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Chicken & Egg Problem

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  • Chicken & Egg Problem

    Hey Everyone-

    I am quite curious how an individual is able to succeed as a float plane pilot. Yes, yes, as a pilot myself I understand the basic process. However, add floats to the mix and making a career out of it becomes clear as mud to me. Why? Well, once the individual gets their SES certification, they can't do anything with it. It is now virtually impossible to rent a floatplane. There are very few outfits out there that even offer a SES rating. Most of these outfits are owner/operator. I doubt their insurance will allow an individual solo that aircraft. I am sure one or more of you reading this post is going to suggest that the newly minted SES pilot purchase an aircraft to build time in it. Well, that's great and all, but most folks developing a career does not have tens of thousands of dollars just lying around to blow on a shiny toy while they owe tens of thousands of dollars to their creditors for the flight training they just completed.

    Despite all of this, SE Alaska has a fairly healthy floatplane air-taxi community.

    How is it done?



    PS- I ask because I'd love to do some seasonal Beaver flying out of JNU or KTN. However, I have no idea how I would show up at an employer's doorstep with an adequate amount of float time.

  • #2
    Assuming you have both SES & SEL ratings you could go to work for a company that flies both wheel and float planes. After a year or two flying wheels, if you prove that your not an idiot, the company may put you in a float plane if there is an opening. You probability won't find opportunities like that in Juneau or Ketch, most likely you would have to go to Kodiak or out west somewhere.


    • #3
      do exactly what trailika said. wings of alaska in SE does exactly that.


      • #4
        Another way is to go into a partnership with a couple other guys on a beat up champ or cub on floats. Build up a little time and then make sure you fly the float-palne to your job interview at a seaplane flying outfit.

        When I give float ratings I have always try to give folks between 8 to 10 hours of float-plane time. That is about the minimum that most insurance companies want to see before they will even talk to you.
        I have also done additional time for some guys who needed it for jobs. usually they call up a few months after they have obtained their rating and we go out and knock off another 10 hours of so.

        Oddly enough this cost me business since folks seem bound and determined to spend more money to get less hours at another float-rating outfit without insurance.
        Float-CFI, Photo Guide, Fishing Guide, Remote Kayaking
        Guest Cabin, Flight Reviews, Aerial Tours


        • #5
          Tralika and TBLOOMA are right. You could also go to work on the dock for a floatplane company for a season (letting them know you're a pilot but wanting to "learn the ropes"). That's a good way to show the guys your high work ethic and good attitude. The pilots get to know you and like you, then they let you ride along on the freight runs and fly the empty legs in the Beavers. Then they will talk you up to the chief pilot and DO, and maybe the next season you're working the dock but getting to fly some of the freight runs on good-weather days. Season after that you're a Misty or Taku River tour pilot.....


          • #6

            Thanks for the reply. I am one step ahead of you. So far, I have "applied" (by sending a pilot resume, plus a "professional" resume) to: Wings Airways, Taquan Air, Promech Air, Wings of Alaska, Alaska Seaplane Tours, Ward Air, Misty Fjords air, Air Excursions and Pacific Airways. I did my best to convey that I'd love to help with operational support (ramper/dock-hand/customer support). So far, I have not had any nibbles. I am willing to go up there and bang on some doors, however, I am still trying to decide whether or not it is a worthwhile investment (airfare, lodging).

            Float Pilot-
            Thanks for your reply as well. As an unemployed (furloughed) individual, I just don't have any spare cash to make any purchases that you mention. If a tour operator indicated that employment as a float pilot was a possibility, then, I could justify loading the SES rating onto a credit card. I am not sure I am following your last couple of comments: "this (are you referring to giving "extra" dual to those that need it?) cost me business since folks seem bound and determined to spend more money to get less hours at another float-rating outfit without insurance"

            Finally, what is a ballpark # of SES hours needed to gain employment with one of the SE operators?

            Thanks again everyone!


            • #7
              Originally posted by ZPilot View Post

              Finally, what is a ballpark # of SES hours needed to gain employment with one of the SE operators?

