Charter services can help individuals reach Alaska’s unspoiled backcountry for everything from skiing to sled dog excursions on a glacier, but they’re also an essential mode of transport with over 80 percent of communities in the state inaccessible by road. Alaskans travel more by air for recreation, medical, and business trips than those in the Lower 48, making charter and utility flights critical for everything from access to employment and conducting business to emergency medical transportation while supporting industries like forestry, fisheries, and tourism.
For businesses or individuals who need Alaska backcountry access, there are four crucial considerations for hiring charter services to ensure aspects like safety, hauling capabilities, reliability, and quality customer service.
Safety and Experience
When searching for charter services to provide Alaska backcountry access, it’s crucial to find pilots with experience flying deep into roadless areas, making a safe landing, and bringing passengers back home safely afterward.
The FAA carefully regulates the standards for all types of air charter services, with minimum requirements for the experience and training of the pilots, maintenance, and more. Alaska has an exceptional vetting process for pilots to be tourism pilots. At Alpine Air Alaska, we require a minimum of 1000 flight hours—an especially high bar.
That said, the best company is one that exceeds the minimum standards. It’s essential to choose a charter with a proven, extensive flight safety record. The quality of the helicopters and other equipment also must be top-notch and well-maintained.
Companies that have government contracts with the United States Forest Service (USFS), for example, have had to meet high standards with very specific flight safety and pilot skill levels. This means you know they’re going to set higher internal standards than the average charter company.
Certifications are important, too. Look for a company with OAS/USFS carded pilots and aircraft, which should all be equipped with state-of-the-art satellite position tracking, GPS and satellite communications equipment to significantly enhance safety and efficiency.
Depending on your needs, hauling capabilities can be another critical factor when hiring charter services for access to the Alaska backcountry.
For example, if you’re doing heavy equipment work or have an aircraft base in remote Alaska, you might need helicopter pilots that can perform long line precision work. These long line sling operations can lift anything from a giant barrel of fuel to a snow machine.
Pilots must be able to fly safely with this heavy load over many miles to get it to where it needs to be. The charter service must also have special permits to haul any hazardous materials such as fuel, snow machines, and batteries. Not every air carrier has this ability, so be sure to ask them about their capabilities.
When conducting business, you have to be able to rely on the charter company and pilots to be punctual so that they can get you where you need to go on your schedule. If the chartering service has older helicopters that are not maintained regularly, when it’s time to go, issues can arise that cause flight delays or cancellations.
Of course, this also ties into the importance of safety, as you don’t want to worry about mechanical problems at any stage of the process. The best company will have new, powerful helicopters that are regularly maintained by qualified engineers to eliminate that concern and ensure reliability.
Flexibility and Customer Service
In every industry, flexibility and customer service are important factors in ensuring a stress-free experience. When arranging charter services for Alaska backcountry access, the company should be willing to help come up with solutions to help you solve problems while providing the ability to book charter flights fast and easy.
Canceling or rescheduling, if necessary, should also be a seamless process should your plans change. No one wants to put down money for a charter only to find out they can’t get their money back if it’s no longer needed. While you’ll likely still face a penalty for same-day cancellations without special circumstances, a company that is willing to be flexible with penalty-free cancellation within seven days of the flight can make it easier to arrange backcountry access on your own schedule.
A company with good customer service will also work with you if there is an unusual, extenuating circumstance. For example, do they allow day-of rescheduling if inclement weather prevents safe flying?
Schedule Charter Services with Alpine Air Alaska
When vetting various charter services, you’ll find that Alpine Air Alaska checks all the boxes. As a top operator for individuals who want to access Alaska’s backcountry, we’re a reliable, highly experienced choice for businesses requiring charter services.
Based in Girdwood, Alpine Air Alaska is the longest-serving helicopter operator in Southcentral Alaska. As a statewide charter, we can take you anywhere you want to go across Alaska! We’ve worked with a wide variety of clients, including photographers, telecommunication engineers, the USFS, and the Department of Interior, carrying everything from passengers to fuel or equipment.
We pride ourselves on our extensive safety record and a commitment to excellence. Alpine Air Alaska has contracts with state and federal agencies and supports a wide range of industries, with certified Robinson engineers on staff to maintain optimal condition on our Robinson helicopters. Our reputation speaks for itself!
Schedule your next smooth, safe charter flight by contacting our team today.