Updated: Feb 17
This is the first post of our "Get to Know Your Pilot" series.
Steven Ritter has flown helicopters over the Florida coast (sharks!) and Yellowstone National Park and eventually decided to call Alaska home.
We sat down with Steven to ask him why he came to Alaska and if this extraordinary landscape ever gets ‘old’ to him.
When looking for an ideal flightseeing pilot, you want more than just a safe pilot. You want a friendly, informative guide, too. You’ll find Steven flying glacier dogsledding tours, heli-hiking tours, heli weddings, and a variety of helicopter glacier tours in all seasons.
Questions and Answers with Steven Ritter, Alaska Helicopter Tours
Juno: You have flown helicopters on the Florida coast and over the Yellowstone National Park area. What initially attracted you to Alaska? Why did you look for jobs here?
Steven: My Grandfather served in the military many years ago and was stationed in Fairbanks for several years. He has great stories from his time in the state and I've always wanted to see it for myself. When I found the position with Alaska Helicopter Tours and had a chance to speak to the amazing staff here, I knew it would be a good fit.
Juno: What do you most like about helicopter flying compared to other flights?
Steven: I enjoy the challenge. Flying helicopters requires constant monitoring and it's never boring. I also like the versatility of being able to land in a wide variety of places.
Juno: 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?
Steven: After getting my Bachelor's Degree in Business I was in a career that I couldn't see myself doing long term. I had worked towards getting my fixed-wing pilot's license as a teenager but helicopters had always fascinated me. I went on a helicopter flight at a flight school near me and I was hooked. I've been flying helicopters since 2014.
Juno: What is special about helicopter flight and why would you recommend it as a way to see Alaska?
Steven: Sightseeing by helicopter is a truly unique experience. Some of the places we see and visit would be almost impossible to visit on foot, and the views from the helicopter are awe-inspiring. It's an unforgettable and once-in-a-lifetime event for many people.
You’re a guide pilot, not just a pilot. What aspect of tour guiding do you like the most?
Steven: I enjoy showing people how amazing and beautiful the landscape is. It's such a dynamic area and it changes constantly. I enjoy showing off the beauty of Alaska and educating people about the area.
Juno: You fly over an incredible landscape every time you fly. Does the landscape still impress you or does it get old?
Steven: It never gets old. Alaska is beautiful in every season and the landscapes we tour over are beyond impressive. Every day I see things with a fresh perspective.
Juno: What are the challenges of flying a helicopter in Alaska?
Steven: Alaska is a unique landscape. It has a lot of mountainous terrains. Some of our tours take off near sea-level and land on a glacier at 4,500 feet. The temperature changes can be drastic at the different landings we go to.
Juno: What’s your favorite tour at Alaska Helicopter Tours?
Steven: My favorite tour is the Grand Knik Tour. I think it gives our guests a chance to really experience the Knik glacier from a variety of landing spots. I also really enjoy taking guests to the glacier dog sled tours because they always have such a great experience.
Juno: What are your favorite activities when you’re not working?
Steven: I enjoy spending time with my wife, Katie, and our two kids. We like hiking and exploring the Mat-Su area, or going to photograph the Northern Lights on nights when the Aurora is visible.
Juno: Anything else that we might find interesting?
I'm an amateur photographer and I enjoy putting my skills to use when capturing memories for our guests. The scenery on our tours makes for some incredible photos!
Thanks to Steven for spending time with us and letting us inside the world of Alaska helicopter piloting! The “Get to Know Your Pilot” series will continue in the coming months on our blog. Stay tuned!