The Carcross Airport during busy times in 1947. (R.B. Cameron Coll/Submitted)

Aerodrome society planning on opening Northern Airways museum in Carcross

The museum had been scheduled to open this spring in anticipation of attracting cruise ship tourists

A group devoted to preserving Carcross’s aviation history is hoping to get a museum devoted to a once-active local airline off the ground.

Like many things though, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in those plans.

Bob Cameron, a longtime aviation buff and the historian for the Carcross Aviation Society, has spent decades building a collection of “hundreds and hundreds” of photos of Northern Airways, which he described as the first reliable commercial air service in the territory.

The airline was established in Carcross by George Simmons in 1933, carrying passengers, mail and cargo across the Yukon as well as to Atlin. Northern Airways’ planes and pilots served a key role in a National Geographic expedition to the St. Elias icefields in 1935 as well as in surveys and the construction of the Alaska Highway and Canol pipeline through the 1940s before ultimately ceasing operations in 1950.

“You can almost say half of our Yukon aviation history back in the ‘30s was Northern Airways,” Cameron said in an interview May 13.

The building that housed the Northern Airways office is still standing, unused, in Carcross — a perfect place to house a museum dedicated to the airline’s pioneering role, he said, and another attraction for tourists coming in on day trips from Skagway-docked cruise ships to visit.

While discussions about turning the old office into a museum have been happening for “several years,” it was only about a year ago that the building’s owner gave the go-ahead for the project, according to Cameron.

The building was in relatively good shape and only required “quite minor” renovations; the plan was to have the museum in it open this spring, just in time for the beginning of the cruise ship season. As the space is small, the displays would primarily feature Cameron’s photos, which he’s collected over the years from former Northern Airways pilots and other sources, as well as small artifacts.

“We’ve got all of the Northern Airways paperwork — 17 years of operating, they never threw away a piece of paper, so we have flight tickets we can display, we’ve got their air schedules, their fares and rates, they got a telegram from (American actress) Lana Turner wanting them to fly her to Dawson,” Cameron said.

The Carcross Aerodrome Society also has the “remains” of some airplanes, including frames and engines, that it was hoping to display on a deck behind the museum, accompanied with more photos and interpretive signs for visitors.

The museum was almost ready to go, pending the clearing up of some “red tape” like permitting and zoning, when the COVID-19 situation began to worsen and cruise ships began cancelling tours.

“Obviously a lot of things have changed with the pandemic,” Cameron said of the plans around opening.

“I guess if things start changing by say, mid-summer, maybe it could be opened by the second half of the summer, but the sounds of the cancellations we’re hearing about with the cruise ships … there really won’t be much of a tourist attendance in Carcross this summer.”

While there’s been some interest from locals around the museum, Cameron said that, even if recommendations to limit travel within the Yukon are eased as the summer comes around, he wouldn’t expect Yukoners to be showing up to Carcross to visit the museum “in very big numbers.”

“I can’t imagine Whitehorse people particularly driving down there just to do that, so without the tourist flow from Skagway, I don’t think it would be worth it to open,” he said.

Cameron said that, realistically, he expects the museum to open next spring, when things are hopefully back to normal.

In the meantime, the Carcross Aerodrome Society is focusing its attention on the preservation of the community’s airport and landing strip.

The airport area, according to Cameron, has never actually been officially surveyed, and the society is concerned that without formal boundaries, there’s a possibility that development in nearby parts of Carcross could encroach on the aerodrome. Paired with that are safety concerns; the runway isn’t fenced in, in part because, again, it’s unclear where the aerodrome’s boundaries are.

“This has been ongoing forever, is safety with regard to the aerodrome … For decades, people and animals have just been able to race back and forth across the runway,” he said.

Those issues, he said, were part of the reason the Carcross Aerodrome Society formed in the first place and are one of the society’s two objectives — safety and preservation.

Contact Jackie Hong at

Air Travel

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read