Student Magazine Articles
We're always humbled when our students write about their experiences with Alaska Float Ratings in Moose Pass. Here's several. All of the pieces are about the students' experiences and why they felt it was worth spending their time, money, and energy earning their float rating with us. If your time is limited in perusing this website, I think Barbara's article, Going for Water Wings, gives you an idea of what it is like flying one our super cubs in the rugged, yet beautiful Chugach National Forest, the second largest in the United States, and Alaska. Here's the articles.
By Barbara Rowell
Plane and Pilot, January 1994 (printed with permission)
"Okay, Barbara, enough of that. We're heading for a tiny lake where you have no choice but to put it down on the spot.," Vern said sternly.
I felt embarrassed-I had overshot my landing twice. I found it difficult to land short on a large body of water where there were so many choices. I was accustomed to being restricted to runways, targeting my wheels to touch down close to the numbers. Vern Kingsford sat behind me in his meticulously restored Super Cub, instructing me on my second floatplane lesson in two days. I was still overwhelmed by the added dimension of being able to touch down almost anywhere on water.
"I don't really need a float rating," I told him when he first proposed it. "But I would like to get bush-flying experience in Alaska, especially short-field landings with real obstacles."
"There's no place else in the world to get the kind of training you'd get flying on floats that compares to the course I give in my own backyard, Vern said emphatically. "Right where I live in Moose Pass, Alaska, is as spectacular a mountain setting as you'll find anywhere."
By David Wimer
I am a low time (250 hrs.) private pilot. When I completed my private in 1997 I planned on taking the usual route of adding additional ratings/privileges. Instrument-Commercial-Multi, were all things I viewed as being on the horizon. I got started, as was many hours into my training. Then life struck. Change in employment, Change in marital status, a long distance move. These were all things that forced my flying onto the back-burner.
When the stars realigned and I had the time, opportunity, (and of course money) to get back “into” flying, several years had passed. A couple of false starts, and finally back to flying with something close to regularity happened in the fall of 2003.
I still wanted to complete my instrument and commercial instruction, but I wasn’t ready to dive back into that quite yet. Being a big history buff, as well as a fan of anything nautical, I started looking at the seaplane rating as something “fun” to do, while exposing me to a different side of aviation, and hopefully “sharpening” my skills as a pilot.
I began to research, and initially started looking at those locations closest to me here in the Los Angeles area. This meant most likely Lake Havasu/Colorado River, or a couple of locations farther north in California. I made the decision that if I was going to learn to fly floats; I wanted to do it where float flying was a way of life, “the real deal” so to speak. That meant either Washington State, or Alaska. I must admit I also had the “Walter Mitty” syndrome, and wanted to see what being a “Bush Pilot” was about. I chose Alaska.
A couple of weeks ago I got my seaplane rating (SES) at Alaska Float Ratings in Moose Pass, Alaska . It was the best flying experience I've ever had!
Flying floats was amazing but even more impressive was the quality of the instruction. Vern Kingsford (the Designated Examiner) and his instructors completely changed the way I think about flying. Their lessons were thorough, challenging and very, very educational. I learnt more about engery management, mountian flying, reading the wind and "flying the plane" in one week than I have in my entire four years of flying as a private pilot.
By Patrick Mathews
AOPA Magazine, September 2002 Volume 45 / Number 9 (printed with permission)
The scientists call it Pleistocene glaciation. That time in Earth's formation when giant advancing and retreating glaciers carved out steep, smooth valleys and when colliding tectonic plates pushed up rugged mountain ranges. In Alaska, these powerful forces created the extraordinary topography of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. Mother Nature had also created one of Earth's most challenging and spectacular aviation environments.
It was the summer solstice, and I had come to this remarkable part of the world to experience authentic bush flying and to hopefully obtain my single-engine seaplane rating. Like many pilots, I had always been intrigued by the idea of adding the float rating to my certificate, not as much for its utility as for the pure experience. So, if this was to be for the experience then I wanted the real thing — to fly the way professional bush pilots do.
And I wanted real training, not just the rating.
