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Doug Doherty

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If you’ve been watching Flying Wild Alaska on the Discovery Channel, you met Era Alaska pilot Doug Doherty in the episode that aired on January 28th (he’s the Beech 1900 Captain who was carefully hauling explosives from Barrow to Savoonga while trying to stay clear of Russian airspace along the way). If you haven’t been watching the show you should be—it’s a well-produced, realistic portrayal of some really interesting oddball flying jobs. It seems to be getting better and better with each episode too!

Doug is an Era Alaska line pilot, a flight instructor, and a check airman. He flies a Cessna 208B Caravan, a Cessna 406, and a Beech 1900 (as well as his own Cessna 170, just for fun). 20 years ago he bought a one-way ticket to Alaska with 750 hours in his logbook and a dream of becoming a bush pilot. Today he’s living that dream every day.

1n 1995, Aidan started working with Doug at Hageland Aviation Services (one of Era Alaska’s subsidy companies). They were both based out of Nome for several years as the station’s business grew, and they’ve remained friends in the years since.

We recently gave Doug a call to see what he thinks of Flying Wild Alaska, and to get you an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to fly for Era in the Alaskan bush.

In this interview you’ll hear Doug talk about:

  • Why he wouldn’t say that Discovery is “hyping up” the real events portrayed in the show like many people assume they are.
  • What it’s like to live in Nome (including why Doug is willing to put up with a six-minute commute!).
  • Why Alaska is a great place to live and work if you’re “addicted to the outdoors” like Doug and his wife are.
  • What happens when you pour wine into a glass when it’s -25 degrees Fahrenheit!
  • What happened to 800 hunters and the residents of many bush villages during the 9/11 grounding.
  • The history of Era Alaska and its subsidiaries.
  • What one of his typical work days is like.
  • What company “crash pad” housing is like at Era outstations in the bush.
  • What percentage of Era Alaska job candidates typically make it through interviews, ground school, and flight training to a job.
  • How being candid about his lack of experience got him his first Alaskan flying job.
  • Why flying sled dogs and their mushers in a small bush airplane is no pleasant task.
  • Why he thinks that true experience as a pilot comes from “non-standard events” that require decision-making, not just from flight time … and why Alaska is a great place to fly if you want to gain this sort of experience quickly.
  • How he believes there’s a certain type of flying ideally suited for every pilot, why not everyone is suited to fly in bush Alaska, and the one personality type that always does well there.
  • Why he thinks new technology (GPS, moving maps, Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems, etc.) has made flying in Alaska safer, but made pilots more dangerous.
  • His biggest piece of advice for low-time pilots headed to Alaska, and why some high-time pilots have a hard time adapting to Alaskan flying.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s really like to fly in bush Alaska today, here’s your chance to find out.

Press the Play icon to begin streaming the audio, or right-click the text link and choose Save As or Save Link.

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Right-click to download the MP3 file (64 minutes – 29 MB)

Did you like this interview? Leave your comments below. (Feel free to leave your questions for Doug too. We’ll be chatting with him again sometime soon!)

From the Web

When he’s not flying for Era, Doug likes to fly for fun. Check out this video of him landing his Cessna 170 along the Niukluk River:

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48 Responses to “Interview: Doug Doherty, Era Alaska (as featured on Discovery’s “Flying Wild Alaska!”)”

  1. Jim Peacock says:

    Doug is the real deal ! Flown with him several times on off airport sites and bush villages. One of the few pilots I’d trust to fly myself or my family.Rumor has it he even topped JimmyP (famous bush pilot) in a short field landing contest years ago! Wow ! Way to go Doug keeping it real for the TV audience.

  2. Liz Doherty Reuter says:

    I’m Doug’s mom. I remember very well driving my almost 20 yr old son to the San Jose airport for his flight to Alaska. My heart was in my throat, but I knew he needed to go try this and “now” was as good a time as any. Little did I know how well his decision would turn out for him! He was following his dream and now he is living that dream.

