Simmons was the first commercial pilot to fly year-round in Southeast Alaska. When others assumed the challenging weather wasn't safe, he was already facing off against the elements in open cockpits.
"The biggest problem in Southeastern flying with the helmet and goggles on, was the steaming of the goggles – the rain would get on them, they would steam up, and there's no way you could put a windshield wiper on the inside of your goggles," Simmons said.
During the summer, he flew up to 18 hours a day, dropping off mail and delivering supplies to miners including Christmas turkeys. He even transported the Juneau marshal to a gunfight with some fish-trap thieves.
But it was two events in 1938 that gained national attention and respect for this aviator in the far reaches of Alaska. When Simmons' plane went down in the Inside Passage, he was seriously injured with five passengers on board. He got them all safely to shore including a woman who was trapped underwater, diving twice while dazed from the crash to free her.
Just three months later, during a violent December storm, Simmons was hailed as the savior of the motorship Patterson's crew after it grounded in Cape Fairweather. No other rescuers -- including the Coast Guard -- could make it to the scene.
In Simmons' words, it was just work.
After a series of transactions and mergers, in 1966 the airline reverted back to its original name, Alaska Coastal. In 1968, Alaska Coastal merged with Seattle-based Alaska Airlines.
"We had a choice with Alaska Airlines or Northern Consolidated," Simmons said. "We went with Alaska because they had a route to Seattle, we'd have an outlet to Seattle."
It all started with a one-plane fleet and one man with a dream -- a down-to-earth man who chose to live most of his life in the skies over Alaska.
To hear more about Shell Simmons and his dedication to the advancement of aviation in Alaska, tune in to Assignment Alaska at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, when Channel 2 will air "A Hero and Much More" in its entirety.
Contact Maria Downey at email@example.com