After considerable research I discovered Vern Kingsford. He and his wife, Lura, operate Alaska Float Ratings in tiny Moose Pass, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Vern has earned a fine reputation. He's a stickler for safety. He does things right, insisting his students closely follow his well-honed syllabus. He's passionate about float flying. After 30 years of teaching and flying his Part 135 float operation, he is a master of the craft. Vern moved to Moose Pass 10 years ago when he realized that some pilots, like me, wanted experiences like the ones he now offers. The Kingsfords set up shop, as well as their cozy home, with Trail Lake right at their doorstep. As the only operator on the lake, Alaska Float Ratings has a unique location. It is surrounded by the Chugach National Forest that assures students of almost exclusive airspace. Here Class G covers the lofty snow-capped Kenai Mountains, arctic forests, glaciers, deep green valleys, swift-flowing rivers, and numerous lakes of all sizes, some in remote locations. All of this is accessible to students.
By Jon Rashleigh
Blythewood, SC - Instrument Rated Private Pilot – 350 hours
As I was preparing for my trip to Moose Pass, Alaska, to learn how to fly float planes I told several of my flying friends in South Carolina about my upcoming adventure. They said I was crazy going all the way to Alaska to get my rating and that I should just go to Florida and get it done much cheaper and quicker. I am so glad I didn’t listen to their ‘advice’… I wanted the real deal. AFR far exceeded my expectations for comprehensive learning in a true ‘bush flying’ environment.
When I arrived in Moose Pass the weather was deteriorating with gusty winds and scattered rain and clouds prevailing. After a short classroom intro lesson from Vern Kingsford, owner of AFR, we spent time getting familiar with the PA-18 Super Cub we would be flying and started practicing maneuvers on the water. As soon as we had a break in the weather we got up in the air and starting learning the basics of reading the water and finding safe places to land. By my third lesson I was at the controls of my dream machine, flying into a mountain valley for landing practice on Bench Lake.
Alaska Floatplane Rating Course in Moose Pass
This turned out to be one of the best flying experiences I've ever had!
I learned more about energy management, mountain winds, reading wind on water and slow flight than I had in all my other flying. I HIGHLY recommend these guys if you are interested in getting a float rating or in sharpening your overall flying skills. The instructors all have upwards of 5000 hours on floats and the owner/instructor Vern Kingsford has over 4000 just in the cub we were flying. He has over 16000 hours total and has been flying floats in Alaska for 37 years.
Additionally, you will meet some really interesting folks also taking the course. On this trip we met a research pilot from NASA who flies the 747 with the Space Shuttle on it to ferry it back to FLA. Vern spends a good deal of his time in the off-season in Africa and loves sharing his travel stories. The ready room has pictures of former students among which are astronauts, airline captains, fighter jocks and professional bush pilots.
By James Craig
The Transponder, A Publication of the Alaska Airman's Association November-December 2004
"Okay, Mister Pilot, there's a bear at your one o'clock," announced the voice over the intercom.
"Vern, that ain't no bear. That's just a black rock."
"Oh yeah? Well, your black rock just got up and walked away!"
And sure enough, just under our right wing, a huge black bear lumbered up the hillside. It seemed close enough to reach up and swat our Piper Super Cub right out of the sky.
You might consider this situation and this conversation unusual. Not the typical checkride conversation with a typical FAA-designated pilot examiner. Yes, that's right, this happened during a check ride. But then, nothing about this Alaska experience or this examiner will ever approach typical.
This is Vern Kingsford, owner/operator of Alaska Float Ratings in Moose Pass, Alaska. Irascible, obstinate, indomitable...colorful is much too bland a word to describe this man. A perfectionist and demanding, but at the same time playful, Vern is quick with a joke and a wicked grin. With more bluster and more flying stories than ten men, images of Foghorn Leghorn come to mind. But Vern is no cartoon, and one night not long ago, he proved it to me.
By Derek and Morag Jones
Flyer, March 2009, www.flyer.co.uk
(Printed with permission)
This year it was Mo’s turn to choose the holiday. Perhaps we might go flying, sailing, ride motorbikes or drive classic cars? Nope. “The International Wild Waterfowl Association is meeting for their 50th anniversary in Anchorage, and we’re going to visit wildlife places then get on a cruise ship down to Vancouver.”
A bit of Googling revealed the following: Alaska has six times the number of licensed pilots per head of population than anywhere else in the USA. Lake Hood at Anchorage has a higher number of floatplanes in one place than anywhere else in the world. Lake Hood airstrip, one of the two GA fields-Merrill Field is the other-has over 450 based light aircraft. Why so many? Well, apart from the road and rail links north to Fairbanks (about 300 miles) and south down the Kenai Peninsula to Whittier (the deepwater port) and to Seward and Homer, there are very few decent roads in this vast and wild territory, and certainly not in the winter. Amazingly, the state’s capital, Juneau, can only be reached by air or sea.