Friday Night Flights to Wild Alaska

By Scott Spangler on February 23rd, 2011

At every level, and in every corner, it seems that the world is a universally unhappy place, and has been for awhile. Citing political mandates, and mindless of immediate or future consequences, oligarchs are strenuously exercising their financial hegemony to achieve a parochial utopia.

A steady and unrelenting diet of such news can make the most stalwart optimist morbidly depressed. So where is a person to escape and find relief from the world’s darkness? Is there a place where people still work together with comity to achieve a shared goal?

Flying Wild Alaska PhotosRevealed by the Discovery Channel, every Friday night at 8 p.m. central time I find refuge in  Unalakleet, Alaska, home base for Era Alaska, whose operation is portrayed in Flying Wild Alaska. It was the flying  that drew me at first, because the stick-and-rudder challenges of bush flying constitutes “real flying” in my mind.

But I stayed for the people, good people all who stand up and do whatever’s needed regardless of their position and its possible pretentions. A family-run airline, the Twetos and their pilots genuinely seem to care about each other and the communities they serve.

Perhaps that is because resourcefulness is an appreciated virtue, and because they must depend on each other for survival. The inability to easily pass the buck of responsibility to others is certainly a contributing factor. Combined, these traits are a lesson we all should all inculcate.

The antithesis of accepted corporate culture, Era grows some of its pilots from the small communities. In the last episode, one of them upgraded from the Cessna 207 to the Caravan. Watching him deal with the anxiety of flying with the check airman, the crosswinds, and the ice, my pucker factor was at least a half dozen points higher than his.

This shared anxiety recalls first-hand situations where it was just me and the airplane and the challenge at hand. Few situations in life today put the outcome solely in our hands,  impervious to all outside forces except Mother Nature herself. I find this restorative. To make the feeling last, I avoid the Friday night news. – Scott Spangler

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25 Responses to “Friday Night Flights to Wild Alaska”

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  2. Brad Says:

    I love that show too. Sometimes I think they go a little overboard editing the show to gin up the drama (or pucker factor) a bit, but it’s still a great show. At least their edits don’t mash completely different airplanes into one ‘shot’. They do have trouble with Ariel’s headset, though.

  3. Scott Spangler Says:

    I agree on their ginning up the drama, and it works on my wife, who isn’t a pilot but enjoys the show with me. She has noted that our respective pucker factors are rarely in sync.

    I would love to see a behind-the-scenes episode to see how they film it. I can see the cameras taped to different parts of the airplanes, but I wonder who turns them on and off, and how often a cameraman or camera ship accompanies them.

  4. Joel Says:

    One of my favorite prime-time shows – EVER! As a general aviation pilot, watching these folks deal with the weather conditions, making critical decisions, and being a family (related or not) really makes me appreciate what they are doing for the communities they serve. As has been stated previously, they tend to “over-dramatize” some situations, but it gives you an idea of how rough it really can be. Kudos to Discovery & best wishes to the Tweto family & Era Alaska. Keep’em flying!

  5. Tom Says:

    “after flying for 15 miles in the fog, john and his passengers emerge from the clouds” OMG, THE DRAMA!

  6. Marvin Howell Says:

    This program also impacts the Flight Sim world. There are repaints of the ERA aircraft and some of the bases are now a part of new scenery. Most are for FSX.

  7. Tom Says:

    I do like the show, however!

  8. Marvin Howell Says:

    All of the details about ERA Aviation can be found on their website, including routes, timetables, and charter information. This is a good website:

    http://www.flyera.com/about

  9. Colin Says:

    Obviously flying in Alaska is different than where I fly in Wisconsin. The pilot’s skill level is much higher than mine, because it has to be. These pilot’s do stuff on a daily basis that I would not even think of doing, that’s the job. The one thing that stands for me about the show is the little lessons in the form of explanations of GA concepts and terms. I absolutely love watching this show and hope it has many seasons to come.

  10. Pilotmike Says:

    What amazed me most is how they load these airplanes, seemingly oblivious of any FARs or MGW or CG concerns. Did not see anyone weigh anything or look at a loading chart. Just stuff it full and go. Not how I was tought. Scary flying though with minimums I would never think of.

