Wisconsin-born Robert (Bob) C. Reeve (March 27, 1902–August 25, 1980) first barnstormed in the 1920s before joining Panagra, the Pan American-affiliated air-mail carrier in South America. When Reeve, virtually penniless, arrived in Valdez in the spring of 1932, he cashed in on his flying experience.
By the mid 1930s, Reeve had established himself as a highly dependable pilot. He hauled mining machinery high into the mountains, landing on glaciers. He handled medical emergencies and delivered fresh fruit to isolated residents. With his fleet of one Fairchild 51, he called himself Reeve Airways. He later added a Fairchild 71 and constantly tinkered with his planes and engines to optimize their performance.
From Valdez, Reeve moved to Fairbanks in time to participate in the military buildup preceding the U.S. involvement in World War II. He regularly flew the Boeing 80A displayed here while delivering equipment for an Alaskan construction company.
During the war, Reeve contracted with the military’s Alaska Communications Service. He specialized in delivering personnel and equipment throughout the remote Aleutian Islands. Reeve recognized that a reliable airline could serve the needs of the islands’ residents after the war. He started Reeve Aleutian Airways, which served the island chain for more than 50 years before halting operations in 2000.