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Thread: I am having a hard time in Alaska. May I ask for some advice?

  1. #1

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    I am having a hard time in Alaska. May I ask for some advice?

    Hello everyone! My name is Jin Bae and I am a flight instructor from Wisconsin.
    I flew into Anchorage a few days ago looking for a job but it is as if I am hitting an invisible wall - I was wondering if any of the experienced pilots could give some helpful tips to guide me.

    I transitioned my career into aviation relatively late (30). Before aviation, I used to work for the Pentagon crunching numbers but I found no real happiness there. So I became a high school teacher for a while and then I got hooked with the idea of living in Alaska! So I got into flying and completed my certifications in 2020. As a fresh flight instructor I could not find any jobs in Alaska, so I ended up instructing in Wisconsin for about a year.

    So now I have about 700 hrs, and I quit my job in Wisconsin. A lot of people thought this was a dumb move (and rightfully so) since the job market is grim due to the pandemic, but I know what my heart desires and I decided to act on it.

    I flew into Alaska this past Sunday and I started to knock on some doors Monday and Tuesday. I think I tried almost all the 135 operators in Anchorage area... but no one wanted to hire an out of state pilot with 0 local connections. One chief pilot of a cargo operation specifically told me that Alaskans will only hire Alaskans and I have no chance.

    Now - I donít expect anything in life to be handed to me. But honestly I was feeling pretty down after today.
    I am not about to give up and Iíll go out and try again tomorrow... thatís the only thing I can do - but I wonder if what the chief pilot said is true.

    Is there no place for a fresh guy like me in Alaska? I would really like to get into the flying scene up here.. but it seems very hard.

    I pretty much did an all-in quitting my job and making moving preparations so I plan to move here regardless of how my job search turns out this week. In the worst case scenario- Iíll be fine doing dock work or filleting salmon... but I was hoping to find some aviation related work.

    May I ask the experienced pilots on any helpful tips or any information on where else I can knock?
    I would sincerely appreciate it. Maybe Iíll fly out to Bethel and try there?

    I plan to stay in Anchorage until next Monday and then I will have to fly back to Wisconsin to pack. And then the long drive!

    Iíll leave my phone number here as well (919 609 2200)
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  2. #2

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    Did you check the local flight schools?
    DENNY

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    Quote Originally Posted by DENNY View Post
    Did you check the local flight schools?
    DENNY
    I have not yet! I wanted to try 135 first where I can fly the airplane instead of instructing. But I will visit all the flight schools towards end of the week!

    thank you for the suggestion!
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    What did you teach as far as being a high school teacher? I teach Biology, and depending on what your cert is in and where youíre willing to live and work, getting a job in education can be an option. I realize itís not what you want to do, but you could teach for a year or two and build some alaska time, then make the jump to flying full time.
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  5. #5
    Dave Calkins's Avatar
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    Dont give up

    There are airplanes moving all over Alaska.

    Some small cargo operation is looking for yu.

    What are yer credentials besides total time?
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    I taught school for 45 years and flew commercially for 44 years. Fires, spraying, pipe line patrol, fish hauling, freight, charter, all possible because i could still eat and look for flying jobs while teaching. When you get the experience and want to jump to full time flying the opportunity will be there. I enjoyed having two careers and the challenge of making it work. Make it work, enjoy the challenge.
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    Try Yute Air in Bethel... they supply pilot housing...


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    Chris is having supper at my place tonight. He said he had breakfast with you this morning. We are working on a few angles. I gave you info to a CFI he should call you.
    DENNY
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    What did you teach as far as being a high school teacher? I teach Biology, and depending on what your cert is in and where you’re willing to live and work, getting a job in education can be an option. I realize it’s not what you want to do, but you could teach for a year or two and build some alaska time, then make the jump to flying full time.
    ‘Thank you very much for the suggestion! I taught political science and U.S history hehe! I’ll keep on trying for now and if nothing comes up - I will also search education as well

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Calkins View Post
    Dont give up

    There are airplanes moving all over Alaska.

