Coffee. Couches. Companionship. And the occasional airplane excursion. Such are the happenings at Artic’s Air Academy.
In the period of a month and a half, I grew from an incompetent individual with my feet rigidly rooted in the soil, to a pilot – one who can confidently maneuver an aircraft with nominal amount of knee-knocking, hair loss or nerve damage to myself or others. The level of knowledge and ease found among the instructors at Artic’s allow for even the most awkward and unsure of student pilots to thrive in a comfortable yet focused learning environment.
From performing touch and go’s and simulated engine out landings throughout the Valley, to practicing aerial spins 3,000 feet over the ground below, to letting lose paper airplanes over the fairgrounds, excitement and intrigue are stables of life among the students and staff of Artic’s Air Academy.
~ Tara Chesnut, Nov 2009
I have been flying with you guys for three months now. I'm working on getting my private pilots license. And I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy working with your company. My CFI is Brett Crowley and he is a amazing instructor. Any fear I had with flying was lost as soon as I hit the air with Brett. I plan on going for my commercial pilots license and a instrument rating along with tail wheel and several other endorsements. I will continue to use Arctic air academy for all my aviation need's. Thank you for everything.
~ John Schultheis, January 2010
I just earned my private pilot's license through Artic's Air Academy. It was an incredible experience! The knowledge and friendliness of instructors and staff is unparalled. My CFI, Eoghen, went above and beyond to ensure taht I had the necessary training to earn a license. Overall it is an excellent invenstment and opens up a whole new world!
~ Sam Deedy, February 2010
Dear Artic’s Air Academy Team,
I am writing this letter to express gratitude for helping me achieve a lifelong dream – becoming a Private Pilot.
As you are aware, I started my flight instruction with a different Flight Academy, and found them to be a company that did what they did because they “had to” and not because they “wanted to” Students were treated as irritants and there was a general atmosphere of condescension and negativity.
My experience with Artic, Susan, Brett, Ken and TEAM has been absolutely opposite of my first five hours with “unnamed flight” school, and has been nothing but positive and productive. Not only does Artic’s Air Academy attract quality students and create safe and competent pilots, but also fosters the love of General Aviation which benefits us all.
Let me also say that Brett Crowley is a gifted teacher in general, and flight instructor in particular. His patient, clear, and encouraging guidance and instruction is much appreciated! He has the gift of making his students believe in themselves. As we worked through the many skill-sets needed to become a pilot, Brett’s methods caused me to have calculated confidence rather than fear and frustration.
I could go on and on about the greatness Artic’s accessibility and helpful stories, Susan’s kindness and patience dealing with “customers”, and Ken’s happy persistence as a promoter of the Flight School. Kudos for your professionalism!
To sum up my experience to date: I’m a Happy Customer and a Private Pilot!!
Best Regards and Much Gratitude!!
~ Doug Graham, March 2010
Thank you so much for making Sam feel welcome, comfortable and confident
and thank you for the quality of instruction.
I would recommed Artic's Air Academt ANY TIME.
~ Dana Deedy, March 2010
"Because it was our first time in Alaska we had no idea what to expect. Ken eased the way with excellent communications while we were making arrangements, and is a great guy to meet in person. John Varco our instructor is an experienced bush pilot, and mountaineer, and as well as providing superb instruction, made us feel very safe in a flying environment vastly different to the UK where we live. Flying with Artic's Air Academy is an experience to be recommended."
~ Alan Barker - United Kingdom, June 2010
Finishing my Private Pilot certification through Artic's Air Academy proved to be the best decision thus far in my flying career. I had tried several other outfits, never feeling that 'partnership' in my success. Even with my crazy North Slope work schedule, the guys always found a way to customize or accelerate my training. Yes, they prepared me for the check ride. But it was more than that. They prepared me for flying safely in Alaska.
And for that, I say Thank You Ken, Artic, Gunny, and to all the AAA staff. We will continue to be in business, as I still need tailwheel, high performance, complex, commercial,....
