HEROES & LEGENDS
Flying Wild Alaska
THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL DEBUTED A HIT reality
TV show on January 14, 2011, featuring the
Tweto family’s Era Alaska airline based in
Unalakleet, Alaska. Serving the remote,
isolated areas of the Bering Sea coastline, the
Tweto family and Era employees give viewers
a peek into life as a commercial pilot in
Alaska. We had the chance to visit with four
members of the Flying Wild Alaska family
during EAA AirVenture 2011. The new season
premieres Friday, November 4.
What’s your role with Era Alaska?
Doug Stewart: I fly airplanes out of Nome. I
fly the [Beech] 1900, the [Cessna] 406, and
the [Cessna] Caravan.
Luke Hickerson: I fly the Caravan and the
406 out of Barrow. I’m a check airman and
instructor for the company.
Ariel Tweto: I’m a rampie and a marshal. I’m
a cargo girl and I answer phones, and I’m
getting my pilot’s license.
Did you get used to having all the
John: They usually say that the first two
weeks you’re in love with the crew and the
cameras and all that, and then after about
two weeks you kind of just put up with them
for another two weeks, and then you hate
them for the next six weeks, and then you
miss them when they’re gone.
Ariel: Yeah, it’s so true. They work harder
than we do because they have to wake up
before we get up to set up everything, and
then they stay later to put all the gear away.
They’re such hard-working people.
Doug: It’s kind of a weird relationship
because they’re like right into your face, ya
Luke: It does get old, every now and again.
… Everybody has their breaking points
where it’s just like, “Cut it, cut it, get out of
What are the minimums you look for?
Luke: Just a commercial license.
Doug: Commercial instrument, 250 hours.
They start out as a copilot for a year and
then move into a 207. Depending on supply
and demand, but that’s normally how it
Luke: Alaska time counts for a lot, for any
company up there. But if you’ve got even
just a little bit of Alaska time, it makes a
big difference because we get so many
applications. Not that we don’t hire people
from out of state.
Ariel: And they need to send a photo
because the girls need to make sure
How many pilots and planes do
Luke: We have 200 pilots and almost 70
John Ponts: I fly the Caravan and [Cessna]
207 out of Bethel.
[Before coming to Oshkosh] did you have
any idea how popular you are?
Luke: We live in villages that are like a few
hundred people, plus we know everybody.
So they’re like, “Hey, he was on TV!” That’s
about all you get. Or the passengers will be
like, “Oh hey, I watched your show last night.
It was cool.” That’s about it.
Do you watch yourself?
Ariel: I’ve seen a couple [episodes], but I
haven’t seen all of them. You watch yourself,
though, and it’s just like, “I don’t like my
voice.” And then you’re just like, “Ewww, is
that really what I look like?”
Doug: Yeah, you whine a lot.
Did you get your license yet?
Submitted by Carlos Figueroa, via Facebook.
Ariel: I’m not allowed to say. Watch season
Are you hiring?
Submitted by David Olsavsky, via Facebook
Luke: We’re always hiring. We get a lot of
applications. I sit on quite a few of the hiring
boards, and we’re always hiring because this
job isn’t meant for everybody. It sounds cool
in theory, “Hey, I’m going to go up and do
what these guys do,” but when it’s 50 below
zero and you’re throwing boxes and fueling
airplanes, it’s not as fun as it looks.
John: I think a big part of it, too, is
personalities, because you’re out in the
bush, living with people, and you can’t have
personalities clashing out there.
What advice would you give someone
who’d like to get started flying in Alaska?
John: Just show up. Get your résumé in.
Luke: There have been more people
that have gotten jobs by showing up and
knocking on the door and getting turned
away, and then tomorrow knocking on the
door and then getting turned away, and
knocking on the door again the next day
and, literally, being there because pretty
soon…half the guys that we’ve hired…all
of a sudden it’s like somebody didn’t show
up for ground school, and they’re like,
“Hey, you have a license? You want a job?