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Hageland Aviation Services started with Mike Hageland and one C-180 in Mountain Village, Alaska. Over the years the company has grown considerably and in 2008 it merged with Frontier Flying Service (a Fairbanks-based airline) into HoTH. In 2009, the new company bought Era Aviation and Arctic Circle Air. Currently this group, now called Era Alaska, is the largest air carrier in Alaska. Era Alaska also employs the most pilots, making them one of the best companies to apply to for a flying job. Era Alaska is now owned by Mike Hageland, Jim Tweto, and the Hajdukovich family. For a full history visit the Era Alaska web site. If you’ve been watching the Discovery Channel’s Flying Wild Alaska, you’ve already seen Hageland in action.

I worked for Hageland for more than a decade, beginning in the mid ‘90s. I always liked working for Jim, Mike, and Ron (Ron Tweto was Jim’s brother and died in a plane crash in Arkansas). They valued hard work and were more than willing to work alongside their pilots. It wasn’t unusual to land in Unalakleet and have Jim fueling your plane and Ferno looking at a sno-go that needed loading, all the while insisting that you go inside and grab a cup of coffee. I’m sure some of this has changed as the company has grown, but I’d bet that the willingness to jump in and do whatever needs to be done is still alive and well.

It used to be that you just talked to Ron or Jim about a job and the next thing you knew there you were flying out of Bethel. Unfortunately this has changed. Now your best chance of getting hired is to walk a resume into the main office, located at the Anchorage International Airport (PANC) and talk to JR Beans (the Chief Pilot) or Jason Wilson (the Assistant Chief Pilot). They are both very approachable, but be aware they are also very busy and may not have much time to chat. Be persistent! (There is also a hiring board to get through before you are finally offered a job. At some point we’ll have a talk with one of the members of this board and see what they are looking for.)

Once you are hired there are the normal Part 135 hoops to jump through: ground school, flight training, check rides, Initial Operating Experience (IOE), etc. Then you are assigned a base: Bethel, Aniak, St. Mary’s, Unalakleet, Nome, Kotzebue or Barrow.  If you are a low time pilot (1,000 hours or less), expect to fly as a co-pilot in a Caravan or BE-1900 until you have the minimums for a C-207 slot.

The company runs a 2 week on/2 week off schedule with ample opportunity to work extra, or possibly trade days around and get some extra days off. Pay is based on a daily rate that is based on seniority and the aircraft you fly. When you are on shift you are paid whether you fly or not. This makes the bad weather days much more fun. We’ll have to get back to you with a pay scale, but I think a new 207 driver can expect to make $3,600 per two week shift, and an experienced 208 driver about $5,000.

Overall I think this is an excellent company to work for. I’m sure there are plenty of gripes from the pilots but that’s pretty normal for any airline. I can tell you from experience the grass is NOT always greener, and the Hageland crowd are a good group of people to work for with decent pay and good time off.

This past summer I stopped by Hageland’s office in Anchorage, and sat down with Jason Wilson to bring you the latest scoop on how to go about getting hired. (We were going to wait a bit and spread out the Era posts, but we’ve been getting a lot of questions about this … due no doubt to all the Flying Wild Alaska buzz. The show just got renewed for a second season, by the way!)

In this interview you’ll hear Jason talk about:

  • The company’s Caravan co-pilot apprenticeship program (SIC) for low-time commercial pilots
  • The best way to deliver your resume
  • The minimum flight time requirements to get hired
  • How long it takes from SIC in a Caravan to Captain in a Cessna 207
  • What bases you’re likely to work at first
  • The work schedule (two weeks on/two weeks off)
  • The pay scale
  • Additional opportunities while you’re an intern
  • Pilot housing
  • Why it can help to start working on the ramp
  • The seniority-based system
  • What the hiring board looks for
  • How the hiring process works
  • How long it usually takes to go from ground school to flying
  • How many people typically get hired a year
  • How much moving around you’d do from base to base
  • The most important personality trait pilots need to have to succeed
  • When a “duty day” starts and ends
  • How many hours a day pilots typically fly
  • The advantages of flying for Era Alaska over flying for a major airline

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22 Responses to “Interview: Jason Wilson, Hageland Aviation Services (Era Alaska)”

  1. Cameron says:

    Love the site, totally unique! I’m working on my commercial right now and will be looking for a job in the near future. Not being interested in the airlines or corporate gigs, I find the information ya’ll provide truly valuable! Thanks for your hard work. Keep the interviews coming.

