Most of Alaska is roadless wilderness. We love it that way, but it does make it difficult to get around. Fortunately there are some wonderful pilots with capable aircraft which allow us to travel widely throughout Alaska’s great wilderness. If you are joining one of our guided wilderness trips in Alaska, we will take care of arranging safe and efficient flights for you. Should you choose to plan a trip on your own, picking the right pilots and aircraft is key to the success of your trip. Here are our favorite Alaska air taxi operators and some thoughts about how to choose the best pilot for your next trip.
1) All things being equal, we prefer single pilot operations where the owner and pilot are the same person. We like knowing the pilot personally and knowing that we are flying with the owner.
2) It is worth spending more for an experienced pilot who you trust. The frustration and fear from dealing with a less reputable operator isn’t worth it.
3) Think creatively. Just because the Katmai National Park headquarters is in King Salmon doesn’t mean that the best way to get into Katmai is via King Salmon. Consider Homer or even Anchorage if you have a pilot you trust there. Do you need to hire a plane or can you find a local with a boat to pick you up on the coast? A little creativity can save you a lot of money.
4) Despite the romance of float planes, most of the places we prefer are best accessed by wheel plane with tundra tires. Landing on a gravel bar next to the river you plan to paddle sure is easier than carrying your boats from a lake to the river over rough tundra.
We guide trips all over the state and have worked with some great pilots over the years. Here is a list of our favorites:
1) Coyote Air– Operates a Beaver on tundra tires from Coldfoot. Dirk and Danielle provide access to Gates of the Arctic, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the central Brooks Range. Great people with impeccably maintained aircraft.
2) Yukon Air- Operates a Cessna 185 on tundra tires from Fort Yukon. Kirk provides access to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge and the Eastern Brooks Range. Kirk is a wealth of knowledge and he is the perfect choice for smaller groups in the Arctic Refuge.
3) Golden Eagle Outfitters and Arctic Backcountry Flying Service operate in partnership and have 2 Cessna 206s on tundra tires in Kotzebue. Jared and Eric provide access to the Western Arctic, Kobuk Valley, Noatak Preserve, Selawik and the Seward Peninsula. They will do everything they can to make sure you have a great trip.
4) Wrangell Mt Air– With a variety of aircraft in McCarthy, they are the best choice for Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
5) Fly Drake– Operates Cessna 206 on skis and wheels from Haines. Summer and winter access to Glacier Bay or Northern Southeast Alaska.
by Michael Wald