  11. Kevin Says:

    Although I love the show, I’ve noticed numerous potiential violations; some of it being unintentional/unavoidable causes due to outside interference while others are just harmless fun. Either way, I hope the FAA isn’t watching this too carefully cause their bosses at TSA just want to bust someone and don’t give a #$%& about the outcome. Can’t let that happen to a vital service in the backwater State of Alaska.

  12. Mike Says:

    “Flying Wild Alaska” is an example of the kind of “marketing” that the aviation industry has been lacking for a very long time. Something about this show makes me want to go out to the airport, get in an airplane, and go flying. I realize Era is an air carrier, but I think this show gives General Aviation a huge shot in the arm. I can only hope that the vast viewing public feels the same as I do. Hope it continues. Of course all the publicity has already taken its toll. Ariel Tweto is doing the reality show circuit down in LA now. Good luck with that career decision.

  13. Ken Says:

    With the greatest of anticipation, I wait for the Friday nite program. Not having flown for quite a while, I sometimes, watching that family’s togetherness, feel that Iam there as an invited guest, just to fly arnd with them on their routes. I miss flying and they bring every bit of excitment back to me via their bold flying adventures up there in Alaska. Hats off to you Discovery Channel for a fine program! Finally some good viewing programs on T.V. and it involves Aviation !! Keep up the good work Tweto family and ERA Alaska.

  14. Lynn Says:

    I fly regularly with ERA. I have never been concerned with the loading of the airplane. I am a private pilot and always enjoy the time with the pilots.

  15. Maya Bandu Says:

    That pucker factor gets me every time. Flying in and out of the Alaskan bush is enough to give any honest thrill seeker a run for their money! Going through http://www.ymtvacations.com/ I found some good routes for adventure in my own flight paths of passion to Alaska.

  16. wheat Says:

    As a lower 48 taxpayer im glad to see my tax dollars subsidizing a few eskomos to get their pop in a timely fashion.

  17. joe Says:

    Great show. Inspired to work on short landing technique.

  18. Patrick Says:

    My non-pilot wife and I love watching the ERA pilots and the challenges that they face everyday. It makes me want to improve my own flying skills. We both look forward to Flying Alaska. The program needs to stay on the air and even be expanded. The drama, as some refer to it, is essential to keep it interesting to everyone. It sure beats a soap opera. The program is great for promoting GA–regular people being regular people. Remember folks, there are no roads in rural Alaska; everything must come to the towns by air. That is just the way it works.

  19. John Worsley Says:

    I like the show, too, but they do over-dramatize a bit. A pilot friend of mine and I, watching separately, both noticed an instance of this in the first show. They built tension waiting to see if a plane could get home before midnight when its annual ran out. They made out like it would be stuck forever if they missed the deadline. Why not get a ferry permit to get it to its annual?

  20. Colleen Says:

    Just so you know, ERA is based in Anchorage and flies throughout the state – Jim Tweto is only a part owner and Unalakleet is only one of their out-stations. They have BE1900s, Dash 8s, etc. (It’s all at the company website – flyera.com)

    As for weighing everything, that’s done in the hangar. They know what’s going on the planes when it’s brought out. All the rest is added dramarama like any reality tv show. It’s fun to watch but don’t get too caught up in the so-called “reality” side of it.

  21. Nick Says:

    Good show. They do tend to hype up situations that end up being nothing. The show does help create a lot more interest in the industry. Keep it up.

  22. Kevin Ferguson Says:

    Arial needs her own show! She is too funny. I think she would be a great TV host!

  23. Gary Ellis Says:

    Yea any aviation show is great,, Hope you’ve all seen the video Alaska float flying… if not, check it out..

  24. Jim C Says:

    Absolutely love the show. It’s one of the best 4 hours I spend all week. The drama is fun, even though its overblown. I’ve been spending a lot of time in X-Plane 9 landing Caravans on ridiculously short runways in Alaska with 30+ kt crosswinds.
    I agree that the FAA better not be watching or there will be some fines levied. FAR’s are just suggestions, right?

  25. Norm Says:

    Ok guys. Even in Alaska you can’t be airborne giving instruction to your daughter withe the mixture in cutoff, the throttle in idle and prop full increase. Guess there was a glitch in editing. I’m pretty sure the plane was on the ground………….

    Otherwise it’s a great show. The only show, other than sports I watch every week.

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