Late CIRI shareholder Ellen Paneok was inducted posthumously into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame on March 1. At the age of 16, Paneok received a $1,500 dividend from CIRI, and used the money to take flying lessons. A lifelong artist, she also sold her artwork to help fund her private pilot license training. She went on to become the first Alaska Native commercial and Bush pilot.
She was celebrated for her aviation skill, and was one of a few pilots authorized to fly the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum’s vintage aircraft. She later worked for the Federal Aviation Administration and for the Alaska Aviation Foundation.
Paneok served on the boards of the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, the Alaska Airmen’s Association, Big Brothers and Big Sisters Anchorage, the Alaska Historical Commission and Challenge Alaska. She often spoke to groups of children in Anchorage and rural Alaska about the challenges she overcame to become a pilot, and encouraged children to follow their dreams. She passed away in 2008 at the age of 48.