The missing pilot and crash that rocked Alaska's golden age of aviation
Ben Eielson departed Anchorage on Sept. 20, 1929, expecting to find his friend Russ Merrill in a matter of hours. Along with an observer, he flew the 225 miles to Sleetmute believing he would soon find Merrill, or hear word of his location. Eielson did not plan to initiate a massive search of the region or call in other pilots to help, or put his own life on hold for weeks in a vain attempt to find his fellow pilot. In his Travel Air floatplane, Merrill's Sept. 16 flight from Anchorage to the western village of Sleetmute should have taken three hours.
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