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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.
Valdez has had an airport since October 1927 when local residents worked with the Alaska Road Commission to build the first runway adjacent to the Old Town. Building Valdez’s first airfield was a team effort! Valdez contributed 40% of the expense & cleared the site. By all accounts, Valdez residents turned out in force – both kids and adults, using teams of horses, stump pullers, rakes and shovels. Road Commission crews came in next with heavy machinery.
Strangely enough, when the first airway was being built, there were no airplanes in Valdez. It didn’t take long, though. Valdez pioneer, Owen Meals bought a plane that year and took it for its first flight in June 1928. That was the first flight from a Valdez airport.
That early Valdez airstrip saw many planes, pilots, and passengers. Flightseeing was a popular activity with seamen and locals. Besides flightseers, Valdez pilots transported aerial photographers, expedition teams, judges and witnesses, steamship passengers heading further into Alaska, and supplies for mines.
In a 1934 survey, Valdez airport manager Owen Meals, reported the following statistics: $3600 had been spent to date on hangars & buildings and $14,000 for the runway. Two airplanes were based at the airport. 360 airplanes and 333 passengers had arrived in Valdez in 1934. 14,000 pounds of freight had departed that year. And, two commercial air carriers operated there.
During World War II, more funding became available for airfields and Valdez’s airway was expanded. After the War, the airfield fell into some disrepair due to lack of funding and was moved to its present location in 1952.