Alaska calling

The June issue of Flight Training, going to press this week, Juneauis full of great content about the great state of Alaska. Pilots can’t get enough about Alaska (and can’t stop dreaming about going there, flying there, living there, or working there). Maybe it’s because general aviation is so entrenched in the state because there’s almost no other means of transportation for many communities. Maybe it’s the allure of the bush-pilot lifestyle, whatever that may be. Maybe it’s the endless possibilities of where you can land: water, snow, a glacier, gravel. I don’t know; you tell me what it is in the Comments section.

But anyway, as I was saying—Alaska! The photo you see is one I took from the left seat of a modified Cessna 150 in June 2008, somewhere near Juneau. I was midway through a weeklong cruise from Seattle, and I knew that the 12 hours our cruise ship was docked at Juneau was the only window I’d have to do some affordable flying. (Much as I wanted to do a glacier flight, that wasn’t in the budget. But if you can afford one, do it and tell me how it went.)  So I went on the Internet, found a flight instructor, called him from Maryland, and scheduled some dual. Two weeks later, he picked me up in downtown Juneau, drove me to the airport, and I had the most memorable 1.3 hours of flying of my life at that point.

The scenery was spectacular. The flight instructor pointed out several little sand bars and gravel strips. We overflew a 1,900-foot gravel strip that from 200 feet looked like a dirt path made by a couple of four-wheelers. For $168, I considered my flight a bargain.

Editor Ian J. Twombly has fond memories of Alaska, too. It’s where he got his seaplane rating–an experience he describes in this 2005 article (see the sidebar, but read all of Katie Writer’s discussion of what’s involved in becoming a bush pilot).

Do you have Alaska dreams? Better yet, do you have Alaska memories? If so, share them in the Comments section. The June issue of Flight Training starts shipping to homes on April 4; digital subscribers will see it a on March 28.—Jill W. Tallman


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  • Trace

    Haha I live in Juneau and I’m a student here can’t beat that 155ph in a 172 and the airport here is a true community. My primary CFI is the head pilot for the forest service and has well over 15,000 hours my secondary is the head pilot for Seaport Airlines (or as Juneauites call it Wings) it’s the good life. And those strips talked about above, they are on the north end of admiralty island I buzz them at tree top level all the time at about 130k. And for anyone looking to work here you must have 500 hours Alaska flight time or 1000 anywhere else. Also I have a few tidbits and expirences with mountain flying… In case you want to talk to me AOPA…

  • mark

    I will be traveling to Juneau in June of 2013 and would like to do a float plane orientaiton. Don’t have time for the full rating. I can’t find anyone that can help me with this.

  • jtallman

    Mark, what I would do is call a flight school or sightseeing operation at another airport or city in Alaska and see if they know anybody in Juneau they could recommend. Good luck! You’ll love it.—Jill

  • Matt

    Did you get to fly with Dwayne King when you were doing the story on KAC?
    Many pages, galleries, and who knows what else has been about the wonders and beauty of flying in Alaska. All of which are very true. But for me, there’s more. With as much of a part of daily life that aviation is up there, serving the people with it becomes a true purpose. And for some a calling. Much more so than $100 hamburger runs or just plain boring holes in the sky. The flying then is an excellent bonus! And there are lots of opportunities to do this, both as a job with one of the well known airlines or volunteer.
    As for jobs, SE Alaska does typically require 500 or more hours, but there are opportunties in Western Alaska for even less time. Google “oddball pilot”.

  • jtallman

    Matt, I did not write the article–Kathy Dondzila did, and she did get to fly with Duane. Do you fly with them as well?