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Pat Goodrich, Island Air Express Chief Pilot

Back in April I went to Ketchikan, Alaska to talk to Pat Goodrich about flying in Southeast (as that part of Alaska is called). Pat is the Chief Pilot for Island Air Express, an air taxi company that operates out of the small town of Klawock, about 50 NM to the west of Ketchikan.

While most local air taxis rely on the summer tourist trade to provide the bulk of their yearly revenue (and run skeleton fleets throughout the winter), Pat and his pilots at Island Air Express have a different goal: to provide reliable, scheduled air service for the residents of Prince of Wales Island. To do this they have one Cessna 206 on floats, and two Garrett-powered Cessna Caravans: one on amphibious floats, and one on wheels. The Caravans are certified to fly IFR. Operating IFR is an oddity in Southeast, where floatplanes rule and approaches are few and far between. Having the ability to file IFR with the correct equipment allows Island Air Express to run consistent schedules all year long.

Ketchikan and Klawock

Island Air Express is a pretty small company with 3-4 full time pilots. That may change in the future, Pat says. Last winter they sent the amphib Caravan down to Scottsdale, Arizona to fly tourists. The pilots rotated two weeks on, two weeks off between Alaska and Arizona.

Most, if not all the pilots, call Klawock home year round. A typical schedule is flying three to four days a week. After walking around Ketchikan and talking to other operators there, I was surprised to hear that the pay scale is very comparable to what Western Alaska operators pay their pilots. Clearly, operators in Southeast are also interested in keeping pilots around for the long term.

As you might expect, most hiring is done by word of mouth. Any pilot interested in working for Island Air Express should plan a trip up to Klawock to talk to them in person. If living in a small, outdoorsy community and working for an equally small, tight-knit organization is your thing, then the trip may be well worthwhile.

Pat’s a fourth generation pilot. It’s not often you meet a pilot whose family history goes back to WWI and the early days of air mail! Our conversation could have gone on for hours. Unfortunately, I’d missed the 3:15 ferry over to the airport from the town of Ketchikan, and Pat had a flight to take at 4:30. With these time constraints we tried to stay on target in this interview. True to form, I got distracted when Pat mentioned flying in Botswana  …

Stay tuned for our next post … a video walkthrough of an Island Air Express Garrett-powered Cessna Caravan!

In this interview you’ll hear about:

  • Pat’s unique aviation family history (his Grandfather was a world war one fighter pilot who flew mail after the war).
  • How persistence scored Pat his first Alaska flying job flying a Cherokee Six for Skagway Air.
  • How he got a two-month gig doing volunteer work flying a Cessna 206 for conservation groups in Botswana, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
  • His time flying a Sherpa for Artic Circle Air out of Anchorage.
  • Why he eventually moved to Southeast to fly Beavers on floats and 207s on wheels for Wings of Alaska in Juneau.
  • How he worked for Alaska Seaplane Service for five years in Juneau, flying Beavers and Cessnas on floats, and eventually became the Chief Plot.
  • Why he wanted to get back into IFR and turbine world, and how he ended up as the Chief Pilot at Island Air Express.
  • What it’s like to fly IFR in Southeast (and why passengers prefer it).
  • The challenge of finding float drivers with amphib experience and turbine time who can fly IFR.
  • The benefits of the Garrett-powered Caravan.
  • What Klawock is like, why Pat calls it “a tamer version of the bush,” and why it’s a great place to raise kids.
  • What a typical pilot schedule is like at Island Air Express.
  • How the flying and the weather in Southeast compares to the flying and weather in Western Alaska.
  • What Pat looks for in pilots he hires.
  • What the starting pay is at Island Air Express.
  • Their operation flying tourists in an amphib Caravan out of Scottsdale, Arizona in the winter.
  • Why Pat generally only hires people he’s met.


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Island Air Express

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5 Responses to “Interview: Pat Goodrich, Island Air Express Chief Pilot”

  1. Darren Donahue says:

    Hello I worked with Pat when he started at Skagway Air. He is a great person to work with and a very good pilot with sound judgement. He is fun to be around and he makes a mean potato salad!

  2. Melissa says:

    I have lived in Southeast Alaska all my life and know for a fact that the air taxi’s in Ketchikan do not just cater to the tourists. Their are quite a few companies locally who have been around over ten years that have been doing scheduled flights for the people who live in areas around Ketchikan. These areas include Craig, Port Protection, Point Baker, Edna Bay, Naukati, Hydaburg, Coffman Cove, Whale Pass, Hollis, Klawock, Kasaan, Thorne Bay, Meyers Chuck, Metlakatla, Hyder just to name a few. These companies are local companies many with local pilots who not only live here, but also went to school here as children. These companies are also responsible for taking mail to and from these local communities. I am sure that Pat is a good man but I am sad to see that this article is not about him but about his company that is located here and as it stated also located in Arizona doing tours. Companies have been doing scheduled flights in Ketchikan for many years. Bob Ellis Established his well known airlines Ellis Air back in 1936.

  3. Sharon Douglass says:

    I think the article was more about changing from VFR to IFR flying out of Klawock by using modern technology. The local VFR pilots out of Ketchikan are great pilots. But they can only deliver the service that their planes are capable of and that is not a negative reflection on them or their companies. With VFR, inclement weather means passengers, freight, and mail get backed up. A $1.8 million plane needs winter work to earn its keep–therefore, the Arizona tours! I live on Prince of Wales Island and know what an outstanding pilot (and person) Pat Goodman is. The founder of Island Air Express also was born and raised in rural Alaska and lives full time on the island. I enjoyed the article and saw no insult in it.

    • Sharon Douglass says:

      Sorry, Pat. I know your last name is Goodrich. My fingers ran away from my brain while I was typing!


  1. Meet Pat Goodrich, Chief Pilot of Island Air Express | weeplanet.net - July 19, 2012

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