On July 3rd, 1913, James V. Martin, would bring the flying age to Alaska with his Gage-Martin Tractor biplane.
Martin, hired by two Fairbanks businessmen, Arthur Williams and R.S. McDonald, shipped his aircraft first on a steamship via the Inside Passage, then by rail to Whitehorse, then on a steamer that vied the Yukon, Tanana, and Chena Rivers and ultimately to the small community of Fairbanks.
Using local, mechanics, Martin assembled his craft on a strip of land used as a ball field south of the town.
Finally, on July 3rd, one day before Independence Day, Martin would taxi on his runway, the location of today’s Noel Wein Library, and make his first attempt, which would be aborted. The aviation fuel for Martin’s aircraft hadn’t arrived and so Martin had to make do with low-quality fuel from the community.
Martin’s second attempt went much better. Pushing his aircraft to 45 MPH, the craft took to the air much to the amazement of the spectators gathered for the event. Most of those at the field had never before seen an aircraft let alone see it soar in the air 200 feet above their heads. That day, the residents of the gold rush town were the first to witness an aircraft in the skies above Alaska.
Already quite famous in the industry prior to his exhibition in Fairbanks, Martin would go on to great accomplishments in the aeronautics industry until his death in 1956.