Looking for possibilites


New Member
As usual, when I have an unusual flying question I throw it out for all of you to weigh in on! Glad that JC puts people with questions in touch with folks who have the experience and knowledge to help answer them.

So, here's my new question for you:

Being the crazy outdoorsy, cold weather loving guy that I am, I'd love to spend some time in Alaska. I've run into a few newer CFIs passing through Fresno who have said they spent a summer flying in AK. What did they probably do? Is it the same kind of CFI gig as the lower 48 or are there other opportunities up there? I've done some quick searches on-line but haven't found anything productive yet. I'd probably spend a year or two in AK and would be interested in year-round or seasonal work. I'll soon be a low time CFI with a comm-multi rating and am just wondering what I'll be doing in the future . . .

So there you go! Have I shown my inexperience and rookieness or what?

Any ideas or thoughts would be appreciated.


I just had an article on this exact topic, but it's lost in the mass of articles in the LA Times website. It talks about a lot of little charter stuff, flying into small isolated towns. If you go, you must tell me how the skiing/boarding is up there, I have heard it's incredible.
I would love to spend some time up in Alaska flying... not for a career, but a year or two would be totally kick ass!
I've been flying commercially in single engine airplanes (wheels, skis and floats) throughout Alaska since the early 70's.

I've read a bunch of old posts and also the more recent ones regarding flying in Alaska. Some of the posts ("winter IMC in Alaska is pretty much suicide") is BS, (male bovine fecal matter). Winter IMC flying over the Cascades in Western Washington and the Siskiyous in Oregon, is far worse. Much of winter flying in Northern Alaska is too cold for icing, although it certainly is possible. The biggest hazard is low visibility and ceilings. Wind can be a problem at times, but, for the most part, is predicted for any destinations with published approaches and which can be reached by flying an instrument flight plan.

VFR winter flying can be pretty weird in some locations, and requires some getting used to, but is consistently done throughout the state all winter long. Bethel, which is the hub for over 50 Eskimo villages, has several air taxi companies servicing these villages year 'round. White outs with low viz and ceilings and many hours of darkness are frequent hindrances to VFR flights to and from Bethel and across the north slope during the winter, but it doesn't seem to slow them down much.

Southeast Alaska, Kodiak Island, and Gulf Coast winter flying can be scary with snow, fog, wind and turbulence, but is accomplished regularly.

Building up to your own limits incrementally over a season or two, and getting to thoroughly know an area, is the best way to acclimate yourself to flying in the marginal winter condtions of Alaska. Most air taxi companies don't push their pilots to fly in weather that is unacceptable to the pilot. This wasn't always the case, however. But, since the advent of intensified FAA scrutiny and their enforcement of FARS, the on-going analysis of the high accident rate in Alaska and the widespread dissemination of information regarding "The Bush Pilot Syndrome," flying in Alaska is far less hazardous than it was 30 years ago. GPS has also made life easier for the Alaska Pilot.

Summer weather varies through the State from the 24 hour-a-day sunlight of the Arctic and sub-arctic to the more lower-48-like day and night of Southeast Alaska. Summer weather in the interior parts of Alaska can also produce some fairly huge thunder storms with lighning-started forest fires and subsequent smoke. Smoke can be a real hindrance at times and even drifts into Alaska from fires in Siberia.
Spring and fall weather (equinox weather) tends to be the least predictable and most potentially hazardous especially in coastal areas.

Most Alaska air taxi owners like to see Alaska time on a resume, but in many cases, depending on pilot experience and qualifications, this can be waived and there are a few operations that don't require any Alaska time for new hires. K-2 Aviation in Talkeetna for one, although they want 2000 hours of time for a new hire. There are also several operators who will hire pilots with less than a thousand hours. Island Air Service in Kodiak is one.

The best way to get an Alaska flying job is to go there, and if you have less than a thousand hours, give flight instruction in Alaska to build both total hours and Alaska hours.

Flyalaska.com has a public directory of Alaska 121 and 135 outfits with addresses and phone numbers, and a few sponsored website links (and some spectacular photos). Their membership section charges a one-time-only $20 membership fee for a bunch of info, including 200 or more website links to Alaska flight operations, an Alaska pilot job information directory, and some other stuff. So far it seems to be the most complete source of Alaska flying and flying job information available on the internet. I paid the 20 bucks just to satisfy my curiousity and was impressed with the information presented.