    Cameron
    Denver, CO

  2. dave says:

    Excellent site. Keep up the good work. THANKS for linking up with the Flying Alaska group, great TV viewing!

  3. Antonio 'Arod' Rodriguez says:

    ive seen the program and is very intresting and challenging i hold a private and instrument though not current get motiviated to go for it and give it a shot to fly for Era i recently work in the ramp for American Airlines for the past 12 yrs hope to hear from you on requirements and training pay scale housing ….thanks

  4. Travis U. says:

    Great information. Any knowledge if there is room for the apprentice/SIC positions this spring/summer? Emails have been sent to Hageland.

  5. John says:

    For those interested, Hageland is hiring some FO’s and Captains with a ground school in October 2011. Get your resume’s, references, and letters of reference/recommendation to the chieft pilot for consideration. Good luck to all.

  6. Jim says:

    Very informative, I enjoyed learning about the apprentice program. I am a commercial pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings, realizing that the competition is tough, the apprentice program would be a great way to get the training needed and molded into their program. I’ve lived in Nome & Barrow so I’m familiar with the weather and bush flying on the West Coast, challenging. Loved Flying Wild Alaska, and glad to hear that the second season is on schedule.

  7. Mark says:

    ok, give it to me straight guys..I’m a 55 yr old guy who is just shy of raising my last child (she’s off to college next year). I’ve had a calling for Alaska since I don’t know when but have not been able to go until now. My question is-is it feasible to consider a man my age starting flight school, etc and actually getting employment? Thanks,
    Mark

  8. Aidan Loehr says:

    Hey Mark,

    Sorry it it’s taken a while to get back to you. I’ve been in and out of internet service the last couple of months. The short answer is: Yes, it is possible to get all the ratings and a flying job in AK. The guy I did my IOE (initial operating experience) in the C-207 was 65 and had started flying in Alaska when he was 57. Previously he had been an electrician. I’ll admit that he was a rare exception.

    The bigger question is whether it is something you are really still interested in. The work is very blue collar and the living conditions are usually, shall we say, rustic. On top of that you are usually living with a younger crowd. Often there is lots of drinking and partying in the living quarters. Think frat house without the perks, and 10-12 hours of work the next day. A alternate would be to look into the seasonal jobs flying tourist and hunters. It’s a shorter season so just as it starts to feel like a job, it’s time to go home.

    The first thing for you to do is take an intro flight and see if you actually like flying a plane. If it still calls to you write us back and I’ll lay out some possibilities for how to take to further. Getting a PPL, CPL etc. To buy a plane or not, and some recommendations of good starter planes.

    I look forward to hearing what you decide to do.

    Cheers,
    Aidan

  9. Nick says:

    If you have some Caravan Time ie 2500 do you still start/stuck in the 207 for a long time?

    • Aidan Loehr says:

      Yes you will probably spend some time in a 207. How long all depends on what they need. JR Beans, the Chief Pilot, has to respect the seniority and not piss off someone who has been flying the sled for two years waiting for a nice warm Caravan. That being said if they are short 208 drivers and don’t have anyone qualified then you will move right into a Caravan. A lot will depend on where your Caravan time was put in and what your other flying experience has been.

      Another quick update: Jason Wilson is back flying as a regular line pilot for Era. I don’t believe that they have replaced him yet. The Assistant CP job is a pretty thankless position with very little flying and lots of paperwork. I’m sure his move back to a line flying job was his call.

  10. Michael Bailey says:

    Im an active duty Marine who will be leaving active service soon (honorably), 12 years. I have a Commercial license – not many hours just over 300 with 50 ME, high performance endorsement etc… I also have an Associates Degree as well. I payed for all of my own training with money I saved from going on deployments to Iraq. I am working on a BS Degree as well. With that said would they even give me a chance? Whats good contact information to talk to someone to find out? I know Im probably not what their looking for ‘experience’ wise but I am a hard dependable worker who’s been in many life and death situations and have always proven to make sound decisions in even most dire emergencies. Any advice or help would be much appreciated. Thanks

  11. Steve says:

    Michael,
    Try contacting them and see what they have to say. If you have the ability to get up to their corporate, it might be a good way to start.

    SR

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for the information Im going to look at what I can do to get up there and turn in some resumes face to face like you and Aidan suggested. Thanks so much for the information you guys have given me it will be greatly helpful. This article is great as well it gives great in sight.

