The Story of Wings Airways
The story of Wings Airways brings to life the romance and traditions of Alaska's rich aviation history on the same waterfront that began Juneau's floatplane businesses in the 1920's. Experience, enthusiasm, pride, and drive are the essentials for Alaska bush pilots, and are the driving force behind the entire Wings Airways organization.
In 2002 an exciting prospect emerged for an exclusive group of employees of a locally owned Juneau airline. This group of dedicated professionals who had built and nurtured one airline used their extensive expertise to create another. With the purchase of the floatplane flightseeing portion of a commuter air service, Wings Airways Inc. took off. Wings Airways carries on the long tradition of locally owned and operated flights off the downtown harbor. Owners include Don Bach, Al & Jeffra Clough, Dan Corson, Michelle Donohue, Robert Jacobsen, Holly Johnson, Wayne Love, John Lucas, Erica Sjoroos, Mike Stedman, Rusty Shaub, Bruce Tice, Mike Thomas, Sam Wright & Nick Yurko.
This committed team has modernized the classic fleet by converting five DeHavilland Otter aircraft from piston engines to modern, quiet, reliable turbine powerplants. These conversions added versatility and a very high degree of safety to the overall operation. They also provided the community of Juneau with a decrease in floatplane noise. Wings Airways has modified its DeHavilland Beaver floatplanes to make them better suited for flightseeing as well as added a brand new dock to the downtown Juneau seadrome. This level of investment shows a strong commitment to continuing the tradition of comfortable, safe, and reliable services to ourguests and community.
The combination of great passion and love for what they do will persist in driving this team as they continue toprovide travelers from around the world the opportunity to board the classic DeHavilland floatplanes and discover firsthand the magnificence of Alaska's vast wilderness and breathtaking glaciers.
Dan Corson (Owner/Director of Operations)
Dan Corson was born and raised in Starbuck, Minnesota. After high school Corson attended the University of North Dakota and gained a B.S. degree. Following graduation he gained airline experience working at the Minneapolis International Airport as a "rampie". He then gained flight time as a flight instructor with Buffalo Aviation. He spent any extra time working a wide variety of jobs including blackjack dealer and framing/matting for his father's business. He had known early on that flying for a large airline was not for him. Corson had known a pilot from the Juneau area, opening the door to Alaska and a dream of becoming a bush pilot. His wife Becky agreed to the adventure and Corson began flying throughout Southeast Alaska in 1998. Today Dan holds many titles at Wings Airways such as Director of Operations, Check Airman, and Safety Officer. Perhaps the most important title of all is being father to sons Denny & Corbin, possible future bush pilots in the making.
Mike Stedman (Owner)
is a lifelong fourth generation Alaskan with 31 years of aviation experience in Southeast Alaska. Mike and his wife Lori have two grown sons and a granddaughter. Stedman currently serves as President of the Alaska Air Carrier Association Board of Directors and also serves on the Medallion Foundation Board of Directors, he was appointed in 2010 by Governor Parnell to the Alaska Aviation Advisory Board.
Wayne Love (Owner/Chief Pilot)
was born and raised in the Eastern Oregon area. He served in the US Army from 1972 to 1976 with most of his time spent overseas. While stationed in Europe his Armor division was always accompanied by a helicopter unit, inspiring Wayne into the world of aviation. Once returning to Oregon he pursued an education and a career in flying. Beginning with an Associates degree in Aviation he went on to add a Bachelors Degree in Business/Economics from Eastern Oregon State College to his list of accomplishments. After graduation he researched his next move while gaining hours as a flight instructor.
With family already living in Alaska he added it as a possibility while sending out resumes. With the support of his wife Wayne began his first commercial flying position with Skagway Air based in Skagway, Alaska in 1986. In 1991 he made the move to the Capitol city of Juneau, where he now resides.
Wayne and his wife Marlene have three grown children who have had the fortunate experience of growing up surrounded by Alaskan beauty and the hum of aviation.
