Bush Pilots of Alaska

Alaska Photo + Video + Film
by David Miller Nov 8, 2017

BUSH PILOT Jay Claus likens bush pilot aircraft (in particular the Super Cub) to a magic carpet. “They’re like this transport tool; they get you where you want to be. I love the sheer joy of flying itself, but for me it’s the access. In a land where you can spend days or weeks on foot trying to get somewhere, you just hop in one of these little guys and you’re there in an hour. It’s this time machine.”

Over four days, filmmaker Scott Sporleder spent hours flying with Jay and other Alaskan bush pilots at the Ultima Thule lodge. They’re uniquely located for exploring some of the most remote regions on earth, particularly the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. And it was the scale of this terrain that had the biggest impact.

“After four days of flying and being up in these planes for hours at a time,” he explained, “we’d come back, and they’d show me where we flew on the map. And then comparing that with the size of the entire park, it’s just mind-blowing. We saw just a fraction, maybe five percent of the park.”

Finally, the pilots themselves, and their way of seeing the world, made a lasting impression: “They see nature and land and topography just differently than most people. They view it in terms of wind shifts and drafts. They don’t say that, but you can just see the way that they’re flying, they’re always looking at it. It’s like a different language. They understand what that cloud and that wind and that glacier are giving; it’s something unspoken. Their sense of space, of the wind and the land, they’re almost like birds themselves.”

Stay tuned for a whole series of upcoming 360 experiences where you can ride along with the bush pilots over some of the most amazing terrain in the world. Please visit our video page for more.

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