              Thanks again everyone!
              My first Alaska flying job was in Juneau. Wings Airways (seaplane portion of Wings of Alaska) hired me to fly a Beaver. My TT was 1200, AK and SES time was around 175 hours. They hired two other new guys that season to fly Beavers and it was the first flying job anywhere for either one of those guys. One of them had no AK time and probably less than 20 hours on floats (he went to Kenmore on the way up though, and picked up a few hours dual in a Beaver). Wings was also a decent place for low time SES pilots to get a job flying their 207's then move into the float side, but unfortunately I think they've sold their Beavers and are now only operating Turbine Otters in their float operations. My guess is that would make it a little more difficult to make the jump.
              The 135 operators that you've already sent resumes to seem like the best bet for you, as the Southeast Alaska air tours seem to be able to take guys with much lower time. I assume that's because they operate in pretty limited environments. In 400 hours of flying that year I only landed in three places (Juneau seaplane base, Juneau Harbor and Taku Lodge). That limits the opportunities to screw up too bad.


              • #8
                Thanks for the informative replies everyone!

                As an update, I have not received any feedback from any of the operators. I attempted to contact each operator three different ways: email, fax, and snail-mail. Perhaps the only way to make an impression is to make the trip up there.

                Just FYI- I have found a great community over at as well.
                With that said, I don't wish to steal any sunshine from this great forum!

                Take care all!


                • #9
                  Z pilot - I've had the same problem - not enough sea time to get started anywhere.

                  Do what tralika, tablooma and north bird said.

                  If I were you I'd bite the bullet, go there in person and prove you can fly according to your experience level. It's been said many times before - the way to get a foot in the door is to bring your feet through the door. I'm not in a position to do so, but if you are then DO is my advice.

                  Good luck.


                  • #10
                    ZPilot has been given the green light to obtain his SES rating!

                    Long story short: I am a furloughed airline guy in the PNW. I have been looking into doing a season of flying up in SE AK for this upcoming season. As we all know, the majority of these operators are strictly seaplane ops. There are a few hybrid ops, and even fewer land-based ops (in SE AK anyways). I spent the last two weeks researching these companies, creating resumes, filling out online apps, faxing resumes, and finally snail-mailing resumes. So far I have received no feedback from anyone. I am not surprised or let down...these results are typical of my experiences of trying to gain employment, of any type, aviation or not, for the last two years. Nonetheless, time is running out for the hiring season up there. The only way to get looked at seriously is to go up there personally and knock on some doors.

                    Why the SES rating?

                    No, I am not kidding you, or myself, that I'll just show up there with a dripping wet SES rating and be able to hop into a Beaver on floats. I know this won't happen. However, I think that if I take the time and money to get the SES qualification, I'll end up with a stronger resume. Perhaps the fact that I got the SES will illustrate my desire to gain employment up there. Additionally, I can offer services as a deck-hand, and be somewhat more familiar with docking procedures since obtaining a SES rating. And maybe, just maybe, towards the end of the season, I'll have an opportunity to part 91 a reposition flight or something like that...but I won't hold my breath.

                    I need you all to chime in here.

                    I need to get this SES week. I am in Portland, Oregon. I don't think I'll be able to get my rating in "mainland" Alaska, because everything is still frozen.

                    Who does SES ratings in SE AK this time of year?

                    How about Washington or Oregon?

                    I know about Kenmore Air, of course.
                    Ryan's Float Flying here in Portland started offering the rating last year, however, I think his plane is in storage until May.
                    I know there is a guy in Idaho (still frozen I suspect).


                    • #11
                      You might calling Mike Kincaid ( E-Mail: Seaplanes@RoadRunner.Com 208-665-7959 ) in Coeur d' Alene Idaho. (Mountain Lake Seaplane I think) He may be up and running...He is an old Alaska Brown Shirt (moose and goose to you outsiders) Trooper. tell him Alex said to call.

                      If it was later in the year I might have been in a position to trade you some construction assistance work (slave labor) towards a SES rating. I need to re-build the deck on the front of my guest cabin and extend some sort of roof to keep the rain off of it...

                      You need to market your other skills as well. You can't throw a tundra tire up here without hitting a pilot... We have lots and lots of them.. So having other skills like being an A&P, an avionics tech, knowing how to do office billing, being able to help rebuild the office or pier.... all come into play...
                      Float-CFI, Photo Guide, Fishing Guide, Remote Kayaking
                      Guest Cabin, Flight Reviews, Aerial Tours


                      • #12
                        Float Pilot-

                        I'd take you up on that offer!? I'm looking at getting my SES rating this summer, not in "right this second" but sometime soon. I'm not looking at flying pro, just looking at learning a new skill.

                        I built houses in college for 5+ years, and was lead foreman for 3 of them. So if your serious about a possible a possible trade, I'd be all in. I wouldn't be looking for quid pro quo but, depending the work maybe we could work something out?

                        Let me know.

                        Feel free to PM me.


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