Bruce Tice (Owner)
Adventure runs deep through this Southern California native. Bruce Tice had spent many hours skydiving over sunny California when he decided he wanted to be the one in the pilot seat. This desire led to his pursuit of a private pilots license. However his first trip to Alaska was aboard a sailboat as a part of the Orange Coast College Sail Training Program. With a USCG Masters license he lead the students from Hanalei, Hawaii to Glacier Bay, Alaska. Impressed with the scenery and the floatplane activity throughout the Inside Passage he realized flying in Alaska was his next goal. Tice continued with the college’s marine program and a professional career with the Newport Beach Police department. Not settled yet on what a he wanted to do “when he grew up,” he returned to Southeast Alaska to pursue seasonal aviation related employment.
Wings of Alaska gave him is first opportunity using his boating skills on the waterfront assisting the tug and dock placement when the floatplanes would take off from the side of the visiting cruise ships as well as general ground crew duties. He continued to pursue commercial and instrument ratings at the same time. Today Tice flies a variety of Wings aircraft, with most of his time spent in the turbine deHavilland Otters during the summer months in Juneau. He continues to balance employment with three jobs in two states and pursue world travels. His sail training has taken him on voyages from the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia (where he participated in the great Sydney-Hobart Race of 1999), and South even further to Antarctica. Tice believes that these experiences combined with the structure of the Newport Beach Police Department make his ownership in Wings Airways another successful adventure each year.
Sam Wright (Owner)
Sam Wright began a lifetime of flight in 1964 in Southern California. His commercial career began one year later. The next 7 years were occupied by Cessna dealership in Southern California flying their various products. Wright took a short break from flying first as a GI, then as a small business owner. After trying other careers he could no longer deny his passion for flying. While working at Cessna he spent seven years hearing romantic Alaskan stories by a fellow employee who was a former Air Force fighter (F-89) pilot, based in Galena, Alaska. The timing was right to follow a dream, so he packed up his car and headed North to the land of the midnight sun. Wright is now a twenty-five year veteran of Alaska with only a two-year break to fly DC-3s out of Charlotte, NC. Wright made Southeast Alaska his permanent home when he joined Wings of Alaska in May of 1988. Today Wings depends on Wright for both scheduled flights and the glacier flightseeing tours flying deHavilland DHC-3 on floats and the Cessna 208 on wheels. Wright calls Haines his home, a small Alaskan town 70 air miles to the Northwest with a population of 1,808. As Juneau is a city with no road in or out Wright commutes to Juneau daily in his own plane. With over forty years of flying experience he was an essential piece of the new ownership when Wings Airways was formed in 2001.
Rusty Shaub (Owner)
Rusty Shaub first came to Alaska in 1968 to work for the families tire business. Work involved traveling throughout Southeast Alaska’s logging and construction camps servicing heavy equipment tires. Travel involved quite a bit of flying in floatplanes to access camps throughout the region with no road access. He moved to Ketchikan in 1975 and began flying his own Cessna 180 floatplane a few years later. In 1985 he switched from the passengers seat to the pilots seat and began flying as work instead of flying to work. In Ketchikan Shaub flew for Westflight until he and his family moved to Juneau. In 1986 he began working for Wings of Alaska and has been a valuable team member from that point on.
During his time with Wings he has been a Line Pilot, Chief Pilot, Director of Operations, and occasionally lends an extra hand in the maintenance hangar. At this point in his career he enjoys the summers in the air and the winters in the hangar where it doesn’t rain, snow or blow. His motto, as any pilot could appreciate, is “working in a place where the ceiling is always in the same place is a darn good thing”! With the creation of Wings Airways Shaub became an instrumental element in the ownership and management of an employee owned company. Throughout his years of flying he has operated a variety of radial engines taking him to every corner of Southeast and beyond. The exciting part of flying Wings Airways aircraft today is the advance from the radial engines on the deHavilland Otters to the turbine engines. The increased performance, power, speed and reliability have these floatplanes flying better than ever. They have also been a vital improvement in correcting environmental noise concerns our harbor side neighbors had with the traditional radials. Shaub has been with Wings through each change and advancement over the years and will continue to provide his experience and expertise into the future.
Al Clough (Owner)
Al’s family moved to Juneau when Alaska was still a territory. He was raised in Juneau graduating from Juneau- Douglas High School in 1972. While in high school he spent summers on the Juneau Icefield assisting scientist with various research projects.