    Some small cargo operation is looking for yu.

    What are yer credentials besides total time?
    Well I got myself up here! So I can’t give up!! Thank you sincerely for the encouragement!

    hmm besides total time - I have about 500 hrs of G1000 C172, but I am guessing that’s not very useful here I have CFI/CFII, high performance/complex endorsement, sent 5 people to checkride with 100% pass rate hehe, good work ethics and I speak Korean and Russian
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    Quote Originally Posted by DENNY View Post
    Chris is having supper at my place tonight. He said he had breakfast with you this morning. We are working on a few angles. I gave you info to a CFI he should call you.
    DENNY
    Thank you very much!! Chris told me all about you sir! I really appreciate everything.

    If Alaska is the last Frontier as all the signs here keep reminding me , then the American dream should still be here!

    I’ll keep trying!
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  12. #12
    WWhunter's Avatar
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    Good Luck to you sir!! You appear to have drive and determination. You will succeed!!

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    I’d get a good, solid resume together, if you haven’t already, get on a plane to Bethel, and, present yourself professionally to all the air carriers operating there.

    Your first job with one of them may be loading freight, fueling planes, whatever, but you’ll be in a seat soon enough. Hanging around Anchorage is not where the jobs for low time pilots are. Go where those jobs are.

    Seriously, there’s a carrier out there looking for hard workers.....be that guy, and you’ll never look back.

    Good luck!

    MTV
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  14. #14
    aktango58's Avatar
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    As folks have said, don't give up!!

    Don't take the first 'no' either! While companies like Security might not be interested at all, and no is really their answer until you have MEL at least, other places just say 'no' out of reflex, especially if they have never seen you before. Go back the next week and ask again and be polite. Get to know the front people and let them see you are a good person. When someone finally asks what it will take to get rid of you, tell them a job in aviation.

    You are also a tad bit in front of summer hire, good because you are here first, bad because most are not thinking about summer hire. Get and Alaska Address! Post office box would be fine.


    One important point is the 'Alaska' hire... but you are 80% forward of most: you are here and they can look at you. Again, get an address in Alaska.

    Bethel is expensive to survive without food and housing. Yute, and Grant and Ryan all use lots of ground people, and seem short handed often... so don't be shy about asking for flying jobs and offering to work ramp for now... sooner or later they will need more pilots.

    A note about 135, there is a multiple day class that every pilot needs for every 135 they work at. One issue is that operators don't like to do the class for one guy, so ask when their next class is and if you can attend.

    Fairbanks has quite a few operators that may need pilots, good place to knock on doors, also try the folks down in Kodiak- might just call Kodiak and tell them you are in Anchorage.

    Princess has announced no hotel openings this summer, so again tour pilots will not be in demand.

    Keep working forward and banging on doors. Also, to sustain your funds maybe put in with school districts to substitute teach some days a week and look for jobs the rest of the time.

    Best of Luck! Keep us posted.

    PS: You are not the first to have this challenge. Everyone remember Speedo's rise to Alaska glory?
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!

  15. #15
    55-PA18A's Avatar
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    700 hours from outside Alaska, with most of it likely instructing is not a lot of experience for commercial flying in Alaska. However your situation is kind of unique with your teacher's credentials. A number of the western Alaska school districts have been very supportive of aviation as part of their curriculum. Most of these areas also have chronic shortages of teachers for other subjects. If you received certification for teaching in Alaska and were willing to work out in some of these areas, I suspect opportunities related to flying would open up.

    Right now, weather, season of the year and shutdowns related the COVID virus make it a difficult time to get started on your dream. However, it might be a great time for getting set up to make things happen. Being in the right place at the right time would be very advantageous.

    I've always thought an CFI could stay fairly busy if willing to travel to some of the larger communities off the road system doing biannuals and recurrent training, as well as instruction. There are a surprising number of pilots out in these areas and its often difficult to find someone with a CFI that isn't busy doing something else, or doesn't want to bother with it anymore.

