Life in thhe Land of the MIdnight Sun

In Alaska, flying is more than fun — it’s a vital part of life. Alaskan pilot Brittany shares her experiences and lessons learned while working as a bush pilot and bear guide.

How did you get into flying?

Growing up in Southern California, I was always interested in aviation. I like to think that I have aviation in my blood because my father took flight lessons, and my grandfather owned a Piper Seneca for work. I began saving for flight lessons when I got my first job at 17 and officially started flying when I was 20. Ever since then, I’ve been completely hooked!

Tell us about moving to Alaska to pursue your flying career here.

Moving from California to Alaska was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life, yet certainly the most rewarding. I was a bit scared to move up here because I was constantly warned about the dangers of flying in Alaska. But as my instructor would always say, “Trust your training.” The strong safety culture of the company I work for made it so much easier to transition from flying for the purpose of fun and time building to having the responsibility of flying passengers who depend on my skills to get to and from home, doctors’ appointments, sporting events, and family gatherings. I absolutely love my job, and I can’t believe I get to do this for a living!

Life-In-Midnight-Sun-Photo airplane

“Nothing is impossible, no dream is too big, and if it were easy, everyone would do it!”

What’s a typical day like for you?

In the summer, the days are long and consist of both village flights and bear viewing. Depending on the time of day as well as the point in tide variation, bears will be clamming, fishing, swimming, mating, or playing! The diversity of bear activities always keeps it interesting, and so do the tourist reactions. The flight back consists of a volcano flightseeing tour, which is magical. It never gets old for me!

In the winter, workdays are much shorter because we’re a daytime VFR-only operation. My favorite part of winter flying is the passengers. The villages we fly into are small, so we get to know most all our village passengers by name and form friendships with many of them. It’s something that does not usually accompany many other pilot positions—you certainly wouldn’t find that working for a 121 carrier.

Life-In-Midnight-Sun-Photo bears

What advice would you give to someone interested in flying in Alaska?

My advice would be to take low time pilot jobs that include mountain flying, tailwheel airplanes, or possibly even off-field operations if you can. I believe experience in any of those areas makes a pilot much more hirable and desirable for the type of flying that takes place up here. I built a lot of my time flying in California around Ventura County in a J3 Cub and towing gliders in a Piper Pawnee around the north side of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Also, connect with people! I spent hours and hours on the phone with anyone and everyone willing to talk about Alaska flying and potential job opportunities up here, and it paid off! Lastly, surround yourself with pilots who are more experienced than you. A good friend gave me this advice a few years ago, and I reaped a great deal of knowledge and opportunities by doing so.

Life-In-Midnight-Sun-Photo woman with long braids
Life-In-Midnight-Sun Photo