So, after instructing for 19 years at the then too-busy, more-time, and more-money Lake Hood, I began to feel I was stealing the students' money and knew I was wasting their time. Then, I had two near-misses over Pt. McKenzie in one day. I knew I had to find a better place to teach float ratings.As a working bush pilot, I knew it had to be a location where you, my student, would experience real bush flying, like the kind of places you would fly to after you got your rating. It had to have mountains, lots of them and tiny lakes; the same type of lakes you would be landing on and mountains you would be flying through when you flew around Alaska.
It had to be a location that did not require 30 minutes of your expensive dual time to fly there and back; where an hour lesson turned into 1.5 hours of flight time. I did not want time-wasting flights like those to Figure Eight Lake or the Big Lake area. (The 30 minutes of each lesson was cross-country flying across flat land). When learning to fly floats you need takeoffs and landings, lots of them.
With much searching I found The Better Place, Trail Lake, in Moose Pass, Alaska. It didn’t require any cross-country flying to get to the practice area. It didn’t have traffic jams, or ATC. Upper Trail Lake itself is the practice lake with other practice lakes only five to six minutes away.
"Better," just doesn't describe the difference. There is not another place in the world, where you can experience the kind of training or acquire the skills you’ll gain while flying on floats, that compares to the course you will get in my own backyard! And it is in my backyard! You just walk past the raspberries and rhubarb down to the dock on the shore of the lake.
I cannot emphasize enough the value you'll receive by actually getting your float training in this confined mountainous location --- experiencing the closeness of the mountains --- personally encountering the mountain winds --- and learning where, when, and why the wind shears occur and how to avoid them. The lessons you receive here will develop confidence in your ability to handle and recognize why mountain flying is indeed a skill that should be developed and practiced during instruction, not learned by trial and error. These lessons can be applied to all of your flying --- not just flying floats. It'll make you a better pilot for sure; you will be a safer pilot.
Here, you're receiving two courses in one --- Your Single Engine Sea Rating with lots of practice in actual tight Mountain Flying situations.
Much greater value for you -
Experience: The several lakes that we use for training are all within five or six minutes of Trail Lake. Every lake is different, with different winds, shorelines, and approaches. You will get serious experience in decision-making and reading the water.
Time: You will practice many more takeoffs and landings per hour during your training with us. The number of takeoffs and landings per hour you practice on Trail Lake and surrounding lakes would take two or three hours from Lake Hood. There are no ATC delays in Moose Pass. So, in a seven hour package, you receive equivalent practice of ten to twelve hours doing training from Lake Hood.
Mountains: Every lake around Moose Pass is surrounded by nearly 5000 foot high mountains. The entire time you're here, during every takeoff, every flight, every landing, you are receiving mountain flying instruction and experiencing and practicing mountain flying techniques. This is in contrast to other locations in Alaska, like Lake Hood or Talkeetna which lies in the flats and is about 15 to 20 minutes flying time from the mountains.
Aircraft: Equipment is another aspect that completely separates my school from the others. None, in Alaska, have three beautiful well-maintained Super Cubs for you to earn your SES rating in. The Super Cub is the ultimate bush plane. The training aircraft at other schools in Alaska are not in the same class, yet their prices are similar. One of our Cubs, N45JM, is equipped with the 2000-pound gross weight kit on it. So we are always in legal weight and balance. Also available is our C-172 with a 180 hp engine and constant speed prop for float training or complex check outs or taking your friend for a ride after you complete your rating.
P.S. I still encourage my students to go out to Lake Hood, watch the airplanes and take some photos. I still have my spot on Lake Hood where I keep one of my planes. I've had the spot since 1975. It has been 33 years now. Where has the time gone? Occasionally, I do give instruction off Lake Hood in mine or an owner's aircraft. Each time it reminds me and confirms why I really had to find a Better Place.
Note: Expensive as it is to maintain, Trail Lake float plane base exists for only one reason, so that you can experience the best possible seaplane and mountain flying instruction.