    Jim

  16. #16
    nanook's Avatar
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    You need to get some Alaska time, that pretty much sticks you back in the flight school world. The insurance companies want experience in Alaska flying. You could also buy an airplane and be a flying teacher for awhile. Anyway you look at it, you have to meet the insurance requirements for Alaska hours flown.

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    I mention Yute...itís a good story...one of the managers is from New York..is a nuclear engineer. Decided he needed a change....he got on a plane to Alaska..stopped in Bethel.. walked into Yute and asked for a job....think he started as a ramper. Yute also acquired 14 of Ravnís 207ís.. odds are they need sled drivers.. I can ask if youíd like?


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  18. #18

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    I have a little personal advice to pass on to you, get an Alaskan phone #. I am not a Alaskan resident but I spend a good bit of time at a second home down on the peninsula and it seems a little silly but a 907 area code might just get you taken a little more seriously. I'm on the maintenance side of aviation and not looking for a job but in general, it has taken a few years of doing as I say I will and doing for my neighbors as I would like in return to prove me out a bit. That goes from contractors to barbers and all have proven to be the best folks I have ever met.
    As you have been advised, don't give up and maybe consider pumping fuel or loading gear for a 135 operator, show what your made of and you'll get a seat.
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    Welcome to Alaska!

    Welcome to Alaska! I think most people can relate to being told by at least someone that chasing your dream was a "dumb move." There is lots of great advice here, keep with the persistence. Some get a job just because that is easier than telling them "no" three times a week. I second the idea of getting a 907 phone number, address and license plate. Also dress the part. Don't get the politician all new Carhartts but maybe something from Value Village in the "bush pilot department" or trade the guy on the cornier of the Fred Meyer Parking lot...I'm kidding...a little. Seriously jump in with both feet, you will separate yourself quickly doing that.

    Another possible adventure for you is Alaska is always desperate for teachers in the bush. There is always a serious shortage. You could get to some interesting places doing that and the pay beats Wisconsin often with housing included. You will want to investigate this first as some districts are more desirable than others as well. The hiring season is about to start for that too.

    You might want to buy a root beer or two for a couple of the people on this forum. You won't find more connections than here.

    Good luck! This will all be part of your "Well when I moved to Alaska..." story that you can tell 30 years from now.
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  20. #20

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    Can't help with any AK knowledge just want to say good luck and good on you for going for it in a big way.

  21. #21
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    Welcome Jin Bae

    Back in 2002 when I was bombing around interior AK on a flying trip from MN I was offered a job in Bettles. The fact that I was there on the spot and flying a tail wheel probably had something to do with it as I only had a tad over 1000 hours at the time. I never took the job but was flattered thinking someone thought I had my shitt together or perhaps shocked that operators were desperate LOL.

    AK time AK time??? That seems to come up a great deal as of late. Lots of reasons but insurance was mentioned. In the past I have rented aircraft in AK on vacation because I lacked the time for a flight up and back in my own a/c. A place on Merrill field called Aerotech which also offered instruction was one of those places. I was thankful they trusted me and another pilot, but they required an extensive checkout and demonstrated knowledge of Anchorage airspace. Around the time we were accustomed to renting planes every few years, Aerotech lost their premium rental, a 207, in a crash south of Homer (fatal x 3). A lower 48 commercial pilot I believe with a lot of hours. After that I was laughed off several fields looking for a rental. I can't blame them either. I believe Aerotech is closed.

    In the school I work at we have 5 educators that have taught in Bush AK. I asked some today about the industry up there and with your credentials you won't go hungry falling back on education. With a college degree/teaching experience and ratings and flight hours I think if you move there and setup shop for a bit you'll get hired. Rural AK is a tight-knit small community even though distances are great between villages. I'm not sure of your ultimate goal for flying occupation but as mentioned western villages Nome/Bethel/Kotzabue that have air services and good schools could use you. If you had discretionary money to buy or fly an economical puddle jumper based in AK and get some hours in the last frontier it might be of benefit. Mentioned earlier as well was the embracing of aviation in schools especially west coast. Some of the Native Corp. I believe push/steer the programs. You may find a good start there..
    Last edited by scout88305; 02-10-2021 at 09:39 PM.