Al’s work on the Juneau Icefield developed into an interest in earth science and he attained an MS degree in Economic Geology from the University of Idaho College of Mines. He has worked in mineral exploration throughout Alaska, much of the Western USA and Australia. He continues an active interest in Alaska mineral resources by being a partner in a small mining company that holds and explores gold and other metal mining claims in various parts of Alaska.
Al’s field work on the Juneau Icefield and much of his mineral exploration was supported by small aircraft and helicopters and this lead to a growing interest in aviation. While exploring for gold and diamonds in Western Australia in the early 1980’s he started flying as a private pilot. After returning to Alaska in 1984 Al bought a Piper PA- 12 (Cub) that he still owns and operates. Al uses his cub like people use their 4x4’s in the lower 48 states; for access to hunting, fishing, exercising the dog or just enjoying the Alaska outback. He started flying commercially for Wings Airways and sister company, Wings of Alaska, in 2002.
In addition to being a commercial pilot Al is a registered professional geologist and also a fully certified Ski Instructor. During the winter months he teaches skiing at Juneau’s Eaglecrest Ski Area on his days off from Wings.
Al and his wife Jeffra, a part time dispatcher for Wings, reside year round in Juneau.
Our Floatplane Fleet
The Wings Airways fleet of 5 DeHavilland Otters have a unique history that is highly regarded by the pilots that fly them and the mechanics that care for them. We also have quite a following from former and current aviators who know and respect the story of the deHavilland aircraft.
The Otters were converted between 2004 and 2005 from Pratt and Whitney radial engines to Garrett TPE331-10 turbine engines. With these 900 horsepower engines the aircraft reliability and safety factors were substantially increased.
For an added margin of safety Wings has installed modern Chelton GPS based EFIS glass cockpits in all of the Otters. We also take one step further to ensure each passenger enjoys unrestricted views as everyone has a window seat.
First flown at DeHavilland Aircraft Company, Toronto, Canada on 12 December 1951, the Otter's design was similar to but larger than the company's Beaver. Both aircraft were designed to operate from rugged bush country as well as in cold weather operations. The Otter was in fact originally going to be named the King Beaver and it followed its predecessor's configuration very closely. It featured a conventional stressed skin construction and had a braced -wing with full-span slotted flaps with the outer portions acting as ailerons. The design proved to be highly versatile and could be operated on wheels, floats or skis.
Impressed with the performance of the Otter, particularly its ability to operate with heavy loads out of unprepared airstrips, the U.S. Army purchased a large number of them under the designation of U-1A. After evaluating a "loan" Otter from the Army, the Navy purchased four of them in January 1955 as UC-1As to serve as an air arm for Task Force 43 during Operation Deep Freeze I in the Antarctic. Procurement of a further fourteen, later designated as U-1Bs, included some for other countries. Nine of them with wheel/ski configuration were to further supplement and replace Otters in the Antarctic. Most of these planes have either been retired or gone on into private service. Some of both aircraft have been retro-fitted with turbine engines instead of radial engines. Today Otter's are in high demand around the world, especially on floats in Alaska, where the vast majority are based.
About the Medallion Foundation
Wings Airways was humbled to Receive the Medallion Safety Award from the Alaska Congressional Delegation: United States Senator Mark Begich, Wings Director of OPerations Dan Corson, United States Representative Don Young, Wings Airways President Holly Johnson, Wings Airways Vice PresidentP Mike Stedman, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell and Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Wings Airways is proud to have been the very first airline of our size to receive the coveted Medallion Shield. Safety is our number one concern and that theory is expressed throughout every aspect of the company.
It is our great pleasure to share the splendor, history and majesty of Southeast Alaska withvisitors from around the world. To do so an a safe manner is essential!
Click here to visit the Medallion Foundation site for more information.
Wings Airways is honored to offer our Taku Glacier Flight & Feast Tour and we hope you will join us on this once in a lifetime experience!
The Juneau Waterfront - A Long History Of Aviation
Juneau’s downtown waterfront has been home to water based aviation since the early 1920’s.
Originally, fishing grounds for local Tlingit Indians, the Gastineau Channel area became the focus of attention in the late 1800’s when a local Tlingit provided the first known gold ore samples to Joe Juneau and Richard Harris.
