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.