2011 Hall of Fame Inductee
Rita and Bobby Sholton
As pioneers in air transportation, the Sholtons believed Alaska needed reliable and safe means of flying cargo to communities, mining camps, field expeditions and so on throughout rural Alaska. To achieve this goal, along with their partner, Morrie Carlson, they established Alaska’s first all cargo, charter airline in 1956 – Northern Air Cargo (NAC).
Air cargo shipments rapidly became a lifeline for rural residents and as Alaska grew, so did NAC. Although the Sholtons originally intended for their airline to only provide charter service, it soon became evident with this growth, that reliable schedules were needed and in 1982 they received FAA-certified approval to begin scheduled service. Their Flying Boxcars and DC-6s became a common sight in rural communities and people grew to depend on this new method of moving goods statewide. Their first scheduled flight was on December 17, 1982 just one day before Bobby died from a long struggle with cancer.
Sholtons became sole owners of NAC in 1981 and from early on, the Company was a family operation. In addition to Bobby’s and Rita’s leadership, their son Adam flew DC-6 and 727 aircraft for the Company, their son Paul worked as NAC’s general counsel and their daughter, Mary was part of the management team for many years. By 1990, NAC was supporting more than 100 Alaskan communities with daily, charter and flag stop flights, and this bigger demand meant new aircraft, adding the Boeing 727 cargo jet to the fleet in 1991.
The company underwent a major change after Bobby passed away and Rita took over the operations. The airline was now in scheduled operations and under Rita’s guidance, NAC grew into the state’s senior and largest all-cargo airline. In addition to Alaska, they also provided service to Russia, Canada and the “Lower 48” as requested.
In 2006, NAC celebrated fifty years of exceptional service to Alaska. The family’s vision had always been to keep their company in business for the future, and at this anniversary, they felt it would be prudent to seek new owners who would carry out the same mission and commitment to Alaska that they had provided for a half century. They found that assurance in Saltchuk Resources of Seattle. NAC employs hundreds of Alaskans and contributes significantly to the economic welfare of Alaska. NAC is one of six Saltchuk companies working together to provide a wide range of transportation services, procurement and logistic solutions in Alaska.
Rita Sholton is an avid big-game hunter and an active community supporter. Now that she no longer is running her airline, she is able to spend more time with her family and friends and especially her four grandchildren.