Your loyal and very happy customer and friend,
~ Jeff Lathrom - Wasilla, AK, March 2012
Artic & Ken,
I just wanted to drop you a line and say thanks for the instruction you guys provided towards getting my license. I appreciace the flexability and accomodating my schedule to help me reach this long term goal.
~ Mark Binggeli, November 2013
My experience with Artic's Air Academy was excellent. Out of the many flight instructors I've flown with to obtain my private license, the Academy was by far the best. Matt and Ken were always more than helpful and willing to go out of their way to make sure I was happy. Overall, my experience with them was far better than my expectations from any flight school. I would recommend them to anyone.
~ Mike Lackey, February 2014
In late summer of 2014, I decided I was going to finally move forward with a personal goal I've had for many years of becoming part of the exciting world of aviation. I decided that I was going to just dive in, buy an airplane, and get flying. This is my story of how the guys at Artic's Air Academy helped to make my dream a reality.
My name is Jay and I'm a welder in Fairbanks, Alaska. When I was ready to start shopping for an airplane, I knew hardly anything about airplanes. I'd look at for sale ads and get lost in a sea of acronyms. TBO, TTSMOH, TT, STC, AFTT... Aside from the acronyms, I had a ton of different types of planes to choose from, and no hands on flying experience to help me know which ones were better than others. It was overwhelming, at first and I quickly learned that I had some research to do.
I believe the first thing I did was try to decide why I wanted a plane and what I wanted to do with it. I reasoned that I wanted a plane that could take me in and out of some remote parts of Alaska for camping or hunting or other adventures. After reading a couple books about bush pilots in Alaska, I decided that a bush plane is what I wanted. It seems the standard for bush planes is a taildragger, so that's what I was after. Then, I narrowed down my search further by establishing some other "deal breakers" or "must haves". For example, I didn't want a plane with tandem seating. Don't fully know why, just didn't want one because to me, I thought it would be more comfortable to be seated side by side in an airplane. And I had a budget of around $35k, so those two things pretty much eliminated Super Cubs, even though Super Cubs can make the best bush planes. I was leaning towards all-metal planes, but not totally against fabric, so I was looking at a lot of Cessnas. Then I started to compare specs between different planes. I made a spreadsheet of models and their performance specs. I wanted a plane that had decent specs across the board, not necessarily a great performer in one or two areas. Things that were important to me were short airfield capabilities, useful load, range, and stall speed. By this time I was equipped with a little bit of knowledge with which to continue my search.
I first contacted the guys at Artic's early on in the search. There was a Cessna 170B at the Palmer airport that was for sale and I needed some advice about it. I looked online for a maintenance shop in Palmer that I may be able to hire to do a pre-buy inspection. I emailed Artic's and I believe it was Ken More who replied to me. The first thing I realized was just how helpful he was and willing to take the time to give me detailed advice about the plane, even without me ordering a pre-buy. He said they were familiar with the plane, and its prior owners. He went on to say that as he can recall, he always remembers it being cleared of snow in the winters, and generally well taken care of. He even advised that the price was very reasonable, and that I'd probably have a fair amount of equity after the deal.
Well I continued my search for planes around Alaska. I found an ad for one that jumped out to me as an excellent deal. It was a Cessna 175 with the nicest custom interior that I'd come across so far. It had a few mods and extras that made the deal pretty sweet. I got in contact with the owner and we agreed on an even lower price, after some negotiating. I was sure this was the right plane. Again, it was down in the Palmer or Wasilla area, and again, I emailed the guys at Artic's for some advice. This time, I believe it was Artic who responded to the email. He pointed out some very important information about the plane that I had overlooked. He explained in detail the astronomical cost associated with overhauling the particular model of engine that was in the plane and noted that as far as he can tell, it could be very close to needing the overhaul. After quickly doing the math, I realized that I had almost made a very costly mistake and that what looked like a good deal to me was actually a deal that I should steer clear from at all costs.
