September 26, 2004
Don Sheldon - Bush Pilot Extrordinaire
While in Alaska I picked up, Wager With the Wind, an interesting looking book about a famous Alaskan Bush Pilot, Don Sheldon. Shortly after purchasing the book I packed the book into my bag to read when I returned home. Days later, while taking a flight seeing tour, our bush pilot explained as we flew into the Don Sheldon Amphitheater that it was named after Alaska's most famous bush pilot who had built a house on the floor of the glacier in the amphitheater. The name sounded familiar but I did not make the connection between the book, that I had purchased, and my pilot's story. Sheldon had flown in all the equipment for the cabin by air. In some cases he broke many aviation regulations by attaching the wood needed for the cabin to the side of his plane.
A few days after returning from Alaska I started the book, mostly to help lessen the effects of my Alaska withdrawl! I was excited to learn the book was about the life of the very bush pilot I had learned about on my flight seeing tour. Additionally, as he was based out of Talkeetna, Alaska for most his life, I enjoyed reading about this town that I had so enjoyed visiting.
Even better than reading about Talkeetna were the amazing tales of Don's life as an Alaskan bush pilot. I had always thought the bush pilot's life was a dangerous and courageous one but had no idea what a risky endevour it really was until I read the book. The fact that Don had a full life of flying that was only interrupted early due to cancer is remarkable.
What I enjoyed most was that he so unselfishly offered his services to those in need. There are several accounts of him making an unheard of flight manuever in order to rescue climbers, ship wrecked boaters or lost hunters. Almost every effort to climb the mountain ranges around Talkeetna including Denali (Mt. McKinley) during the period of 1940 - 1970 likely involved this world renowned bush pilot. Sheldon was heralded for his amazing ability to land on the sides of mountains. Most of his career was spent flying people to some of the most remote locations in Alaska.
The book description states "Don Sheldon has been called 'Alaska's bush pilot among bush pilots'", but he was also just one man in a fragile airplane who, in the end, was solely responsible for each mission he flew, be it a high-risk landing to the rescue of others from certain death in the mountains of Alaska or the routine delivery of supplies to a lonely homesteader."
The Seattle Times wrote "We'll wager this is one book you won't be able to put down!" I can attest to that! I think every anyone would enjoy this book but it is an absolute must read for any pilot.Posted by Todd McClamroch at September 26, 2004 10:35 PM