    ďWe sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.Ē
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    scout88305's Avatar
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    ďWe sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.Ē

  23. #23
    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    It's winter here - those that work seasonal are unemployed or many just laid off due to COVID affects on businesses. That includes pilots and maintenance folks. It's not the ideal time for flight training but I have seen an increase recently of offers in the various sites listing things for aviation. In a month we'll have 12 hrs of daylight and those that hunkered down during the dark and cold will start jumping around like rabbits.

    Be patient Jin. Employment opportunities will get better as Spring approaches.

    Gary

  24. #24
    Alex Clark's Avatar
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    You need more hours. 700 is a touch on the light side.
    Bethel is your best bet.
    A 907 phone number will help.
    Also I would be careful about saying too much about suddenly quitting your job and moving when you had absolutely no plan.
    Employers like the idea that they are hiring a solid and reliable person who thinks things through before acting.
    Float and Tailwheel CFI,
    Dragonfly Aero
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    dragonfly@alaska.net

    http://www.floatplanealaska.com

    or http://www.dragonflyaero.net
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  25. #25
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    Thanks to all who offered help and advice here. I read this thread and couldn't help but think this is why I like pilots and people who fly little airplanes. With all that 's wrong in the world today you guys are proof that there is a lot that is right. This is also a reminder that this forum is place to enjoy, share, and relax. There has been some undue tension on this forum and this thread should remind us why we log on and participate (other than the really cool calendar).

    Ok give me my man card back and I will be over by the keg if you need me.............
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    I’m not sure anyone is hiring right now. In a couple months companies will start hiring for the summer (hopefully). However, with Ravn going under and being resurrected as 121 only and significantly lower tourist numbers has really put the hurt on the pilot job market up here. It’s not impossible, definitely keep trying, but be working on a backup plan (flight instruction, ramping, etc). Many pilots have gotten their start flying in Bethel, before you go down that road make sure to educate yourself on what it’s like. Even then you probably won’t be fully prepared, but that’s ok as long as you have a good attitude and keep your witts about you. Off the top of my head Ace Air Cargo, Bering Air, Ryan Air, and whoever it is that flies Twin Otters hire low time pilots to be co-pilots. I might have missed it, but make sure you meet 135 VFR pic qualifications, especially I’m regards to night and night xc time.
    Catch the fish, to make the money, to buy the bread, to gather the strength, to catch the fish...
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  27. #27
    nanook's Avatar
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    I’m not sure I’d wish for my worst enemy to be stuck in a sled, flying the YK Delta...
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  28. #28

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    Jin Bae,

    In searching for your path it is important to remember that life isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon.

    Reaching the end, the finish line, isn’t the goal; it’s running the best you can the entire way. Starting out is mostly uphill for all of us.

    Keep plugging along and enjoy what for your older self will be remembered as the good old days.
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  29. #29
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nanook View Post
    I’m not sure I’d wish for my worst enemy to be stuck in a sled, flying the YK Delta...
    Perhaps, but that place has provided a start for more pilots than anywhere in Alaska, and, frankly, if you go there with the right attitude, it could be some of the best experience you’ll ever have.

    Ask Speedo about his time there.

    MTV
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  30. #30
    nanook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvivion View Post
    Perhaps, but that place has provided a start for more pilots than anywhere in Alaska, and, frankly, if you go there with the right attitude, it could be some of the best experience youíll ever have.

    Ask Speedo about his time there.

    MTV
    I donít need to ask anybody about their time there...The smartest thing they are trying to do there is, get local Natives trained up to fly, they already live there. Let them fly their own people around.
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  31. #31
    aktango58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nanook View Post
    I don’t need to ask anybody about their time there...The smartest thing they are trying to do there is, get local Natives trained up to fly, they already live there. Let them fly their own people around.
    Do you have enough jobs for the rest of us?

