• Pilot Andy Bachner’s account of the 1964 Alaska earthquake

      Tape, Carl (2018-09-12)
      On Friday, March 27, 1964, at about 4:30pm, a 22-year-old pilot named Andy Bachner took off from Fairbanks International Airport on a training flight for Wien Airlines. Alongside Bachner in the single-engine Tri-Pacer plane was the flight instructor, Don Edgar Jonz. Their instrument training flight took them into the clouds and north of Fairbanks 100 miles, in the vicinity of Beaver Creek. Approximately one hour into the flight, Bachner and Jonz abruptly lost all communication with the ground. Fearing a nuclear strike on Eielson and expecting to see Soviet fighter jets, Bachner continued to fly for approximately 30 minutes until fuel was a consideration, prompting them to return to Fairbanks. Upon landing back at Fairbanks, Bachner and Jonz learned about the catastrophic earthquake in southern Alaska. Jonz was asked by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to pilot a flight to southern Alaska to survey the earthquake and tsunami damage. Jonz invited Bachner to pilot the plane, allowing Bachner to gain additional instrument training. The two men boarded a Twin Bonanza plane owned by Frontier Flying Service and were provided with a fancy radio. They flew for approximately six hours that night . They live-radioed what they saw in the twilight, fire light, and light of the full moon, while surveying Anchorage, Whittier, Valdez, and Cordova, and then landing back in Fairbanks early March 28th. On Friday, March 27, 1964, at 5:36pm local time, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake struck south-central Alaska. The earthquake devastated Anchorage with its shaking, and it devastated coastal communities with its tsunami. To date, this was the second largest earthquake ever recorded on Earth (1960 magnitude 9.5 in Chile).