18 January 2017 | Moose Pass, Alaska. Two years ago the author found himself flying alongside a leucistic Bald Eagle, which positioned himself just beyond ERCO Ercoupe Ila‘s (‘Ila’ is an Alaska Inuit word that roughly translates as “friend or companion”) left wingtip, in central Florida airspace. For precious seconds human and avian eyes met across respective wings as both bird and man shared the wonder of flight.
The human in the pairing thought it rather ironic that he was in formation with a somewhat rare example of the nation’s national bird when several colleagues were at the time in Alaska flying daily in regions populated by many majestic eagles. It occurred to him that for aviators and nature lovers Alaska may be as good as it gets, and to cavort in the skies of Alaska one may wish to consider contacting Scenic Mountain Air and purchasing one or more of the company’s umbrella of professional pilot and sightseeing services.
Scenic Mountain Air is based on Trail Lake at Moose Pass, Alaska, which is accessible via the Seward Highway. Notably, Trail Lake is only some 30 minutes north of Seward at MP 29. The area is considered by many, as the brochures state, to be “floatplane heaven.”
Scenic Mountain Air itself is a small floatplane-only charter operation. Offerings include a scenic flight tour over the Kenai Fjords National Park that features spectacular views of the Harding Icefield. Alternatively, one can fly along Prince William Sound, enjoy some bear watching on the Kenai Peninsula, or book an Alaska Float Plane Safari. Two other options include cabin flights and fly-in fishing excursions. (Since 1991 the operation has provided safe transportation to U.S. Forest Service cabins in the vicinity of Moose Pass.) Air charters between Seward and Anchorage, Kenai, Homer, Valdez, Cordova, Talkeetna, and Denali are also schedulable.
This year marks 27 years of service, and the company’s Web pages justifiably boast that their Alaska experiences are comparable to “flying in a National Geographic Special;” there are photographs “around every corner.” Simply put, in the homelands of the Alaskan Inuit the pristine scenery is so beautiful that it is almost indescribable.
Aspiring or certificated floatplane pilots may wish to study at an associated facility named Alaska Float Ratings, which is an accredited bush flying and seaplane training school that has been serving the aviation community since 1975. The enterprise is the state’s foremost backcountry flight instruction provider and, as staff members are quick to point out, Alaska’s only “actual bush flying and seaplane school.”
Through Alaska Float Ratings one can earn a Single Engine Sea Rating at the Trail Lake base in Piper PA-18 Super Cubs.
As proprietor Vern Kingford, who has been teaching since 1974, says, “Flying floats is one of the most exciting forms of flying and the closest to barnstorming a pilot can get. Floatplanes combine the exhilaration and pleasures of sailing, boating, and flying.”
Vern pointed out that students can experience the challenges and thrills of piloting within Moose Pass and simultaneously learn how to safely and properly fly in naturally restrictive areas.
Alaska Float Plane Safaris utilizes a six-place Cessna U206 Super Skywagon on floats which can transport up to five passengers or 800 pounds.
Scenic Mountain Air associates try to offer something for everyone. The sky is truly the limit, and purchasing any of the services will provide one with an unforgettable encounter with nature.
Happy (water) landings!
For further information or to discuss your individual needs and desires telephone (907) 288-3646 or (619) 633 3020.
The author (John Stemple) and 20th Century Aviation Magazine thank Vern Kingford and the staff of Scenic Mountain Air for their assistance and cooperation during the preparation of this article. Note: All images were supplied by Scenic Mountain Air and the parent company’s associated branches.