Ketchikan residents are fans of Grumman Goose

Author seeks Goose photos, reminiscences

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2001

Due to the activities of three men, Ketchikan is a hotbed of Grumman Goose history and preservation.

One of them is writer Derek Linder. He's such a big fan, in fact, that he and his friend Chris John are writing a book about the Goose and its role in Alaska aviation.

"We are looking for photos, and if people have ridden on a Goose and remember its name or serial number, we'd like to hear from them," Linder said. "Basically the book is going to track down each Goose from the time it was made to where it is now."

Grumman Aircraft Corp. of Bethpage, N.Y., manufactured 345 Gooses between 1937 and 1945, Linder said. In commercial service, each held about 10 passengers. They were originally designed as transport for wealthy businessmen. "The first ones were delivered to the Long Island area and their owners would fly over to their jobs on Wall Street," he said.

During World War II, the U.S. military, particularly the Navy, was the biggest purchaser of the Goose. The Coast Guard was assimilated into the Navy for the course of the conflict, and used the Goose for shore patrol.

"The Goose was an extraordinary aircraft for its day, because in 1937 biplanes were still being built. Yet the Goose was a high-wing monoplane, with twin engines, all metal," Linder said. "It was the first aircraft that Grumman created for the commercial market."

After World War II, many of the planes were sold as surplus and were used by small carriers in Alaska, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, California and Florida. Channel Flying of Juneau operated two in Southeast Alaska.

John, a licensed pilot, and Linder began their project at the close of 1996. "My interest started because my dad was a pilot in Ketchikan in the 1960s and has several hundred hours in the Goose," Linder said.

Linder, 24, is headed off for basic training with the Air Force in April and hopes to get a lot of material nailed down before then.

"I know several Goose pilots now live in Juneau, not to mention the employees who worked at Shell Simmons' Alaska Coastal Airlines," he said. "Those are the people I hope will get in touch."

Browse his Web page at, or e-mail him at

The third Ketchikan resident interested in preserving the Goose is Don Dawson. He is running the Save the Goose Project, restoring the first Goose operated by Ellis Airlines in the late 1940s.

Dawson, a former graphic designer and now parts and purchasing manager for the maintenance department of Promeck Air, started the project in 1988 and had a fund-raiser to acquire this particular plane in 1992. He has been helped by Ray Chamberlain and other volunteers.

"It arrived here Dec. 11, 1945, and was one of two that Bob Ellis, airline founder, leased from war assets," Dawson said.

"They refurbished it for civilian use, and it went online about March of 1946. This followed the lead established by Shell Simmons in Juneau, who got his first Goose in February 1945 from Canadian surplus. Each airline went on to operate a total of 10 in their history, although the most they had online at one time was eight with Coastal," he said.

"The two airlines were friendly competitors and merged in April of '62 to form Alaska Coastal-Ellis Airlines, the world's largest amphibious airline at the time, acquired by Alaska Airlines in March 1968. Alaska Airlines continued to operate the Gooses and PBY's (patrol bombers) until about 1973."

By Dawson's count, there are 70 Gooses surviving worldwide, in museums or flying.

"I came here in the 1970s with the Coast Guard and got interested in local history," Dawson said. "Most Alaskans were real keen on restoring historical buildings or railroads or riverboats, and all we had here in Ketchikan was a red light district, Creek Street. I thought it was kind of sad, and we should rise above that. We didn't have major artifacts, but it came to mind that aviation was the answer.

"Everything seemed to have stories about this amphibious Goose, which was stout and could handle rough water," he said.

"I think of the Goose as everyman's totem," Dawson said. "It didn't matter what race you were and what you did for a living, it got you to the hospital when the baby was due. It brought you bread. It was important to our island lifestyle, and we needed to save one."

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at

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