    I agree, it is not the most fun, or safe place to fly. That said, if you take the opportunity to learn and don't get careless you can leave there with some great experience.
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!

  32. #32
    nanook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aktango58 View Post
    Do you have enough jobs for the rest of us?

    I agree, it is not the most fun, or safe place to fly. That said, if you take the opportunity to learn and don't get careless you can leave there with some great experience.
    I think we are hired up, Iím just flying and not in any management capacity though. Iíve timed out the last six years running, so canít complain about a lack of flying. The North half of the State has not slowed down. That all could change if we ended up with more competition. I think we are going to get busy as we come out of this covid crap...
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  33. #33
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    Jin offer CFI/CFII services via Alaska'a List and Craigslist for Alaska. Look for the links. It takes time to learn Alaska flying plus gain the confidence of others. What better than doing that as an instructor or teacher? You will succeed but don't get excited about the typical comments like "how long have you been here and do you know so and so.....?" All part of the Alaska coming into the country experience.

    Gary

  34. #34
    nanook's Avatar
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    Talk to Mike Morgan at Pro Flight, they may be looking for a CFI. You can pay the bills and build Alaska time.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by nanook View Post
    I’m not sure I’d wish for my worst enemy to be stuck in a sled, flying the YK Delta...
    There’s aspects of Bethel that are not appealing, but I think there a lot of positives. The Yupik are terrific people - always laughing, smiling, full of mirth. I always had fun with them and enjoyed making sure the elders were covered up in an extra blanket, that I got to help the new mothers climb into the plane with their baby, and that I briefed them on the rules about turbulence (“If I’m not screaming, you’re not screaming”).

    The Y-K Delta is beautiful at all times of the year: during the summer on a calm day when you can see the reflection on the lakes of a single air mass thunderstorm 50 miles away dropping rain in a vertical column, in the winter when the wind makes beautiful herringbone patterns in the snow or when the temperature inversion creates fairy castles on the hills, in the spring when the melt comes and the ice on surface of ponds look like polished granite, and in the fall when the bushes are turning color and the bears are heads down going after berries.

    The other pilots and village agents added a lot, too. Whether it was Ernie, with his coke bottle glasses who couldn’t see you until you were alongside and three wingspans away, or the native pilots who could find ANY runway in ANY weather condition, no matter how crappy it was, or Jim D at Russian Mission (usually with a chew, driving a well-used white F250) or Troy T in Holy Cross who could pick up a 150 horse two stroke outboard and flip it into the back of his truck without help.

    Yes, in BET you will get muddy and eat a lot of grit, and maybe pick up a persistent sinus infection. And it’s no visual delight (although MTV calls it “Paris on the Kuskokwim”). But the good significantly outweighs the bad.
    Speedo
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  36. #36
    nanook's Avatar
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    The Yupik People deserve better than low time pilots flying 50 - 60 year old 207s around...You can romanticize all you want about it, it is pure stupidity. The YK Delta produces some of the worst icing conditions and low IFR weather on the West Coast. You have a moisture laden marine climate meeting a very cold continental air mass. Let’s put our elders and mothers with children into VFR only, no anti-ice equipped, worn out sleds, with low time pilots, so they can build time and get a better job someplace else....If they survive...I can only hope that people will not continue to be this stupid...We have witnessed enough carnage already.
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  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedo View Post
    There’s aspects of Bethel that are not appealing, but I think there a lot of positives. The Yupik are terrific people - always laughing, smiling, full of mirth. I always had fun with them and enjoyed making sure the elders were covered up in an extra blanket, that I got to help the new mothers climb into the plane with their baby, and that I briefed them on the rules about turbulence (“If I’m not screaming, you’re not screaming”).

    The Y-K Delta is beautiful at all times of the year: during the summer on a calm day when you can see the reflection on the lakes of a single air mass thunderstorm 50 miles away dropping rain in a vertical column, in the winter when the wind makes beautiful herringbone patterns in the snow or when the temperature inversion creates fairy castles on the hills, in the spring when the melt comes and the ice on surface of ponds look like polished granite, and in the fall when the bushes are turning color and the bears are heads down going after berries.

