Rarely does a student pilot have the opportunity to fly with experienced instructors who have been taught and guided by an instructor/examiner with nearly 18,000 hours, over 7,800 hours on floats, and with 40 years of flying in Alaska. You will get just such an opportunity with us at Alaska Float Ratings. Our instructors are also working Part 135 bush pilots. They are using the same techniques all summer long that they're teaching you. Each of our instructors are chosen for their skills, experience, dedication, and teaching abilities.
Alaska Float Tales
How I survived the wild and
finally became a seaplane pilot
BY CYNTHIA SPERBERG-HART
Bay Cities Chapter ninety-nine
I don’t want to die!” I thought after my first flight in Alaska. Not glee or feelings of conquering the skies, I was experiencing a touch of pure terror.
The flight had been going well, and at first, other than feeling completely clumsy in such a wonderfully performing plane as the Super Cub, I was thinking “I can really like this seaplane stuff.”
Great instructors shouldn’t be this nice. Darlene was the Los Angeles FSDO's Certified Flight Instructor of the Year in 1997. (We're not bragging, just fact.) With her over 16,000 hours of flying time I want you to read what she has to say.
"My first su mmer instructing in Moose Pass was the first time in my entire flying career of more than 29 years that I wasn’t current on instruments or wheels! But I loved it. I learned in a Luscombe; I have taught private, instrument, and commercial pilots in single engine, multi-eninge and tail draggers. I have 11,000 hours of instruction given. I've flown most models of Lear Jets, both charter and corporate. Teaching floats in a Super Cub in Moose Pass, Alaska, has been the most fun and challenging I’ve experienced. Each year I can’t wait for summer to get here.
Former CFIs on the Dock
Duane Hallman Is a “been-there-done-that” kind of pilot. Duane worked for us for over 25 years. He is the best of the best. He was also Scenic Mountain Air's Chief Pilot for years.
"I have more time on floats than wheels. I couldn’t help but do that when I fly all summer in a Cessna U206 on floats and teach single engine sea ratings in Super Cubs --- all in the mountains and weather conditions of Moose Pass and Prince William Sound. This spot can be the most beautiful and sometimes the most challenging. If it’s too challenging, I stay on the ground. I'd like to think I've learned something in my nearly 29 years of flying in Alaska."
Duane on dock in front of CE-U206
Joe Erickson, who hails from Pennsylvania has moved on to flying for a lodge in Lake Clark. He flew here for two seasons and took some fantastic photos as well as GoPro videos with his students. He has spent a couple winters in a remote village of Alaska, Galena, teaching students how to fly.
Joe on dock with N917VK, one of our Super Cubs
Phil Thibodeau earned his rating a couple years ago from us and couldn't wait to come back to Moose Pass. He enjoys instructing in N654DT - that's his favorite Super Cub - with the Wipline floats. Students appreciate his thorough, yet calm instruction.
Phil with N654DT
Will Boardman and his Maule. His backpack holds climbing gear.
Will is in Talkeetna. He now flies ski planes for Talkeetna Air Taxi. After three years of instructing floats and flying the C-206 on floats, he wanted to try "hard water." He keeps in touch and we still call a very remote lake on the Prince William Sound side of the mountains, "Will's Lake."
When Scott Miles wasn't preflighting airplanes, fueling airplanes, instructing in Super Cubs, and flying the Cessna U206, he was fishing for either salmon, grayling, or rainbow trout. He left us to fly a Beaver on floats and a C-185 on wheels farther in the Alaska bush.
"If I hadn't flown around Moose Pass for my first three seasons flying in Alaska, I'm not sure if I'd stll be here. One day last summer (2008) I realized that taking off into the wind in the loaded Beaver would not have been a good idea. I could see the wind shifted to a downwind just about the time I'd need the lift. I chose to take off downwind so I would be into the wind just after lift-off. I'd done that many times in Moose Pass having been taught by Vern and Duane. Turns out a fellow crashed and was killed in that same location several years ago - appearing to not have read the wind correctly." Scott
A graduate from the University of North Dakota, Dylan Lancello first came to Moose Pass to earn his Single Engine Sea. The next summer he worked for us as a dock hand, and the following summer, have given at least 200 hours of dual, he worked for us as a float instructor.
Dylan's currently working for Compass Airlines, a Northwest Airlines regional, and flying the EMB-175. It's not on floats, but it will do for now.
