|Founded||March 24, 1947|
|Ceased operations||December 5, 2000|
|Hubs||Anchorage International Airport|
|Fleet size||7 (in 1990)|
|Destinations||Aleutian Islands, Seattle.|
|Headquarters||Anchorage, Alaska, United States|
|Key people||Robert C Reeve (founder & 1st President)|
Richard D Reeve (2nd President)
In February 1946, Bob Reeve received a call informing him that some ex USAAF C-47s and Douglas DC-3s were for sale (the C-47 being the military version of the DC-3). Reeve bought his first DC-3 for $20,000 with $3,000 down and the balance payable over 3 years. The cost of conversion to civilian standard was quoted at $50,000 but Reeve did the work himself at a cost of $5,000.
A strike by sailors on steamships operating between Seattle and Anchorage started on April 6, 1946. Reeve, along with Merritt Boyle and Bill Borland began flying between Seattle and Anchorage, with stops at Juneau, Yakutat or Annette Island. Each trip carried a full load of 21 passengers and took an average of 9+1⁄2 hours. In 53 days, 26 round trips were made. Reeve would work all night on inspections and maintenance of the plane at Spokane, and then fly back to Anchorage having had very little sleep. Reeve earned $93,000 from this activity, enough to pay for the DC-3 and buy three more.
In July 1946 another DC-3 was purchased from the USAF. In the winter of 1946–47, Reeve filed with the CAA for a license to operate on the 1,783 miles (2,869 km) run between Anchorage and Attu, and in the summer of 1947 he was making weekly flights down the chain. Within a year, he was running a twice-weekly service, keeping all four DC-3s busy. It was during this time that Reeve Aleutian suffered its first accident. DC-3 N46567 being damaged in an accident during take-off at Merrill Field. The aircraft was insured, and Reeve bought a twin-engined Beechcraft and a Lockheed Electra 10-B to replace the DC-3, which was subsequently repaired and eventually sold
On March 24, 1947, Reeve Aleutian Airways was incorporated. The company was running scheduled and charter services all over Alaska, despite not having a formal CAA certificate. About this time, Reeve was ordered to get authorization to use the wartime Chain bases he was using. Reeve flew to Washington and leased Dutch Harbor field and acquired landing permits for Kodiak, Adak and Attu. Electra NC14994 was traded in during 1947, going to Continental Airlines.
In April 1948, Reeve Aleutian Airways was granted a temporary, five-year airline certificate. With the need to run the business on proper business lines (maintain an office, publish schedules and tariffs etc.), the Beechcraft and Electra were traded in for two Sikorsky S-43 amphibians. In October 1948, Port Heiden was de-activated, followed by Dutch Harbor, Attu and Umnak. Reeve took over Umnak and conceded Attu, which was not vital to his operations. About this time, the Naval Air Transport Service began selling tickets to Adak in competition with Reeve. Reeve went to Washington and met with Louis Johnson, who granted all the business in the area to Reeve. In 1948 another DC-3, a Sikorsky S-43 and a Grumman G-21 Goose were purchased.
In March 1949, four days' notice was given that Shemya was to close. This base was vital to Reeve, as it was an all-weather alternative to Adak, Amchitka and Attu. Northwest also needed the base on its run to the Orient. Reeve and Croil Hunter (President of Northwest) flew to Washington to plead their case without success, but on their way back to the hotel, Reeve met Major General Sam Anderson, who had served with Reeve's brother Richard, and explained their predicament with the result that the military were persuaded to pronounce the field "militarily desirable" and thus Shemya was saved.
S-43 N15062 was purchased in March 1950. In late 1950, the bank was reluctant to loan Reeve any more capital. Reeve flew to Seattle in an effort to get a loan, but was turned down. He ran into Elmer Rasmusson, an Anchorage banker, whilst in Seattle, with the result that Rasmusson loaned him $125,000 to get going again. On the day he got the loan, Reeve heard that Pacific Airmotive, who were doing his maintenance, were going out of business in Alaska. Reeve flew back to Anchorage and bought the business, which was renamed Reeve Airmotive.
In 1952, the new Anchorage International Airport opened and all the other airlines moved there. The CAA was going to close Merrill Field, but it was retained for use by Reeve Aleutian and private operators. In 1953, final military deactivation of the Aleutian airfields occurred. Reeve obtained leases on Shemya and Cold Bay. Shemya closed in 1954 and all flights were switched to Cold Bay. In January 1957, DC-3 N49363 was sold to Twentieth Century Aircraft. During the 1950s, St. George and Chernofski were served by airdrop, Reeve installing salvaged bomb releases in his DC-3s to enable this.
By the mid-1950s, it was apparent that the DC-3s were not big enough for Reeve Aleutian. Therefore, the Douglas DC-4 was selected to supplement the DC-3s, eventually replacing them. Reeve's first DC-4 was purchased in March 1957 from Twentieth Century Airlines, which was going out of business. The first scheduled DC-4 flight was on March 12, 1957. The route was Anchorage-Kodiak-Cold Bay-Adak-Amchitka-Shemya-Attu. Umnak was served as required.
In 1957, the Distant Early Warning line was being constructed, bringing a boom to Reeve Aleutian. In 1957, an S-43 was traded in, two Curtiss C-46 Commandos were purchased from Cordova Airlines and Grumman G-21 Goose was leased from Interior Airways. Merrill Field proved too small for the DC-4, so Reeve Aleutian moved to Anchorage International in 1958. By the early 1960s, the DC-4 was proving outdated, and therefore a Douglas DC-6B was purchased in January 1962.
The late 1960s saw the emergence of the Lockheed L-188 Electra turboprop airliner, which was to be backbone of Reeve Aleutian's business until Boeing 727-100 jets joined the fleet in later years. The first was purchased from California Airmotive in February 1968. With the acquisition of the Electras, the DC-6s were phased out of passenger service.
Reeve Aleutian still had DC-3s in service, and a replacement was sought. The NAMC YS-11A was decided on and the first aircraft was purchased new in 1972. In 1973, the Electra was certified by the CAA to land on gravel runways.
On November 11, 1974, there was a hangar fire at Anchorage, and two Electra aircraft were destroyed. In April 1977 the two Gooses were sold to Peninsula Airways, and their service subcontracted for services out of Cold Bay.
In 1979, Reeve Aleutian initiated nonstop service between Cold Bay, Alaska and Seattle–Tacoma flying the Lockheed L-188 Electra. This service lasted for three and a half years. During that time, only seven flights were cancelled due to weather and only two flights due to mechanical issues out of 458 scheduled flights.
In December 1983, Reeve Aleutian purchased two Boeing 727-22QC combi aircraft from Wien Air Alaska. During the Christmas 1985 holiday, there was a large backlog of mail at Seattle–Tacoma, and Reeve Aleutian contracted with the USPS to relieve the backlog.
The airline entered the 1990s on a relatively tight budget, with three aircraft mothballed and one leased out. In August 1999, Reeve Aleutian entered into a codeshare agreement with Alaska Airlines on the route between Seattle, Anchorage and Russian cities Petropavlovsk and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
Reeve Aleutian ceased operations on December 5, 2000, and about 250 people were laid off. Reasons given for the situation included increased competition and high fuel prices. At the end, only one Lockheed Electra propjet and one Boeing 727 jetliner were in service.
Several aircraft belonging to Reeve Aleutian were involved in accidents.
Reeve Aleutian Airways served the following destinations during its existence. * Denotes air drop only.
The following aircraft served with Reeve Aleutian.
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