Carl Ben Eielson


Carl Ben Eielson

Carl Benjamin Eielson (1897 - 1929) was an aviator, bush pilot and explorer. He was born in Hatton, North Dakota to Norwegian immigrants.

His interest in aviation went back to his childhood. Following America’s entry into World War I, Eielson found his chance to become an aviator. Eielson learned to fly in the U.S. Army Air Service in 1917. In January 1918 he enlisted in the newly-formed aviation section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. World War I ended while Eielson was in flight training. This ended America’s immediate need for pilots and Eielson, not willing to give up flying, together with friends organised the Hatton Aero Club starting with barnstorming.

In 1921, he enrolled at Georgetown Law School (now Georgetown University) in Washington, D.C. Working part time as a police officer at the Capitol, he met Alaska's representative to the Congress, Daniel Sutherland, who persuaded Ben to go to Alaska to teach secondary school.

Also that year, he flew the first air mail in Alaska from Fairbanks to McGrath in 4 hours, a distance dog sleds took 20 days to cover. He also flew the first air mail from Atlanta to Jacksonville, Florida in 1926.

He is perhaps best known for flying the first airplane across the Arctic Ocean, with Australian explorer Hubert Wilkins in April 1928. The flight, from Point Barrow to Spitsbergen, covered 3540 km (2,200 miles) and took 20 hours. The main purpose of the flight was to establish whether or not any Island (Graham Land) did exist between Alaska and the North Pole. In the Antarctic summer of 1928 - 1929, Eielson and Wilkins were the first people to make air explorations of the Antarctic, charting several islands which were previously unknown.

After his return from the Arctic flight, Eielson was asked to establish Alaskan Airways, a subsidiary of The Aviation Corporation of America. Eielson died alongside his mechanic Earl Borland in an air crash on November 9, 1929 in Siberia while attempting to rescue 15 passengers of the "Nanuk", a cargo vessel trapped in the ice at North Cape (shown as Mys Schmidt on today's maps).

Eielson Air Force Base and the Liberty ship SS "Carl B. Eielson" are named in his honour, as is the new visitor center at Denali National Park and Preserve. A peak in the Endicott Mountains in Alaska is also named in his honour. Carl Ben Eielson is a recipient of the state of North Dakota's Roughrider Award. In 1929 he was awarded the Harmon Trophy. In 1985 he was enshrined in National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. An elementary school in Grand Forks, North Dakota, is named after him, as well as the Junior/Senior High on Eielson AFB and a middle school in Fargo, North Dakota.

References

*Dorothy G. Page, "Polar Pilot: The Carl Ben Eielson Story". Vero Media, Moorhead, Minnesota. 1992. ISBN 0-8134-2936-6
*Erling Rolfsrud, "Brother to the Eagle", Alexandria, Minnesota 1952

ee also

*1925 serum run to Nome

External links

* [http://nationalaviation.blade6.donet.com/components/content_manager_v02/ view_nahf/htdocs/menu_ps.asp?NodeID=1005983888&group_ID=1134656385&Parent_ID=-1 Eielson information at National Aviation Hall of Fame website]
* [http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Explorers_Record_Setters_and_Daredevils/ north_pole/EX19G7.htm Flight path Alaska-Spitsbergen]
* [http://eielson.org Hatton Eielson Museum]
* [http://www.nps.gov/dena/parknews/eielson-visitor-center.htm Eielson Visitor Center, Denali National Park and Preserve]


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