    • Mike DeLisle says:

      Hi Liz,

      Read your comment about Doug’s first days as an Era Pilot. It sure hit home. My wife(Sue) and I will be taking Brad our son to the Airport (Ohare Chi.) tomorrow morning ( 02/13/2012) . Brad is 22 and now a multi-engine commercial pilot with a lot of flying behind him. Brad met Doug last year at Oshkosh – Brad was quite impressed. He will be going to Alaska to meet with J. R. Bean to begin his interview / training flight training or whatever will be in store for him. I’m sorry for rambling but you certainly know how Sue and I feel when Doug first left. I can’t tell you how proud and at the same time very anxious about what we hope will be a great beginning for Brad.

      It seems ironic that I came across your thoughts – I gives me great comfort.

      Take care,
      Mike DeLisle

  3. Lars Frykman says:

    I’ve know Doug since 1985. Every time I meet up with him we always have some kind of memory making adventure. Weather it’s white water river rafting, or being terrorized riding on the back of his motorcycle on the back roads of the gold country or flying up the ca. coast on my fathers 70th birthday watching the whales migrate up the coast from a birds eye view. Doug’s easy going confidence has always been inspirational to me. My father still looks back on that day we flew up the coast as one of the best times of his life…me too

  4. Jim C says:

    great interview! really enjoyed Doug on the FWA show, and really enjoyed hearing more of the behind the scenes stuff here. This is a great site. I will be spreading the word! (blow it up!). I wonder if this was recorded before January 11th?

  5. Mike Singer says:

    Glad eveyone likes the interview and the site!

    Jim C – we recorded the interview on January 25.

  6. Harvey Kingery says:

    I have known Doug for about 15 years and met him when he was flying out of Bethal. He was our ‘host’ on my first trip to Alaska, when with my daughter and son-in-law, went on a fishing trip up the Aniak River. Since then we have fished together at Homer and Unalakleet.

    Doug is a generous, interesting host and a good person. He was concerned about our safety both when flying and on the river with the bears. He was the perfect person to trust with ‘explosives assignment’.

  7. Jerry McCarthy says:

    I grew up with Doug. I was hunting with him during 9/11/01. I was the one he regrets to in his interview who commented “boy, we are really up here. We haven’t even seen an airplane.”. What we didn’t know was the entire U.S. Air fleet was grounded. I have since flown with him on two more hunts. We have flown into remote strips and gravel bars. He is the ultimate bush pilot. Like a true professional he makes the difficult look easy. That is solely due to his total dedication to working hard, playing hard and flying extremely safely. When it comes to flying safely, he cuts no corners and takes no chances. He evaluates the conditions and makes the right decisions. When watched with an untrained eye, he seems crazy;but he is the safest pilot around. I do not hesitate to fly with him. What a difference from high school when most people wouldn’t even ride with him. Good job Doug. We’re all proud of you.

  8. Jim C says:

    I listened to your interview on the OddBall Pilot site, and thought it was interesting that there was no talk of the impact on Alaskan flying from the new NPRM on requiring an ATP/1,500 hrs for all 121/135 crew ops, and how that will affect the Alaskan pilot economy.

    I’m getting ready to knock out my Commercial, – I finished my instrument a few months ago.
    Are there any hour-building jobs (non 121/135) to be had in Alaska? Most of the Alaskan jobs that I come across want some amount (50-100 hrs) of “Alaskan” experience. How do you get that up there? For the people coming on at Hageland / Era, what are their hours / ratings? Are they all 1,500 hrs (in preparation for the new reg), or are there still 700-800 hour guys getting slots? (I honestly don’t know the latest on the new rule; -is it passed yet? Its easy to find sites that talk about it, but none that seem to say what the latest status is…)

    • Mike Singer says:

      Hi Jim. Thanks for the comment. Aidan just ferried a Cessna Caravan to Nepal, and is staying there to train some pilots for a bit. I’ll make sure he sees your questions, as he’s already working on a “How to get a flying job in Alaska” post. Good questions, especially re the NPRM.


  9. Jerry McCarthy says:

    If you want to see Doug shoot a grizzly bear, land and take off from a gravel bar and catch an Arctic Char, then go to Akmac06 on Youtube. Search for “Akmac06” (that’s Akmac (zero-six) 06). I shot these videos during a hunt with him in 2008. Thank you and enjoy the videos.

