Glacier Bay Flightseeing

Glacier Bay Flightseeing in Alaska

One of my absolute favorite Alaskan adventures and another Bucket List item was to board a small plane and fly over the mountains, valleys, fjords and the glaciers of Alaska. I’ve wanted this for years and when in Skagway, Alaska I got my chance by contacting Mountain Flying Service.

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just outside skagway near the airport

I placed a call Amy Swanstrom and booked a flight for the next available flight when I would be back in Skagway. I am fortunate that working on a cruise ship enables me to be at the same ports every week. I suggest that you call as soon as you know the dates that you will be there because flights are limited and book well in advance.

Your pilot Paul, Amy’s husband, like all Alaskan bush pilots is a special breed of professional. Since 1992 he has been flying over the Chilkat Mountains, St. Elias Range, Glacier Bay National Park and has logged the more airtime then any bush pilot in the area. For years he has given has clients up close and personal views of Mt. Fairweather that reaches 15,325 feet into the clear blue skies and the surrounding mountains and glaciers and fjords below.

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The DHC-2 Beaver is one of the world’s premiere bush planes. Every person on the plane is afforded great views as the Beaver has windows that are four to five times larger then other bush planes. You are given a set of Bose stereo headphones that allow you to hear the excellent narration from Paul as he highlights the terrain and gives notice of any wildlife coming into view.

Once airborne Paul directs the plane towards the mountaintops, many still covered with snow as you fly high above the fjord leaving Skagway behind. Depending on the flight and the weather Paul will determine your ultimate route as he winds through the mountain passes and over the glaciers below.

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There are three different flights available and I have enjoyed the first two. First I choose “Flight #1 Glacier Bay to the East Arm”. The flight is approximately sixty minutes long and you soar above the Davidson and Rainbow Glaciers as well as the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. If you are lucky you might even see one of the glaciers calve. Keep an eye out for wildlife as I have seen mountain goats and brown bear during my flights.

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Even though I have taken Flight #1 and really enjoyed it the extra flight time with Flight #2 is well worth the cost. With the flight lasting approximately 1.3 hours you not only enjoy the flight over the Glacier Bay East Arm of Flight #1 but also in addition you will explorer the Glacier Bay West Arm.

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The extra time also allows you to discover Mount Fairweather as it towers 15,320 feet above sea level and Mount Crillion at 12,700 feet. You will enjoy views of the Pacific and Marjorie Glacier in the Tarr Inlet and the John Hopkins, Lamplugh and Reid Glaciers.

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What makes this flight even more special is not only do you see these glaciers from above during your flight but you also will enjoy many of these same glaciers while aboard your ship if traveling to Glacier Bay during your cruise. Seeing them from both perspectives is truly amazing.

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cruise ship and the marjorie glacier in glacier bay

I have taken both Flight #1 and Flight #2 a handful of times. If you are a little more adventurous and depending on the time of year for a small added fee, that basically cover the extra fuel needed for a second take off you can land either on a glacier or as I did later in the season on a remote beach.

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coming in for a landing on a remote beach

The one flight I have yet to take is Flight #3 The Grand Flight, which I hope to do this summer. This remarkable two hour flight affords you an eagle’s eye view of the mountains of Southeast Alaska. You will soar over Glacier National Park, fly past Mount Fairweather and Mount Crillion and out into the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Alaska.

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In addition to the myriad of the other glaciers you marvel at along the way will also enjoy views of the La Perouse Glacier, which is the only glacier in Alaska that calves directly into the Pacific Ocean.

Flights range from $200 to $350 person depending on which incredible adventure you decide is for you. Having taken both Flight #1 and Flight #2 I am going to highly recommend Flight #2 for the extra couple dollars. I’m sure once I take Flight #3 I will be recommending it instead of Flight #2.

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This maybe your one and only chance to see such spectacular views in a private charter plane in Alaska. After all how often do you get to Alaska? The one thing I will guarantee you whatever flight you decide it will be something you never forget.

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landing at the skagway airport

To book your flight contact Amy directly at Mountain Flying Service at (907) 766 – 3007 or visit the website mountainflyingservice.com

Author: larry pannell

I started my career in photography as a professional photojournalist in 1978 at the time working with several newspapers and magazines in Southern California. What I loved most about photojournalism was its diversity and over my career I covered professional sports, concerts and travel. As life would have it mine took yet another turn and in 1988 I developed an interest in holistic medicine. I became a professional massage therapist specializing in sports medicine. In 1991 I decided to go to medical school and obtained a medical degree in Traditional Oriental Medicine and stared my career as a licensed acupuncture physician. After medical school I moved my practice to northern Idaho for a year before settling in the resort area of Sun Valley, Idaho. I’ve always been an outdoor person and hiking and backpacking the Rockies and fishing the pristine river waters and high altitude lakes offered me a wonderful photographic opportunity. In 2010 I left Sun Valley and I once again found myself on a cruise ship, this time working as an “Acupuncturist at Sea”. For the past seven years I have traveled to over 75 countries, which has allowed me to photograph much of the world.

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