Charles Mc Murrough: Charles’ nick name around camp was “Happy Charles”. We kept him around because he was older than me with twice the energy. Charles is now flying medivac out of Kozebue, Alaska. That job gives him a little more time off in the summer to get things done around the house. He still flies down from Anchorage in his own Super Cub on floats to say "Hi." He misses Moose Pass.
Matt DeBoer: Again, a University of North Dakota graduate turned out to be a super instructor. Matt DeBoer started as a volunteer dock hand. He worked his way up from the “bottom". We consider this entry level position into becoming a Bush Pilot to be most important, and the person doing it better take it seriously.
Taking full advantage of the situation, Matt did this and more. With an easy-going, humorous personality, along with his professional demeanor, students and staff enjoyed working with him.
A Day in the Life of a Bush Pilot
By Dean Sibley
Being a bush pilot isn't all that it’s cracked up to be. The summer of 2006 was the toughest season in four years. Still, all things considered, it beats flying a bus for a living.
Everyday there were a new set of obstacles that never seemed to be the standard FAA 50’. This year I found my personal minimums; it was the same old story of "GET THERE- ITIS." I had a fishing guide, father, grandpa, and two young boys out on what was supposed to be a day fishing trip. After six hours the weather started getting horrible. And with me in my fourth season, horrible doesn’t mean a little rough. Despite better judgment, I decided to set out for the fishing party early knowing that they were not prepared for a night in the Alaskan wilderness in an apparent brutal storm that was brewing.
Scott Miles, affectionately called “Iceberg,” my trusty right-hand pilot offered to fly a second plane simultaneously to get these folks out faster. After being spun around three times while trying to taxi downwind in 25-plus knot winds I managed to have enough room to depart safely. Once airborne I knew that I was in for a wild ride! With drafts going up as well as down and continuous moderate turbulence, I had extreme difficulty keeping my headset on my head. I relayed my situation to Iceberg and he wisely chose to return to the dock. I was already up and underway and not looking forward to landing in the same conditions I had left so I continued to see, if possibly, the winds were better at my destination and, hopefully, return to better winds in about an hour. One never knows in the mountains.
My destination was a 4,000’ lake at about 2,000' MSL which isn’t too bad till you try a departure in a loaded C-206. I accurately recognized the hazardous situation which I was facing and upon arrival chose to depart with only the father and two small boys. I couldn’t' turn downwind and was forced to sail the entire length of the lake backwards, which only took about 20 minutes “thanks” to the strong winds.
My passengers had little idea of the peril I had placed them in and, of course, were very anxious to leave, pressuring me the whole time while sailing to take off “NOW, WHY NOT?” Despite their badgering and my impulse to drop them off in the center of the lake and return solo, I tortured them with a long painful sail and wicked flight that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. The winds had not improved, in fact, they were worse. I had to fly slowly, well below VA and endured some of the worst turbulence I'd ever experienced for what seemed like two hours for a normally ten-minute flight.
Once back at home base I spent the better part of a half-hour looking at the water and other factors to plan the best way to arrive dry! It looked like somebody had turned five blenders up to obliterate --- there was no constant wind from anywhere. I determined that my best shot was the middle of the lake which is totally out of the norm, but, hey, so was the weather. I had to anticipate wind gusts from numerous directions. I began my approach with an intense downdraft, then a tailwind, and finally touching down into the wind near the center of the lake --- and I had to do it now!! The wind never did stay constant so when I saw the variables line up I took it and it worked out nicely, all things considered. Of course, my passengers never had a clue as to what had just transpired.
It still took over 45 minutes to taxi to the dock, at some points we were actually going backward more than forward. The fishing guide and grandfather had to spend the night on a cold and windy lake. They weren't very happy with me when I showed up the next day. You’d think that they would have been happy since I didn't show up a second time the night before, this time knowingly taking a chance to add them and me to an NTSB report.
Later this same challenging day, one of the Super Cubs flipped its wing into the lake while tied to the dock. Needless to say, no students were flying this afternoon.
This is trip going to the top of the list of things that I will never do again! Fly safe Dean :) Use your expert piloting knowledge to avoid using you expert piloting skill.
Originally published in backcountrypilot.org as “What I did over my Summer Vacation.” Reprinted with permission.