Merrill Wien Obituary, Death – Merrill Wien died on January 8, 2023, at age 92, surrounded by his family. Merrill Wien was born on April 4, 1930, to aviation pioneers Noel and Ada Wien. Merrill was a child pilot in Alaska. He flew bush planes, Air Force trainers, bombers, and transports, and Pan Am and Wien Air Alaska airliners during WWII. He helped bring the jet era to Alaska and piloted wide-body planes globally. Merrill focused on the flight. As a youngster, he observed planes land at Fairbanks’ Weeks Field. He couldn’t wait to leave school and fly. By 16, he could borrow planes for lunch. Merrill’s first day as a commercial pilot was great.
It ended quickly. While on leave from Vienna to study at UW, Merrill was requested to fly for Pan Am out of Seattle. Even though he wasn’t in school, he leaped at the prospect. On the DC-4, he headed to Hawaii. It couldn’t be worse, he thought. Shortly, though. During the Korean War, Merrill was recruited by Pan Am. He joined the Air Force to fly. Despite having flown large transport planes commercially, he was denied pilot instruction. Two weeks remained until he graduated. He eventually stepped into the cockpit, finished Air Force basic training, and became a C-119 Flying Boxcar commander on a top-secret reconnaissance mission over Russia.
Hooking balloons from a plane’s tail was risky. Those were his roughest years flying. After the army, Merrill could work for Pan Am or his father’s airline. He stayed in Alaska and flew for Wien until 1950. Wien would land a DC-4 far north of the North Pole instead of the Hawaiian islands. He had no regrets about returning to Wien, and he relished flying the DC-3, C-46, Lockheed Constellation, and Fokker F-27 from Fairbanks, as well as the Boeing 737 and 727 from Anchorage and Seattle, until a corporate raider devastated the airline in the 1980s.
In Vienna, he and his brother recognized the possibility of employing B-25 bombers to fight forest fires and extended their business to incorporate helicopters.