The next plane that I was interested in was another 170B. This one was in Kalskag, a small village far out in western Alaska. I sent the info to Artic's and asked what it would cost me to have them make a trip there, inspect the plane, and ferry it back to Palmer, and eventually to Fairbanks. They sent back a detailed list of the hours and resources involved and gave me an idea of what I'd be dealing with, assuming that there would be no costly hiccups during the orchestration. Eventually, I talked the owner of the plane into flying it to Fairbanks and we would move forward with a sale here, which never ended up happening.
Now, at this point, I think it's important to point out that I had not yet actually MET the guys at Artic's. To them, I could've seemed to be just some stranger from Fairbanks who's been calling and emailing them doing nothing more than asking for favors, which I WAS. But the amazing part was just how helpful they were despite us having not yet met or conducted any actual business. I even casually mentioned that I felt a little guilty for having gotten so much advice and help from them, but hadn't given them any business. It was even looking as though I WOULD NOT be giving them any business, as by now, the plan was for the Kalskag plane to be flown to me in Fairbanks by the owner, and I'd have no need to have Artic's do the ferrying. Ken assured me that they just like to help like minded people get into the aviation world, and were not so concerned that we'd not done any actual business.
Well as I said, the Kalskag plane never made it to Fairbanks and after waiting and waiting for months for the owner to overcome a seemingly endless river of difficulties, I had to cut ties with it and move on with other possibilities.
In the end, I purchased the original 170B that was in Palmer. The first plane Ken gave me an opinion about. It had since been flown to Soldotna, closer to where the owner lives and I drove there to do the purchase. After the purchase, I left it the plane in Soldotna and headed back to Fairbanks. I needed to figure out a way to get it to Fairbanks. Now I definitely had an opportunity to use the guys at Artic's!
Over the next couple weeks, I talked the prior owner of the plane into flying it to Palmer for me and leaving it at Artic's until I could figure out what to do from there. With the plane safely at Artic's Air Academy, I once again asked for their professional advice. I knew I'd hire them to fly the plane to Fairbanks for me, but there was also and option of me riding along or even getting flight training along the way. I wasn't sure if the training would be helpful, due to the fact that I had no other flight training or ground school at the time. I certainly thought that it could be a little too much, too fast and maybe I should just have them do the ferry flight, and maybe I'd just ride along as a passenger. Ken replied with enthusiasm and said, "You'll benefit from any flight training you get. Don't waste your time as a passenger. It's your plane, you need to fly it!"
We looked at all of our schedules and determined a day that would work best for everyone to do the flight from Palmer to Fairbanks. In a few days, I was finally at Artic's Air Academy meeting everyone for the first time, and reuniting with my plane. We spent a half hour or so getting acquainted and discussing basic details that I'd need to know once Artic and I were in the plane. Pretty soon, it was time to go!
Artic showed me how to do the walk around inspection and gave me a pre flight briefing. Next, we were seated in the plane, he showed me how to start it, and for the first time in my life, I was at the controls of my own airplane and taxiing to the fuel station. He showed me how to fuel up and again, we were in the plane and ready to take off. He gave me a quick bit of instruction on how to drive the plane down the runway and get it off the ground. I gave it full throttle and we roared down the runway. A few seconds after takeoff, as the plane was climbing into the sky and Artic patted me on the shoulder and said, "Congratulations, buddy. You're flying your own airplane!"
The next couple hours were some of the most interesting times in my life. We made our way across the sky towards Fairbanks as I became more and more comfortable with the use of the controls and the sensation of flying. Artic did a good job of making me get the most out of the experience. I was surprised at how much useful training I got and how much time I spent in control of the plane! I was far more involved in the taxiing, take off and landing than I'd imagined I'd be beforehand.
Now that the plane is safely in Fairbanks, I've been working on my ground school and having a few minor maintenance issues taken care of before I start my flight training with my local instructors. After getting the bill from Artic's, I was pleased and even joked about how reasonable the cost was, compared to all the other costs associated in this endeavor. It was definitely money well spent. I couldn't be happier with my choice to use the guys at Artic's Air Academy for all their expertise and knowledge. I wish them the best of luck and look forward to stopping in down there for any future needs.
~ Jay Lagasse - Fairbanks, Alaska - December 2014