  10. Douglas Doherty
    Thanks everyone for the kind words above. Mike & Aidan, I apologize in advance if I am steping on anyone’s toes, but I would like to take the opportunity to answer Jim C.
    Jim C., The NPRM currently only addresses part 121 carriers. There is not any language addressing part 135 at this time. The current hiring practices at Hageland Aviation (operating under the umbrella of Era Alaska) are a minimum instrument & commercial. That is all we need. From there you will enter into the co-pilot program and get all of the hours and experience you’ll need!
    I am monitoring http://www.oddballpilot.com & am available to answer other questions if they are directed toward me.

    Thank you & clear skys.
    Doug D

    • Sunny says:

      Hello Doug,

      Where can I get info on Era’s hiring requirements , or even an application,,, I have 856hours TT, 85multi ,Commercial/Instrument ??


      love watching you guys do what you do in Alaska,..keep it up!

      • Douglas Doherty says:

        Sunny, I was able to locate the information you seek by going to http://www.hageland.com. The website shows higher minimums than you posses for captain positions, however you are certainly qualified to enter in to the company as a co-pilot. With your Multi engine experience you may find yourself starting in a BE-1900, but don’t quote me on that please. As you may have learned from my audio interview on this website, I am employed by Hageland Aviation, not Era, however both companies operate under the umbrella of Era Alaska. On the show, we are told to say “Era” so we do not confuse the viewing public. I am not informed on the hiring practices of “Era”
        Best of luck with your career!

  11. Duane Little Bear says:

    Hi ima big fan of the show. Im from Cardston,Alberta. I would love to come up and work for you just for a summer. I have 90hrs total on my Private Pilots Lic. You can email me at mickeylittlebear@hotmail.com

    • Duane Little Bear,
      Alaska is a great place to work! You will need a minimum commercial & Instrument to be eligible to offer your services to Era Alaska as a pilot. Please check back often especially as you near the requirements.
      Happy flying!
      Doug D.

  12. Anthony says:

    Im a 2600 hr pilot no time in alaska, have Ins. Comm single, atp multi. Been considering a career change. kind of woundering how hard it is to transition to alaska. Any info would be appreciated thanks.

    • Douglas Doherty says:

      Anthony, there is no way I can suggest how hard it will be to transition to Alaska, every individual has unique experiences. My advice is come on up and give it a try! That’s the only way you will know. Some love it, others don’t. I’m in the first category.
      Happy flying.

  13. Hopeful Era Pilot! says:

    Hi Doug! This interview was fantastic, thank you for taking the time to share your amazing experiences with the company! I was wondering with an operation like Era, what your company looks for in interviews, more technical or personality? What sorts of questions do you or other people ask when looking for pilots to fly in the bush and live with? Any information would be helpful, looking to better my interview skills and hopefully get a job with Era!

    • Douglas Doherty says:

      To: Hopeful,
      You should be familiar with the regulations that govern your type of flying, as well as 135. The interviews are conducted by a small panel of senior pilots. Sometimes I sit on the panel. I ask questions trying to gain insight in to your personality, others more technical. If I had to limit my advice to one thing I would say to be yourself and try to have fun! We want to see your best, not your worst.
      Good luck :)

  14. Rod Gill,reedsport ,oregon. says:

    Hi Doug,loved your interview.As I was listening to your interview you mentioned the name of your father in law, Vick Olson.Vick was one of my instructors down in coos bay Oregon in the early 70:s.Spent many a hour flying with Vick.I remember when Vick mentioned he was moving to Nome.Back in those day”s I was using the GI bill to pay for the training and pretty much just blew the money .I’m sure Vick didn’t think I was going anywhere with this training , but please let Vick know that I ended up with my CFII and multi fixed Wing and my Com and instructor Helicopter Ratings..Don’t know why I never thought about going to Alaska,Ended up traveling around the western states with helicopter logging companies.Any way say Hi to Vick for me ,Ive thought of him over the years..

  15. Travis U. says:

    Great insight. Doug D – thanks for your time, insight and willingness to share. I am back in the game flying after spending past 13 years not in aviation (graduated with all my ratings in 98′) Hope to meet you in person up in AK soon.

    Heading to Talkeetna end of may to get some bush and float training end of May and I am stoked!

    Blue Skies!

