Dillingham remembers the pilot for his generosity and unwavering beliefs
Bo Darden was a constant presence at Dillingham Airport. If you spent time there, you would probably come across him.
In rural Alaska, much depends on a well-run airport. Darden was one of the people who helped run Dillingham Airport. For decades he helped deliver mail to surrounding villages, provided pilots with fuel and flew his own aircraft.
Darden opened up about his mindset as a pilot in a 2010 Alaska Dispatch video.
“You have to have some kind of faith in your equipment, but on the other hand it’s man-made so it will stop,” he said. “So if you’re smart, you’re always looking for a place to land, so you can get away from something successfully and not just ram yourself into the side of a fucking hill and kill yourself.”
Darden was 80 when he died in December.
Perry Abrams has a charter service in Dillingham. He has known Darden since birth. Darden moved to Dillingham around 1971 to work – as a mechanic, pilot and then business owner, hauling freight. Until his death, Darden was Dillingham’s agent for Northern Air Cargo.
“Bo had a big heart,” Abrams said. “He was always helping somebody. And he was always giving, not just funding – he was helping people.”
Abrams said he experienced Darden’s generosity when he worked for Darden and was in the Marine Corps reserves. When the first Gulf War broke out in 1991, he was called back to active duty.
“Which meant I had to quit his job and then I was fired,” he said.
“Bo went to see my wife regularly and he paid my salary while I was away, which was amazing. And he paid my salary the whole time I was away, and when I got back to town, I went back to work. for him, and you know, I just said, ‘This guy has done so much for me that there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him. And he did that for a lot of people.”
Friends say Darden was the kind of guy who would give up what he was doing and come to help no matter what.
Chrissie Messer first met him in 2007 when she started working at the airport, first at PenAir and then at Grant Aviation. She recalled how he helped bring the mail to the villages.
“He would take his tray down and we would load his truck with pallets,” she said. “And he was showing me how to load the truck properly and he was very patient with me in that learning experience. You can always count on Bo for some pretty fun stories. He has years and years of experience not only with aviation, but just within the community, and it’s truly an honor to have known him.
Darden was also known for his strong opinions.
“Bo was a real character and one of those characters that no matter where you came from on the social or political spectrum, you couldn’t help but like the guy,” said Norm Van Vactor.
Van Vactor recently retired as CEO of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. He also flew a bush plane in the area and knew Darden for over 35 years as a friend and fellow pilot.
“The plane he flew, his Otter, was his baby, and it was sort of an extension of him physically,” Van Vactor said. “He was a master at using this plane and could get it into places where no one would say it was even possible to get a plane in. But he was an extremely safe and conscientious pilot.”
At the end of the Alaska Dispatch video, Darden recounted how conditions could change in minutes. Once, his friend died shortly after fleeing.
“I didn’t know this was going to happen,” he said. “We don’t know. That’s why I say, ‘Hey, keep your life in order and know who your maker is. Because you might meet him unexpectedly.”
Darden died peacefully at home of complications from pneumonia.