By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Ellen Evak Paneok, of Anchorage, who died March 2 at age 48, was the first Native Alaskan woman bush pilot, and accumulated more than 15,000 hours of flight time, much of it along Alaska's remote northern coast. She delivered mail and supplies to Eskimo villages in all kinds of weather. "The most challenging part," she said in the 1997 book "Women and Flight," "is the off-airport work, like landing on the sandbars, landing on top of a mountain with big tires, maybe on a 20-degree grade, landing uphill and taking off downhill - to me, that's the epitome of bush flying." Paneok also worked for the FAA as an operations inspector and was statewide aviation safety coordinator for the Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation. She was one of the few pilots authorized to fly the vintage aircraft owned by the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. She was also a writer, published in Alaska Magazine and AOPA Pilot.
"Ellen's beautiful prose and clever story-telling ability, combined with her unique perspective on flying, resulted in some wonderful articles for AOPA Pilot," said Tom Haines, the magazines editor-in-chief. "We will miss hearing from her."