      V/R

  12. Aidan Loehr says:

    Hey Michael,

    Era Alaska is certainly worth applying to. Jason Wilson is no longer the Assistant Chief Pilot. He’s back flying the line in Fairbanks. The assistant Chief Pilot job is pretty thankless, and it as his decision to move back to a flying position. JR Beans is still the Chief Pilot (he served many years in the Alaska National Guard). I would try to get a resume to him. The Hiring process seems to change a bit at Era so go to their website and check out the requirements. That being said, if you can show up and hand in you resume in person it will help your chance of getting hired. You’ll be looking at the Caravan Co-pilot positions.

    I know that Era has been short pilots since last summer and several pilots quit recently. They also get more resumes that any airline in AK (due to the TV show).

    Here are some other good airlines in Alaska, that may be interested in working with lower time pilots:

    – Alaska Central Express
    – Trans Northern Aviation
    – Penn Air
    – Warbelow’s
    – Grant Aviation
    – Yute Air

    Check our directory for their websites.

    It might also be worth starting a dialog with some of the better long term prospects like:

    – Everts Air Cargo
    – Bering Air
    – Wrights Air
    – Northern Air Cargo

    Good luck with the search and let us know if you have any more questions.

    Cheers,
    Aidan

    PS you might also look into the GI bill and see what continuing flight training it will pay for. I’ve talked to some helicopter pilots who have gotten their fixed wing licenses as well as their Rotorcraft rating with the GI Bill.

  13. Jay Wood says:

    Like the 55 year old that posted here I am 53 years old 1300 hour priviate pilot I own and fly a 1967 Centurion 210 in Utah, in 2009 I spent 10 days in Palmer getting my tailwheel and bush pilot endorsements and fell in love with the place, my wife is in the oil and gas industry (cpa) I am the maintenance director for the largest window manufacturing plant in Utah we are looking for an adventure and I would love to fly up there. my question is, what are the chances that I could get hired to fly in Alaska when I have no comercial flight experience?
    Jay

  14. john says:

    I see that they are advertising for a chief pilot at Hageland. Is that to replace Jason, or JR? Is JR still in position? Will it effect the hiring schedule?

  15. Steven says:

    I am fortunate to have been invited to interview. I am nervous and excited. Flying Alaska seems to be a dream job on the surface and not sure what to expect if I get the job. Really hard to compare to the typical flying of the regionals.

  16. Kenneth says:

    I was invited to provide more information to Mr. Beans for a possibility of interviewing. I grew up in a small farm town and love the country living, hunting, fishing and camping. The life style would be an awesome fit for my personality and the type of living I prefer.
    I’m hoping to hear back from Hageland.
    Good luck to everyone else that is looking to fly in the bush. These guys are the real deal and from all reports are a great outfit to work for.

  17. Billy says:

    I have about 5000 Alaska hours. I left Alaska in 2005 and thinking about returning. I loved every second of the flying, even when I landed and my hands were shaking. It takes a while to become known with the villagers, but when they fly with you for a while and learn to trust you, you are in. When they see you as the pilot they are more open and talkative. Before that, get used to no one talking to you. The bad side, of the four companies I worked for, I had to sue three to get back pay, and then I had to sue another that I didnt work for because they promised to pay my flight up to ANC and hotel bill during the interview process, then denied that promise. Another person I flew for owes me $3000.oo that I will never be able to collect. Most pilot houses were bad enough that no one in management would even think of living there, much less thinking of trying to make it a comfortable place to stay. Get used to sharing a bed with someone. If you are looking for a job where you have to wear a tie, look elsewhere. I almost didnt get a jumpseat one time because I had a tie on. If you are a time builder looking to go to a wimpy regional or major, dont tell anyone, because the long time people will not help you. Aside from the bad parts, I still enjoyed life in the bush, and thinking of going back.

  18. Derek Smidler says:

    Hello, I was just wondering if JR and Jason are Chief and Assistant Chief Pilots at Era?

  19. nick choi says:

    I `M INTERESTING ABOUT HAGELAND AVIATION AND ERA AVIATION
    AND FRONTIER AVIATION FOR PILOT

  20. Jon says:

    I’m a military pilot who is sitting around 3,000hrs, I have my commercial for both fixed-wing and rotary-wing. I am transitioning to C-12s this fall and will have my Multi-engine, CFI, CFII, & ATP before I retire from the military, along with another 1000 hours in multi. What are the chances of rolling right into the 207 two week on, two week off deal? Is there anything else I’d need to, other qualifications i’d need other than walk in for the face to face and drop off the resume? I know i’d be walking in with 0 ‘Alaska Time,’ which always seems to be the linchpin.

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