I learned to fly at age eighteen and have degrees in aviation, history and northern studies. The Map of My Dead Pilots is based on my experiences as lead dispatcher at a Part 135 (commercial) air carrier based in Fairbanks. (More commonly known Outside as a "bush commuter".) The “Company” had bases in multiple bush locations and flew single-engine, multi-engine and twin turbine aircraft carrying everything from scheduled passengers and mail to convicts and sled dogs. There were incidents and accidents, moments of Pythonesque absurdity and brain-numbing hard work. It was never the profession I learned about in the classroom nor the glory stories so popular in modern myth.
Alaska aviation is a job like no other, in a place few people will ever visit or know. In grad school, I studied the state’s air transportation history and on the job I lived it; today my husband and I, who met at the Company, own and operate an aircraft leasing company with planes in Alaska and the western states. The Map of My Dead Pilots is the story of the people who worked at one Alaskan commuter and the culmination of my efforts to understand how commercial pilots live and die in the Last Frontier.
This is not the "Bush Pilot Myth", it’s the reality and for me it is a place and time I have never been able to forget.
For more see the Booklist interview
To read my most recent articles about Alaskan aviation & more, please see the Alaska Dispatch news site. Also follow the sidebar links for "Find Me Elsewhere".