March 22, 2012, in recognition of his years as an “Explorer and Pathway Pilot” in Alaska"s aviation industry.
Acknowledged as one of Alaska"s legendary bush pilots, “A. A. Bennett” was born in Oregon in 1888, where he worked as a logger and a salesman. In the mid-1920s, he moved to Alaska and, together with fellow aviation pioneer Joe Crosson, went to work for the Fairbanks Airplane Company (FAC), which was partially owned by a local railroad conductor and aviation entrepreneur by the name of James “Jimmy” Rodebaugh. Later that year, both Rodebaugh and Bennett pulled out of FAC and began their own airline, the Bennett-Rodebaugh Company.
By 1929, the Bennett-Rodebaugh Company was one of two major aviation businesses in central Alaska, with operations in Nome and at Weeks Field in the Fairbanks area. Bennett and his pilots flew miners, preachers, farmers, lawyers, judges, grandmothers and road commission engineers. They responded to medical emergencies and took on just about any load that folks needed moved within the vast regions of the Territory. Bennett-Rodebaugh planes served Alaskans from Kivalina to Copper Center and from Eagle to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. He is believed to have been the first pilot in Alaska ever to land on the Kuskokwim River at Bethel.
Bennett was a charismatic go-getter who would fly anywhere folks needed service and would fly in weather that grounded many pilots. When the dirigible Norge landed in Teller in 1926, Bennett raced north from Fairbanks to get news shots, and then flew to Whitehorse to get his pictures out on the air waves to be viewed by the rest of the world. His early pilot logs record an incredible history and chronicle the instant attraction aviation brought to Alaska during this exciting period of development, known as the Golden Age of Aviation.
At Mr. Bennett's request in 1929, Zenith Aircraft Company built a huge biplane, the Zenith 6, so he could carry large pieces of mining equipment into remote areas of Alaska. An inventory of the types of aircraft that the Bennett-Rodebaugh Company owned included an open-cockpit Super Swallow, an open-cockpit Waco 9, a Zenith 6, a Stinson biplane and a Stinson Standard SB-1.
In 1929, the Bennett-Rodebaugh Company was sold to Ben Eielson, who at that time owned Alaskan Airways. Bennett flew for Eielson until November 13, 1929, when he flew his last flight. He and his wife departed Fairbanks the following day to go “Outside” by way of the Alaska Railroad and the Alaskan Steamship Company's Yukon.
The Twenty-seventh Alaska State Legislature honors the contributions that A. A. Bennett has made to Alaska and acknowledges the induction of this colorful and daring Alaskan pioneer aviator into the Alaska Aviation Museum's Hall of Fame.
Zenith Model 6A N392V
The aircraft that Bennett ordered from the Zenith Aircraft Company is still flying! It won an award at the EAA Airventure Convention at Oshkosh in 2008.