    The other pilots and village agents added a lot, too. Whether it was Ernie, with his coke bottle glasses who couldn’t see you until you were alongside and three wingspans away, or the native pilots who could find ANY runway in ANY weather condition, no matter how crappy it was, or Jim D at Russian Mission (usually with a chew, driving a well-used white F250) or Troy T in Holy Cross who could pick up a 150 horse two stroke outboard and flip it into the back of his truck without help.

    Yes, in BET you will get muddy and eat a lot of grit, and maybe pick up a persistent sinus infection. And it’s no visual delight (although MTV calls it “Paris on the Kuskokwim”). But the good significantly outweighs the bad.

    SPEEDO,

    I hope you keep track of all these memories and someday sit down and write a book. I laughed out loud at the comment 'If I'm not screaming, you're not screaming". I bet you have some awesome tales to tell. You're living the dream I always wanted to live.
    Likes MTBR12, Brandsman liked this post

  38. #38
    Henny's Avatar
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    Jin Bae-

    https://www.flyalaska.com/prelogin.html
    is worth the annual fee to get an idea of who is hiring and how much and what kind of time they are looking for.

    Henny

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by nanook View Post
    The Yupik People deserve better than low time pilots flying 50 - 60 year old 207s around...You can romanticize all you want about it, it is pure stupidity. The YK Delta produces some of the worst icing conditions and low IFR weather on the West Coast. You have a moisture laden marine climate meeting a very cold continental air mass. Let’s put our elders and mothers with children into VFR only, no anti-ice equipped, worn out sleds, with low time pilots, so they can build time and get a better job someplace else....If they survive...I can only hope that people will not continue to be this stupid...We have witnessed enough carnage already.
    You make valid points. Some outfits will really push the wx, but speaking objectively, I saw that a whole lot more in JNU than in BET. When I was at Hageland I felt no pressure to accept flights, and turned down flights when conditions seemed sketchy. But not everyone did, and there certainly were accidents that appear to have been avoidable. Interestingly, though, when I do a quick mental inventory of accidents before, during, and after my time in the Delta an awful lot of them were with pilots that were quite experienced.

    We had good check airmen and good experienced pilots who were happy to share tribal knowledge that was aimed at keeping us out of trouble.

    The planes weren’t beautiful, but generally were in good condition. The sleds were mostly ‘80s vintage, so that would make them 40 years old, not 60. And being unpressurized and rebuilt with some regularity, they were in pretty decent shape. Yes, some of the Grant planes were grounded due to record keeping or condition, and some of the Yute planes acquired by Hageland were beaters that got parted out. So not all the planes were as well kept as, say, the Bering Air planes. The Capstone I installations were very useful in many regards. They had UAT wx, which is very helpful, terrain, radar, and good moving maps. Most of the planes had Capstone equipment, and most of the time it was in working order.

    It wasn’t a perfect system, but between the improved avionics, improved attitudes about not pushing wx, implementation of an Operational Control Center where you pretty much had to convince the dispatcher of the safety of the flight, better runways, AWOS, and wx cams there were a lot of things being done to make it safer.

    Right now there are some new operators in the Y-K Delta, and I don’t know the specifics of their operations. But from what I understand, some of their people are quite experienced and not the type to push their luck. I don’t know all the pilots flying out there right now by any stretch of the imagination, and there may be some who are sketchy. But I don’t think they all are.

    Bottom line: it’s not perfect, but it’s not terrible, either.
    Speedo

  40. #40
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    I’ve hijacked this thread enough but you want to mention Hagelands, they killed more than their share out there. If there is such a thing as a share of lives. The last bad one with a low time pilot was a Piper Lance cartwheeling across the tundra after catching a wingtip at cruise speed...killed everyone on board. Tell the surviving family members how that isn’t so terrible.

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