Pilots Of Alaska
“Bush Pilots of Alaska,” is one of the greatest aviation documentaries of all time, thanks to the stunning aerial cinematography of Emmy Award winning cinematographer, writer, and producer Mark Dionne.
This masterpiece opens with some great historical footage of early bush flying in Alaska. Like today's bush pilot, the early bush pilots and the aircraft they flew brought people and their cargo into the new frontier of the Alaskan wilderness. The loads varied from gold miners to mail, food and other vital supplies.
Alaska is one of the last true wilderness areas left in the world, and the bush pilot is respected by all who depend on these magnificent men and women in this great country of mountains, glaciers, rivers and forests.
As the video completes its history lesson, the viewer is introduced to Lake Hood, the world's busiest seaplane base. Located in Anchorage, Alaska, it has up to 500 floatplane operations everyday.
An example of today's bush pilot is the late Gwendolyn Frary who at the time of filming was the only female bush pilot flying Part 135 off of Lake Hood. Flying her Super Cub, as well as, DeHavilland Beavers and Cessna 206's, she was typical of most bush pilots in Alaska flying for her love of flying and the adventure of flying in the Alaskan wilderness; not for the money. The viewer listens as she explains her passion for her job, and joins her flying among the massive glaciers and mountain passes. Ironically, Gwendolyn says in the interview that when she dies she hopes it is flying Alaskan Bush, and in the short time between her interview and the completion of this video, Gwen and her boyfriend were caught in severe turbulence over the rugged wilderness and fatally crashed.
Next the video introduces Dan Hollinsworth of Dan's Aircraft Repair who's company specializes in rebuilding Piper Super Cubs. The viewer is treated to a great time lapse segment which captures a bare frame up restoration of a Super Cub from beginning to completion.
Then we join Paul Claus who is a quintessential example of a modern bush pilot in Alaska. Having over 15,000 hours of bush flying experience, he started flying in Alaska as a student pilot when he was only 13 years old. Paul is known throughout Alaska for his ability to land in extremely difficult conditions, both on the sides of mountains and the most difficult of all bush flying: taking off and landing on glaciers. Many of these landings are made with full power as he lands on the steeply angled slopes. Together with his father John Claus he runs the Ultima Thule Lodge. This remote lodge is no less than a 150 miles from the end of the nearest road. Every single piece used to build and support the lodge has been flown in by Paul and John; even their Ford tractor. For the Claus’s the wilderness in which they live and the allure of flight in the remote region represents the “Ultimate Freedom.”
Paul and John fly many of their customers deep into the Rangle Mountains in the Saint Alysis National Park accessing areas that would be inaccessible to 99.9 percent of the people that go there if was not for bush pilots with skills such as theirs. For skiers, it is common for them to fly them to a remote base camp in a Beaver, then Paul flies the skiers one by one up to even high elevations in his Piper Cub which has been stripped of its entire electrical system in the name of saving performance robbing weight and must be hand propped every time it is started.
Despite the incredible level of skill that Paul and John possess, “Most everything we make is put back into the business, and while we will never be rich, we live a very rewarding life.” “I can not think of anything I rather do. The type of flying we do here has to be the funnest in the world. It is never boring, it is never the same, its always something different,” says Paul Claus.
The video then takes the viewer to the Gulkana Airshow, which is dedicated to bush pilots and bush airplanes. The Gulkana Airshow is famous for its STOL take off and landing competition. You will witness remarkable short field take-offs and landings, including several from Bill Ellis. Bill is a renowned Alaska bush pilot and is featured in “Super Cubs!” and “Super Cubs II Hardcore” which we also highly recommend and offer in the Bush Flying video section here at Strangebirds.com.
“Bush Pilots of Alaska,” is an incredible documentary of the pilots that are the living myths that are known as bush pilots. These pilots are living the adventures that will be passed on to both the young and old and to those that can only dream of flying over the wilds of Alaska.
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