Get to know your pilot series continues! We want to introduce Steven Kries (don't confuse him with Steven Ritter (smile) ), who spent his last winter in Fairbanks running tours for us. Now he's based in our main stage in Palmer to take you out on beautiful glaciers. We sat down with Steven to ask him some questions to get to know him litter better.
Where have you flown helicopters before Alaska? What initially attracted you to Alaska? Why did you look for jobs here?
Started flight training in St. Louis, Missouri. Which took me to Dubuque, Iowa training students at the local university. The attraction to Alaska was the challenges that the environment possessed. A great Aviation community is what I’ve found throughout Alaska that is safety-oriented which is always welcoming.
What do you most like about helicopter flying compared to other flights?
I can’t say much about fixed-wing flights because I haven’t ventured to that arena. I picked rotor-wing because that was my background in the Marine Corps (mechanic) but also because of the rugged locations that can be accessed via helicopter. I hope to extend my training into the fixed-wing community in the future though.
Was there a particular moment in your life when something clicked and you decided ‘I want to become a helicopter pilot’? How long have you been flying helicopters?
Probably a combination of events. There was military training and EMS route over my house that brought constant platforms and various types of aircraft in close proximity. I had an Uncle that served as a CH-46 pilot in the USMC so that influenced me as well.
What is special about helicopter flight and why would you recommend it as a way to see Alaska? The special thing about helicopter flight is the capacity of picking a secluded mountain/ glacier/ river to land and explore, plus the astonishing views of what Alaska has to offer.
You’re a guide pilot, not just a pilot. What aspect of tour guiding do you like the most?
The opportunity to meet new people and introduce them to the amazing feeling of flight, with an added bonus of sharing the experience in Alaska!
You fly over an incredible landscape every time you fly. Does the landscape still impress you or does it get old? Are you ever surprised by anything during your workday?
The environment that our team leads in is always captivating, never a dull moment. Flying against the slopes of the Knik gorge viewing diverse wildlife, spectacular waterfalls, deep blue melt pools, or hanging out with the dog sled teams is so invigorating that it’s difficult to imagine myself growing tired of this career.
What are the challenges of flying a helicopter in Alaska?
I would say the most challenging aspect is the weather. Our eyes are always on the weather, being prepared to deal with what Alaska throws our way.
What are your favorite activities when you’re not working?
Bicycling, camping, hunting, and camping. Basically all of your common Alaskan hobbies (laugh). Snowboarding, cross country skiing, and fat-tire biking are some sports I’ve picked up while in Alaska.
What’s your favorite route (tour) at Alaska Helicopter Tours?
Hard-pressed, but I would have to pick the Grand Knik Tour. Landing in front/ on top of the glacier, and pair with an alpine landing gives an awesome view of the valley.
Anything else that we might find interesting? (maybe could tell us that you can officiate weddings or something else to highlight that AHT does.)
Honing in on my photography skills, officiating weddings, broadening my knowledge on glaciers, wildlife, and the history of Alaska so I can give a touch of Alaska to AHT guests!
Thanks to Steven for spending time with us and letting us inside the world of Alaska pilots! The “Get to Know Your Pilot” series will continue in the coming months on our blog. Stay tuned!