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Learn about the history behind Sheldon Air Service

Don Sheldon

Alaska Piloting Legend.

a tent in the snow

Donald “Don” Edward Sheldon was a famous Alaskan bush pilot who pioneered the technique of glacier landings on Denali and throughout the Alaska Range from 1947 until his passing in 1975.

Born in Mt. Morrison, Colorado in 1921, Don Sheldon lived at time when the American West still held onto some of its mysteries. Bush flying, such as it was, had only began the year before in Canada and Alaska (an American Territory purchased from the Russians) and it was only a few years into the great Gold Rush of the Yukon and Nome. Though born in Colorado, Don Sheldon grew up in the wilds of Wyoming, on a ranch near the small town of Lander.

At the age of 17, Don made his way out to Seattle, and then up to Anchorage by way of the inland passage on a passenger ship. Don’s first job in Anchorage was at the Step and a Half Dairy where he worked 16 hour a day shifts, 7 days a week, for which he earned a flat $40 per month. After six weeks of this, Don was driving a dairy delivery truck down an Anchorage street one morning when he spotted a sailor friend, Jim Cook, that he had met in Juneau on his boat trip up to Anchorage.

Don and his re-found friend decided to pool their money and see how far north they could get. The $12 they had between them paid for 2 one-way train tickets to Talkeetna, AK, where 10 years later, Don Sheldon, with partner Stub Morrison would form Talkeetna Air Service.