Era founder Carl Brady dies at 85


Carl Brady poses with a Bell 47A helicopter in Washington in 1947. Brady used that model to help government surveyors map the Alaska territory. Brady died at his Anchorage home Aug. 20.
PHOTO Courtesy of Era Aviation
Carl Brady Sr., the founder of Era Aviation, died at his Anchorage home on Aug. 20. He was 85.

Brady was born Oct. 29, 1919, in Oklahoma, and grew up on a farm in Arkansas.

A true Alaska pioneer, Brady built in his lifetime an internationally recognized aviation company, and served as a state representative and state senator. He taught dozens of people how to fly and piloted some of the world’s leaders.

During an interview in January, Brady pulled out old black and white photos of him standing with presidents, dignitaries and movies stars, pointing out those whom he had given helicopter rides.

As a young boy, Brady was struck by Charles Lingbergh’s 1927 flight over the Atlantic in the famous Spirit of St. Louis. It’s what made him want to fly, he said. Former Gov. Wally Hickel later introduced Brady to his idol.

Brady learned to fly planes as soon as he was able, he said. He had already flown 1,200 hours when he enlisted in the Army Air Force during World War II, where he taught cadets how to fly.


Soon after he got out of the service, Brady learned to fly helicopters. With two partners, he started a crop-dusting business in 1947 in Yakima, Wash., becoming one of the nation’s first pilots to use helicopters in a commercial business.

In June 1948, Brady brought to Alaska the state’s first commercial helicopter, the Bell 47B. A twin of that original Bell is on display at the Ted Stevens International Airport’s international terminal.

"He pioneered a new type of access to Alaska lands," Sen. Ted Stevens said during the helicopter’s dedication ceremony in 2003.

Brady and his helicopter crews helped map Alaska in three months, after he convinced government surveyors that a helicopter was the best way to traverse the land.

The Brady family moved to Anchorage in 1958, opening the Era Helicopters base at Merrill Field. The company expanded to Kenai in 1962, and in 1964 Brady brought to Alaska the first turbine-powered helicopter, a Bell 204B.

His helicopter company played a role in building the trans-Alaska oil pipeline during the 1960s.

In 1978, Era expanded in Alaska to include fixed-wing services after purchasing Jet Alaska. "It was a good move for us," Brady said in January. "Those were the first jets in Alaska, and we flew them all over the state."

Era’s fixed-wing division eventually became one of the state’s largest regional airlines.

Brady also was well-known as a public and civic leader. He served one term in the state House and a term in the state Senate.

He had served on the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Petroleum Club of Anchorage, and the Southcentral Republican Party, among others.

Brady retired in 1984. Over the last two years or so, his health had started to deteriorate. In January, nurses helped care for him. He had limited mobility, and had fewer good days, his wife, Carol Brady said.

He is survived by Carol, his wife of 64 years; brother Robert Brady of Georgia; two sons, Carl Brady Jr. and James Brady; and daughter, Linda Brady Farr; as well as 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Melissa Campbell can be reached at

[email protected].

08/27/2005 - 8:00pm