Alaska editorial: Spirit of Statehood

Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2009

Every once in a while, there's a news event that just makes us smile, and one of those happened last Thursday. Alaska Airlines unveiled its new "Spirit of Alaska Statehood" Boeing 737.

The airplane was painted in Everett, Wash., based on a design by a 16-year-old Sitka student who won a statewide contest to come up with a design that would capture the spirit of the 49th state. 2009 is Alaska's 50th anniversary of statehood.

Hannah Hamberg's design featured a musher and sled dog, state ferry, Native Alaskan canoe, bear and whale, along with the statement, "We're all pulling together." It was selected from thousands of submissions by a panel of Alaska artists and other dignitaries, the airline says.

It's a great story but it gets more fun. On Thursday, the plane arrived in Sitka, the first Alaska stop with the new design (which took 48 painters and 160 gallons to put on the jet). Hannah and her parents were on the flight from Seatac Airport, as was Wrangell Rep. Peggy Wilson and airline officials.

They got a great greeting from hundreds of Sitkans who met the plane at Rocky Gutierrez Airport, which of course included many schoolchildren. They sought Hannah's autograph, which she graciously gave them.

She signed the plane, too - it was, after all, her canvas.

Now it will be seen by thousands, and not just Alaskans. The "Spirit of Alaska Statehood" will travel to all 59 cities to which Alaska Airlines flies.

Hannah (and a dozen other finalists) won a trip to Disneyland as the result of her work. But she also got to be honored as an artist, Alaska style, while honoring her state.

As fellow Southeast Alaskans, we're tickled over her success. Alaska's kids are something else. Congratulations to Hannah and Sitka.

Can't wait to see that plane.

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