Question & Answer with the Alaska Wing Men

Flying through Alaska, pilots are faced with challenges and obstacles like no other. What was your scariest moment in flight?

Clinton: “In 1993, while flying a Bell 206L-3 helicopter in an area of mountainous terrain near Palmer, Alaska, I/we narrowly avoided striking a suspended cable that was strung between an abandoned mine site and the valley floor below. The helicopter was equipped with a Wescam gyro-stabilized camera system, filming for a Japanese production company (NHK). As we made our final pass, and while my attention was momentarily diverted while talking with the director (who was in the left front seat), the cable suddenly appeared just in fount of us. In an attempt to avoid the cable, I immediately pulled up on the collective and the helicopter climbed abruptly. The cable passed just inches below the skids of the helicopter. It was truly a learning experience for me, which proved that even a momentary lapse in attention can result in catastrophic results. Just FYI: Wire/cable strikes account for a large number of helicopter accidents here in the US.”

Don: I have had several: Spinning down out of control with 2″ of ice on the plane hypoxic – then the engine quits! Aerodynamic flutter where the aircraft is coming apart in the air. The plane caught on fire. I’ve been lost in the mountains in the worst weather possible. Cart wheeling through the air totally uncontrollable. Crashing in the mountains breaking my back and 5 ribs – 6 weeks in hospital.God I am a lucky guy, I have over 30 near death tragic situations where just fear won’t cover it!”

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Wow, that gives me anxiety just imagining. Let’s lighten it up a bit. How about the funniest thing that’s ever happened in flight?

Clinton:As mentioned, I grew up in an aviation family and I spent a lot of time at the family’s hangar here in Anchorage, both before and after school. When I was in second grade, and while at the hangar late one morning, my mom suddenly realized that I was late for the bus, and she asked one of our pilots to “drop Clint at school.” The next thing I knew, and unbeknownst to my mom, I was on my way to school, in a Bell 47J-2 helicopter. Needless to say, it was quite an entrance, but definitely not something that anyone could get away with today!”  (…Please don’t try this at home!)

Don:The people I have flown bring back the most humorous experiences. I could go on for hours about the crazy things that have happened in the airplane. From livestock getting loose in the back, to a 400-pound woman getting stuck in-between the seats, a Playboy model getting frisky…I could go on and on and on. It would take a bottle of Jack or Jim to even start on all the funny experiences…

Be sure to check out Alaska Wing Men this Saturday at 8P et/pt.


  1. superskullmaster
    January 18, 2011, 1:40 am

    It would be great if someone such as Nat Geo could at least get the sounds of the aircraft right. It might not matter to most people but to aviation enthusiasts, aviation mechanics, pilots and the like it does. That De Havilland DHC-3 Turbine Otter should have a turboprop sound not a reciprocating radial engine sound. Get some stock Pratt and Whitney PT6 sound and fix it.

  2. bsbauman
    January 26, 2011, 9:51 pm

    Some friends and I have been discussing this show on another thread, and I thought I would post a link so that others may add their $0.02. If there is another more appropriate venue for me to post this thought/question, please let me know:

    The question is how much dramatic license do the producers have? And, is it deceptive the way they present their footage?

    Similiar to the the above post referring to radial engine sounds instead of hearing a turboprop; one of my buddies noticed it when they sent the Beaver to pick up the mountain climbers. If you watch carefully, not only does the footage show two seperate call numbers for the plane rescuing the climbers, but one plane is a turbo prop and the other is not…

    It was our conclusion that the producer/directors are substituting footage to tell their story… or maybe they substituted footage of a chase plane; but either way, it is clearly not consistant with the story they are trying to tell.

  3. acadian
    January 27, 2011, 9:05 pm

    It is bothersome that NGC would take such license in substituting aircraft footage and selling it to viewers as the actual event. During certain trips the aircraft miraculously transform from a classic radial engine Beaver to a turbine engine of similar color. Not sure if the turbine is a pilatus PC-6 STOL, Kodiak 100 or Caravan 208B as it is difficult to tell given the quick focus to the aricraft in various phases of flight. Radials and turbines sound remarkably different and they seem to have difficulty matching the engine noise to the correct aircraft. Most folks expect a higher level of intellectual honesty from NGC. If NGC is fudging footage here, where else it the network taking "liberties"?