Story last updated at 5/22/2013 - 2:04 pm
Alaska Seaplanes has charted a history of serving Southeast Alaska communities for more than 16 years.
Craig and Aral Loken founded what is now a full service, year-round scheduled and charter airline based in Juneau.
The Lokens grew up in aviation with Juneau Air Taxi (later Channel Flying), a pioneering Alaska aviation company founded by Craig's father Ken Loken in the 1950s, which eventually became the largest seaplane operator in the world.
In 2011, the Lokens sold Alaska Seaplanes to former Wings of Alaska managers Mike Stedman and Kent Craford. The next year the partners expanded into the wheel plane market with the acquisition of Air Excursions, a long-time Gustavus based air taxi company founded by Steve Wilson and later owned by veteran pilot/mechanic Mike Loverink. In the spring of 2013, the two sister companies united their operations under one brand - Alaska Seaplanes. The company carries passengers, freight, U.S. mail and UPS shipments and also offers charter flights throughout Southeast Alaska.
The company now has about 40 year-round employees, and more in the busy summer season - who help provide scheduled service to Skagway, Haines, Gustavus, Hoonah, Excursion Inlet, Kake, Angoon, Tenakee Springs, Pelican and Elfin Cove with a fleet of 11 wheel and float planes. Alaska Seaplanes also offers charter service to almost anywhere in Southeast.
What makes Alaska Seaplanes special - for staff and clients - is the long-term tenure many employees have had. The core of the employees has had at least 25 years of experience in aviation in Southeast Alaska.
Carl Ramseth, Alaska Seaplanes director of sales and marketing, said the relationships with the people they serve, as well as with the great employees, are his favorite thing about the company.
"We have these relationships with customers where we've seen their children born and then later graduate from college," he said. "It's not just a business relationship. It's more personal than that. It feels like family."
Ramseth said some of the more interesting things to happen with flights have been women in labor, trying to make it to town before delivery; flying the kitchen sink somewhere; and cases where customers want items shipped that don't quite fit in the plane in the shipping packaging (and working out how to get it to fit appropriately and safely).
"Things like that happen all the time," Ramseth said.
Weather is one major challenge they face in doing business every day in Southeast Alaska. Each day comes with a plan - scheduled flights, passengers, cargo - but sometimes the weather has other ideas in mind.
"The puzzle changes," Ramseth said. "The number of pieces involved, every time the phone rings or the weather changes we try and accommodate the ever-changing environment on a day to day basis. The message is, the experience of the people we have working in our dispatch office are well qualified to meet those challenges."
The long-range goals of Alaska Seaplanes focuses on improvements to the fleet. The company recently added a Cessna Grand Caravan "Supervan" to the fleet of wheelplanes.
"In this point in our growth we're focusing on our fleet," Ramseth said. "The addition of the caravan is evidence of the long term commitment to the people of Southeast. We want to be thoughtful about our equipment, and bring on capable airplanes that will serve us well for years to come"
Alaska Seaplanes also offers freezer, cooler and baggage storage in the main terminal of the Juneau International Airport. Summer access hours are from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Check out Alaska Seaplanes new website for more information: www.flyalaskaseaplanes.com.
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