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Flightseeing for Nervous Nellies

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Buffalo, NY
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Flightseeing for Nervous Nellies

We are mulling over the idea of flightseeing Mt. McKinley during our trip this summer (last two weeks of July). But, we have a couple of nervous nellies in our family. (2 adults and 2 kids, 1 adult and one kid are nervous nellies).

So how SCARY are these flightseeing trips? Any that are more or less sedate than the others? Is there lots of turbulence? Are the pilots all dare-devils, or are some more cautious than others.

Thanks for any suggestions.

Fairbanks, Alaska
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1. Re: Flightseeing for Nervous Nellies

As a frequent flyer in small bush planes, I can garuntee that none of the pilots are daredevils when they have passengers. Do you think you would feel like tipping if you were scared on purpose? They don't want anyone to get sick either as they are the ones who would likely have to clean it up. Also, keep in mind that these small planes can land in a wider variety of places then the large commercial flights. I normally feel much safer in a smaller plane then a larger one. If you think that the two members would be too scared to enjoy the flight they could find alternate activities while you do one. Yes there can be some bumpy rides but remind them that the plane wont just fall out of the sky. Good luck!

Anchorage, Alaska
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2. Re: Flightseeing for Nervous Nellies

In a former life I used to work for a flightseeing operator in another part of the state. My experience is that they work very hard to be both comfortable and safe. I've never seen anything that didn't make me want to fly with a pilot or particular company.

That said, I have seen some people who were too scared to enjoy the trip, even if they bit their lip and decided to go with the group. You'll have to know yourselves, but my suggestion is that if they don't want to go... don't push. This fear doesn't get much easier once you're in the air. At the same time, the post above is right... there are so many other things for them to do, don't let them keep YOU from doing this amazing trip. Perhaps this is a good 2 hours to part ways. At some point in the trip, that's usually good advice anyways :)

Enjoy the mountain. It is spectacular from the air!

Skagway, Alaska
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3. Re: Flightseeing for Nervous Nellies

A member of my family used to fly out of Galena and then was a director of operations for an airline out of Nome, before he sold his airplane and retired. I feel very lucky to have flown all over western Alaska as a "fortunate flyer." There is nothing that compares to this experience as a way to see a large share of our state!

The posters above have covered this quite well but I must add one caveat. Stick with the legitiment companies and never accept a free ride with someone who just wants to show you around! There are a few yahoos who come up here each summer who just know they can be instant bush pilots, and that is where they usually soon end up, in the bushes, which only serves to give the legit companies a bad rep!

Have fun. This is one part of your trip you will not regret! DD

Buffalo, NY
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4. Re: Flightseeing for Nervous Nellies

Many thanks, 1stimestar, anchorage1977, and dbigfoot.

I certainly won't push them to do it - they're kind of mulling it over at this point. But I don't want to book the flight ahead of time and then have them back out at the last minute, either.

We've all flown before on commercial planes, and on the jets they are only mildly nervous (except when the pilot announces that there's a problem with the flaps, so we're flying around to burn off fuel, and we'll be landing a little faster thatn normal - don't be alarmed by the presence of the emergency trucks by the runway, which are only there as a precaution. We all did OK - a little white knuckles, but that was it. The landing was actually no different from any other landing I've experienced.) But I'm the only one that has ever flown in a single-engine prop, and that was all in Rochester NY - probably a little different experience than flying near the base of Denali ;-)

I would definitely look for a pilot with experience - at least he's had 10 years to get himself killed and it hasn't happened yet, right? I'm sure that 90% of the traveler fatalities that happen in Alaska are from newbies that are trying something that they think they can handle but don't realize until it's too late that they really can't.

Are there any that are more or less thrilling/scary? Like might a twin engine plane at least offer the comfort of a second engine (whether it's necessary or not). Is a glacier landing really wild (in terms of bumpiness and/or turbulence), or is it comparable to the landing you'll get back at the airstrip? Might the one that flies to the summit be a little less daring (because they don't fly so low)?

And I recognize that some of this is more a matter of perception than actual danger - any landing you can walk away from is a good one, right?

I appreciate all the feedback so far. This forum is a great resource for me.

Destin, Florida
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5. Re: Flightseeing for Nervous Nellies

this is a very good question/comment. I read in a Travel and Leisure or maybe it was Conde naste that there was a specific certification that the passenger should find out if the pilot carries. Does anyone know what it is? I forgot already and they were specifically talking about small planes in Alaska and Hawaii. It has to do with number of hours flown and number of inspections done on the aircraft. Thanks

Anchorage, Alaska
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6. Re: Flightseeing for Nervous Nellies

Below is a link for the FAA regional office in Alaska for a program called circle of safety. Understand your rights and responsibilities regarding flight conditions, weight and balance of an aircraft, operator qualifications, insurance and suvival/emergency equipment as these are often things you would not otherwise have to consider when flying on large commercial carriers in your hometowns.

www.alaska.faa.gov/flt_std/index.cfm…

Also, look at a FAA-sponsored safety program called the Medallion Foundation for a list of carriers that are voluntarily exceeding FAA safety standards. There are 5 areas that an air taxi or flightseeing operator can apply for this certification and after collecting all 5 "stars" they can ear a medallion. All things being equal, I'd always recommend flying on one of these carriers if possible.

www.medallionfoundation.org/index.asp

This program has been a huge success in getting private companies to partner with the government to improve safety up here. The number of accidents has dropped dramatically in the last decade through this and other safety efforts.

Spend the time to educate yourself and I promise you will have both a more comfortable and safe vacation in Alaska.

Buffalo, NY
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7. Re: Flightseeing for Nervous Nellies

Thanks, anchorage1977. These sites are very informative.

In the case of Denali flightseeing, this may raise more questions than it answers. I went to the Medallion web site and clicked through all the individual companies that have earned at least one star, and only a few offer flightseeing of Denali, and those seem to fly from Fairbanks.

There are some that are listed as "Applicants", but they haven't earned any stars yet.

The companies that I was previously looking at for flightseeing Denali were:

Alaska Air Taxi (not listed)

Denali Air (not listed)

Fly Denali (listed as an applicant, no stars yet)

K2 Aviation (not listed)

Kantishna Air Taxi (listed as an applicant, no stars yet)

Rust's Flying Services (listed as an applicant, no stars yet)

Talkeetna Aero Services (listed as an Applicant, no stars yet)

Talkeetna Air Taxi (listed as an applicant, no stars yet)

I was also looking at this one for Wrangell-St.Elias:

Wrangell Mountain Air (not listed)

So any other suggestions of where to look for data?