2012 Hall of Fame Inductee
Lowell Thomas Jr.
The Twenty-seventh Alaska State Legislature is proud to honor Lowell Thomas Jr. in recognition of his induction into the Alaska Aviation Museum Hall of Fame on March 22, 2012, with the “Life Time Achievement Award.”
A longtime Alaskan, Lowell Thomas Jr. is known as an author, film producer, lecturer, public official, adventurer and bush pilot. He has logged more than 10,000 hours in the air and executed five forced landings without an injury or damage to an airplane in an aviation career spanning nearly seven decades.
Lowell's passion for flight was sparked during his senior year at Taft School, when a classmate's father buzzed the school in a Grumman Wildcat. The next year, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps during WWII where he trained to fly the twin-engine, twin-tailed B-25 Mitchell Bomber, receiving his wings and lieutenant's bars. He was assigned to bombers at Turner Field in Albany, California, where his skill and aptitude with the B-25 led to his promotion as an instructor pilot for the remainder of the war.
After the war, he spent over a year in Tibet with his accomplished father producing a film seeking U. S. support of the Tibetans struggle against the Chinese, graduated from Dartmouth College, got married, and bought a Stinson. Next was the family Cessna 180, N2343C, “Charlie,” which was shipped to Europe and used for a trip across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. The book Our Flight to Adventure chronicles this amazing story.
With Alaska statehood imminent, Thomas flew his wife Tay and their first child north to Alaska, again in a Cessna 180, during his filming of a documentary on young families living in the wild frontier. Enamored with Alaska, the family chose to stay.
Lowell served two terms in the Alaska State Senate from 1967-1974, credited with the passage of legislation establishing Chugach State Park. As Senator, he also found an ally in aviation legend Charles Lindbergh, who came to lend his voice in Thomas' effort to end bounty hunting. Success in hand, Thomas had the distinction of piloting Lindbergh over the Chugach and Kenai Mountains. Thomas also served under Governor Jay Hammond as Alaska's fifth lieutenant governor from 1974-1978 and, while in Juneau, relished the opportunity to fly and land on glaciers.
As both a climber and aviator, Lowell easily transitioned to his next career in 1979 shuttling guide Ray Genet's climbing parties on and off of Denali in his Helio Courier. Talkeetna Air Taxi (TAT) was purchased in 1981 and Lowell's reputation as one of the premier Denali glacier pilots continued to grow. Following seven years of service as TAT's owner, Thomas added another 12 years of service to the mountain in flying the guests of Camp Denali/North Face Lodge, including American explorer and mountaineer Brad Washburn. The Helio has been donated to the Alaska Aviation Museum and is on display for all to see.
The Twenty-seventh Alaska State Legislature honors the contributions that Lowell Thomas, Jr. has made to Alaska and acknowledges the induction of this keen and devoted Alaskan aviator into the Alaska Aviation Museum's Hall of Fame.