Aviation has always been a large part of my life. I wanted to be a pilot before I really knew what a pilot was. Those airplane drivers that took to the sky in Cessnas, Super cubs and Heilo couriers were rock stars in my eyes. Bush flying was my biggest dream, I didn’t have the faintest curiosity for the larger aircrafts or the airlines and corporate computers. My poor parents heard nothing but aviation gibberish from the day I learned to talk. This fascination of aviation is a common trait among those of us who grew up in the bush. In an environment were the only access to the outside world is via bush plane, it is easy to see why this would be a shared passion.
I had many years to daydream about flying until the opportunity came for me to earn my wings. A month after getting licensed in New Mexico I was searching all across Alaska for an aircraft I could afford. Finding an airplane capable of doing “light bush work” within the budget of a 19 year-old trapper was challenging to say the least. After searching for many months I found a 7ECA Citabria that fit the bill. The airplane’s ability to fly at 5.5 gallons an hour and perform well when kept light made it a good choice for working the trapline. I flew many hours with several experienced bush pilots before I made my maiden voyage to the cabin.
I’ll never forget landing on the gravel bar upriver, touching down and coming to a roiling stop besides my dad’s boat. My parents met me with smiles of relief and pride. To this day, I still fly the Citabria. It has hauled countless loads of supplies to the main cabin and side tent camps that I access with aircraft. The low horse power airplane forces you to truly “fly the wing” making it the perfect machine to learn in.
With my changing roles as a guide, the need for a larger float equipment plane became apparent. In 2018 I bought my “work horse”. The big motored 180 on EDO floats became the machine for the job. Since then I have fallen in love with the Cessna. Its large wings and and fast fighting characteristics make it the ultimate bush plane for those that need to go a long ways and haul a big load.
Aviation has been intertwined with Alaska’s history for many years and likely will continue to be. This is a big state with few roads, our communities are remote and wide spread. Many villages can only be reached by boat or airplane, this makes aviation a necessity, especially in the winter. Bush planes are the only means of access to a large portions of the Arctic. There are no roads in the corner of Alaska, where I guide, so of course, we fly. Many of my guest have highlighted their flight in when I ask them what they like best about there experience. There is something about sliding above this big country that catches the adventurous spirit in almost all of us.