USU Aviation Instructor Spends his Summer with an Alaskan Flight-Tour Company
By Dawn Otterby
A television show on Netflix inspired aviation instructor Chris Bracken to take a summer job working on floatplanes in Alaska. While watching the show “Flying Wild Alaska”, Bracken and his wife decided that spending a summer in Alaska sounded like a fun adventure.
“We love the outdoors and Alaska is the mecca of aviation,” Bracken said. “Everywhere you look there are little airports and most lakes have planes on floats tied up by houses or cabins.”
After being hired as a mechanic by Rust’s Flying Service, Bracken and his family moved to Anchorage where he began working for the flight-tour company. Located on Hood Lake, Rust’s Flying Service is on the United States’ busiest seaport.
Although he is enjoying his summer position, Bracken said, he is still adjusting.
“Working on floats is not something you typically do in Utah,” he said. “I feel like a rookie or newbie when it comes to doing things like launching boats, rigging rudders or even just tying the planes to the docks.”
Repairing the planes while they are on the water is an exciting challenge for Bracken.
“Balancing on wet floats that are rocking with the waves, while trying not to drop screws or airplane parts into the watery abyss can be fun,” Bracken said.
Rust’s Flying Service’s aircraft are very different than the planes used by USU. In addition to working with floats, Bracken is learning how to work on radial engines, which is an older engine design. This experience has also encouraged Bracken to think more about drag, stall speeds and landing without brakes.
Bracken looks forward to applying what he’s learned in Alaska to his classroom in the fall.
“I am excited to share many new things I have learned and a little of the innovations the Alaskans have come up with to persevere these tough conditions,” Bracken said.
When he isn’t working, Bracken said, he and his family spend their time exploring the new environment.
“My favorite part has been riding along on the scenic-flight tours of volcanoes, glaciers and even bear-seeing tours,” Bracken said. “Alaska feels like a foreign country. The culture is different, the landscape is beautiful and the adventures seem endless.”