    • Douglas Doherty says:

      Thank you for your feedback Travis, I appreciate it. You will love Talkeetna! Enjoy your training.

      • Travis says:

        Doug –

        I am looking forward to Talkeetna, wish it could be a bit earlier but since combining floats with offairport work I need to wait for the water the thaw.

        Any insight in getting an interview at Hageland? I am sure this is being asked a bunch since the show.


      • Travis U. says:

        Hi Doug —

        Between your interview and Jason’s here on oddballpilot – it has changed a perspective on the possibilities in aviation in AK. Talkeetna will be great. I am hoping to have a small Cessna 140 by then and fly it up from California. Looking forward in doing some flying that is not just ‘the numbers’

        What are your recommendations on being considered for the 208 SIC/Apprentice program?

        Is the only way to physically be established in Alaska already?

        Oddball is turning out to be a great site and looking forward to more interviews!

        • Douglas Doherty says:

          Travis, I listened to Jason Wilson’s interview posted on this website again and he very clearly states “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. He goes on to say to drop a resume off at the corporate headquarters in Anchorage. Following his advice I suggest you stop by and ask for him by name with your resume in hand. If he is unavailable you should ask for JR Beans, the chief pilot. Expect less than one minute to pitch yourself to either of them as they are both very busy performing their duties. After you complete your training in Talkeetna go back and ask if you can add changes to your resume or cover letter to your file, again re-introducing yourself. After that I would not bother them for at least three weeks. Keep in mind hiring new pilots is just a small fraction of their duties and they are both very busy individuals.
          During your stay in Alaska you might consider putting on a set of 8.50-6 tires on your 140 and ask some local pilots if they can direct you to some long gravel bars. Be sure to bring a tent & a fishing pole and enjoy our beautiful state (we call our playground). If you happen to find yourself at a location with a commercial carrier also on the ramp with you, be sure to introduce yourself to the pilot and ask him/her the same questions you have asked here on this website. Let us know about your experiences.
          Thanks for asking and most of all please be safe!!

  16. cevon says:

    Thank you for a great post.

  17. Joshua Kryzsko says:

    Doug Doherty,

    I listened to your interview and thought it was good insight. I started the Caravan SIC program with Hageland in April 2011 and it has been a true dream job. For two years I applied to many outfitters in Alaska, planning on working as a dock hand hoping to build float time. My first job offer was for PaPa Bear Adventures in Bethel and there I was able to build 50 more float hours. I found out about Hageland and decided to return to Bethel from my home in Montana, to give it a try. Like you, I flew up here with a one way ticket and no job guarantee. I started as a ramper and freight employee in February and by April I was checked out as a Caravan SIC. Lately I have been working shifts strait through being stationed in St. Marys and Bethel. After telling you all that, the main reason I am writing is to introduce myself. I am a huge into the outdoors and recently got my in-state hunting and fishing license which I have been taking advantage of. I floated the Kanektok, netted on the Yukon / Kuskokwim and just got done camping on the Andreafsky, where we pulled in some large red kings. Anyway, you seem established in Nome with your cabin, boat, plane and knowledge of the area. One of my long-term goals is to fly fishermen and hunters in this state and I will jump on any chance I get to go out and enjoy the outdoors. I imagine we will meet in the future and hope to talk to you and learn!

    Josh Kryzsko

    • Douglas Doherty says:

      The best part about your story is that you show that in America, hard work still pays off. You may need to do some work to build up to your dream job, but every one is a building block for success! Good luck with your future and keep us all posted when we can hire you to guide us to the best hunting and fishing Alaska has to offer.

  18. Joseph says:

    Doug, I just wanted to say that you guys have a REALLY great operation going on up there. Watching your show really inspired me to jump off of the ledge and head first into a pilot career. As of last month I sold everything I owned and moved to a town with a decent aviation program (community college of course.. $$) I am already in the ground classes, and I will be making my first flight with an instructor next week. It will take me a year or so to get through my commercial license, but I was really wondering how much experience would be considered a minimum for joining up as an “apprentice?” If I could find some way to survive up there I would do it in a heartbeat. I am already in love with Alaska, eventhough relocating would mean giving up the conveniences of the lower 48. Its just the most beautiful place I have ever seen. I also think you have a very noble career choice, eventhough you are doing what you love. You are really in a position to impact the lives of others every day, and you get to do it with flying! Anyway, I am glad I found this site and I enjoyed the interview. I also really look forward to seeing more episodes of the show.

