Daring Dames: Ellen Paneok, Artist and Pilot

This is our last blog in the series, as well as the last of the season. We hope you had a great summer, and we’ll see you next year!

 Ellen Paneok was born October 17, 1959 to an Inupiaq mother and a white father in Virginia. She had a troubled childhood after her father left her family and she and her sisters were separated and put into foster care. During this time of her life, she became obsessed with airplanes. As a teenager, she used her first native corporation dividend to pay for flying lessons at Merrill Field in Anchorage. She would skip class in order to go to flying lessons. Once that money was gone, she would sell her drawings and scrimshaw to help pay for her lessons. In 1979, at the age of twenty, she became the first licensed woman pilot of Native Alaskan ancestry. She went on to work as a bush pilot and was a member of the Alaska Ninety-Nines. She was one only of only thirty-seven women who were featured in the “Women in Flight” exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

To hear an oral history of Ellen Paneok, check out: http://jukebox.uaf.edu/site7/p/2494


Ellen Paneok hand propping the 1939 L-1 Stinson Vigilant (painted on the nose of the aircraft is Vigilant Virgin) at the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, 2003. Photograph, caption, and information from Women Pilots of Alaska by Sandi Sumner (2005).

One response to “Daring Dames: Ellen Paneok, Artist and Pilot”

  1. Lynne Stamey Avatar
    Lynne Stamey

    Ellen was a wonderful person. I first met her when we were both helping a fellow FAA employee Maggie pack up to move out to Washington DC. I was in the Communications department and Maggie was in Security. We worked for 2 days to help Maggie get cleared out of her home and travel to Washington DC. Ellen and I developed a friendship and to this day, I cherish the memories of her. She had hurtful relationships that devastated her, but she never quit smiling. I cherish my ivory pendant that she scrimshawed a DANCING WALRUS on. It’s awesome! Ellen was phenomenal.

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