Valdez has a long transportation history. Since it was founded over a hundred years ago, it has served as a hub for road, sea, and air travel.
Bob Reeve is a familiar name to many Alaskans. He is best known for his long-standing airline “Reeve Aleutian Air” that serviced the Aleutian Islands from the 1940s until recently. However, Bob Reeve’s Alaskan roots began right here in Valdez.
Reeve actively pursued flying from the time he was a young man, even flying in carnivals for a short time. He received his flying license in 1926 and flew in South America before heading to Alaska in 1932.
He came to Valdez because he had heard that there was opportunity for flying supplies into the mountains for mining companies. When he arrived, he found this to be true. He repaired resident, Owen Meals’, airplane and almost immediately began pioneering new flight routes and techniques. For example, he began landing on glaciers and ice fields to access difficult-to-reach mines and developed a method for using skis to land on the Valdez Duck Flats.
He learned that he had to be willing to fly places that no one else wanted to fly if he wanted to make a living in Alaska during the depression years. He earned $2,000 his first winter. Over the next few years, Reeve flew extensively in this region hauling supplies, equipment, and material into mines.
In the late-30’s, Reeve’s planes were down for an extended period and he missed out on getting a permit for flying commercially in this area. Instead, he was permitted for a small area in Fairbanks. He left Valdez and later flew military supplies in the Aleutian Islands and then founded Reeve Aleutian Airways in Anchorage.
A model of the airplane Reeve flew in Valdez, his flight goggles and cap are on display at the Valdez Museum.