    Take care,

    • Douglas Doherty says:

      I am happy the show has inspired you to do what you want. Normally I would not recomend to “sell everything” to dive in to aviation. Since you did however, you are at an advantage since now you don’t have other distractions around you and can concentrate on your studies. You will need your commercial and instrument rating to be eligible to be paid as a pilot Part 135. Good luck but most of all have fun!

  19. Matt says:

    Thanks for taking the time to do the interview, I learned more from it than hours of searching other sites for Bush flying info. I am close to earning my private and looking at all the different routes to earn my instrument and commercial. Does it make a difference for the copilot program if they are completed part 61 verses 141?
    I like what you said about visual cues for the wind. My instructor is definitely old school (polite way of saying it ) and has been showing me different cues. For instance, our primary strip is just about surrounded by a lake, and on windy days he’s pointed out that the water will get white caps with winds of 14kts and spray over 20kts. That kind of teaching is invaluable.
    You also mentioned that hageland trains pilots with their way of doing things. I was considering taking a bush flying course in AK my next time up there, but could that hurt my chances instead?
    As a fellow outdoorsman, the natural beauty of Alaska is hard to put into words. At the same time, I worked in a bush village this past summer and saw first hand how much the village depends on pilots. So for me, the opportunity to be an Alaskan Bush pilot is way more than just an awesome career, but also a rewarding career with purpose.

    Mike and Aidan,
    I can’t tell you guys how glad I am to have found oddballpilot. Its totally given me more drive to go after Bush flying and help focus on that goal.


    • Doug Doherty says:

      It will make no difference if you use 61 or 141 for your training. Also you should take the “bush flying” course as more experience is always better then less.

  20. Tolga says:


    Listening to the interviews with you and Jason on this website inspired me to apply to Hageland last Thursday. In case you’re still replying to these comments, I’ve got some questions.

    Is the Climbto350.com ad legitimate?

    As a Florida pilot, will I even be considered?

    My application was for pilot. Would it be productive to send out another one for ramp agent or will the original application suffice?

    Alaska looks beautiful and the flying looks challenging. I’d be glad to leave what I have behind for this. Thanks to you and this website for the interview.

  21. Ken says:

    This is an awesome site and I love the show. It reminds me of the company I used to work at in Ohio. Flew everything from piper archers to Britten-Norman Islanders to the lake Erie islands. Company was family owned and flying into crazy strips was a daily thing. 1300ft was the shortest.
    I’m just curious how family life would be working at ERA? I have a wife and two kids and I’m 30 years old and would love to make a move up there. My wife was actually showing some interest. How are schools, opportunity for kids in Alaska?
    I have about 3600 hours and 800 hours in the islander. Just curious if I would have a shot? I’m not flying professionally anymore, however I am a state trooper but I still do stay current and fly when I can. I would definetly go back to flying professionally for the right gig.


    • Doug Doherty says:

      Family life can be great, but the cost of living is very expensive. Your resume certainly exceeds their minumum hiring requirements. Let us know how it works out.

  22. Peter Thorsen says:

    Considering the fact there is no other way to get around, I have heard very little on Flying Wild Alaska of what it costs native residences versus “visitors” to fly in Alaska. I heard Jim Tweto mention $600 an hour to take hunters out to a drop off point, but what does it cost say for a native residence to fly from one town to another (time of flight considered) just to visit a relative, go to a Doctor, or for some other such reason???

    • Doug Doherty says:

      Air fares can fluctuate greatly, however one would expect to pay about one dollar per mile.
      I hope this helps.

  23. vish says:

    I got only 300 hrs and I want to pass my resume. Do any one know where to send my C.v..? or how can i get into SIC program ?

  24. James l ballinger says:

    i want to apply to work with you guys!


  1. Flying Wild Alaska interview | polypoke - January 29, 2011

    […] Channel on Friday nights might get a kick out of this. Era Alaska pilot Doug Doherty did an audio interview with the folks at the new site called Oddballpilot.com. Doug is the pilot-in-command of the Beech […]

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