Shortly thereafter a 160 acre townsite was established filled by the first boatloads of prospectors arriving bound for the new strike on Gastineau Channel.The stampede was on. Juneau grew from a boomtown to a center for large scale hard rock-mining.
On the mainland side of the Channel two great mills were created in the early 1900’s, the Alaska-Juneau at the south end of Juneau and the Alaska-Gastineau at Thane, further south. The opposite side of the channel is the shoreline of Douglas Island, home of the world-renowned Treadwell Gold Mining Company.
In the height of the industrial boom an aviation hub was born on the downtown waterfront. Roy Jones was the first man to bring an airplane to Southeast Alaska with the express purpose of starting a commercial airline. With Ketchikan as a home base, operations began the summer of 1922. He flew into Juneau on May 3, 1923 with a salesman from the Hills Brothers Coffee Company and landed at the waterfront. The flight aboard the Curtiss MF called the "Northbird" became the first commercial flight to Juneau.
On April 15, 1929 Anscel Eckmann flying a Lockheed Vega (NC-432E) called the “Juneau” arrived in Juneau non-stop from Lake Union in Seattle, Washington and upon touching down Alaska-Washington Airways was formed. AWA operated a number of Lockheed’s from their home base at Lake Union to Juneau. Their fleet of aircraft was given Alaskan names, the “Wrangell”, “Sitka,” “Skagway,” “Petersburg,” and “Taku.” This great attempt to establish a “class act” airline ended in March 1932 when the Seattle papers carried a notice of receivership. Although the Alaskan portion of the business was financially successful the stateside operation was directly effected by the Depression and other financial strains.
On April 5, 1932, Nick Bez an Alaskan Cannery czar, purchased two of the Alaska-Washington Airways planes and started Alaska-Southern Airways. For two years this was a very viable airlines, until the unfortunate loss of one of the aircraft closed operations.
Shell Simmons, an electrician at the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine had a passion for flying. Simmons flew part time for Panhandle Air Transport, a one-plane operation out of Juneau. After the departure of the main pilot Simmons became the full time pilot flying their Stinson SM2A (NC-452H). When the plane suffered severe storm damage at Kimsham Cove, C. V. McKay, the owner, disgusted with aviation, negotiated with Simmons and sold him the plane for $1.00. With the acquisition aviation in Juneau was here to stay.
In 1935, the Stinson with a new blue and yellow paint job, and a new name, Alaska Air Transport began business in Juneau. Shell soon realized that to make money they would need to offer year round service, he would have to fly the winter months. In 1936, he purchased a Lockheed Vega (NC-47M) from Irving Airways. Then he added a Bellanca Skyrocket that he purchased from the Rockefeller family on the East Coast.
In 1936, Alex Holden started Marine Airways in Juneau and Robert E. “Bob” Ellis started Ellis Air Transport in Ketchikan. They were followed in 1937 with Petersburg Air Service, owned by Tony Schwamm, a former stunt pilot who had starred in “Hells Angels”. Both Ellis and Schwamm started flying into Juneau. All landed at the waterfront seadrome.
In 1939, Alaska Air Transport and Marine Airways merged forming a new company Alaska Coastal Airlines. Alaska Coastal flew during World War II with a number of planes, two Lockheed Vega’s (NC 47M & 49M), a Bellanca Pacemaker (NC-196N), a Curtis Kingbird (NC-622V), a Waco. In 1945, after the war, they purchased their first Grumman Goose, adding several more over the next two years. In 1949 they purchased a Consolidated PBY, the “Catalina.”
In 1962, Ellis Airlines and Alaska Coastal merged to become Alaska Coastal-Ellis Airlines. They had the largest fleet of Grumman Goose aircraft in the world. In 1968, Alaska Airlines purchased the company opening the seadrome to several organizations, including “Southeast Skyways”, Taku Glacier Air, Alaska Coastal Airlines and the current Wings Airways Inc.
Wings Airways Charter Services
Floatplanes offer a wide variety of remote charter options throughout the southeast Alaska area. Not only does every person on board enjoy their own window seat but these uniquely Alaskan aircraft offer you access to places and sites no other type of aircraft can! Combined with the remote Taku Glacier Lodge lasting memories are guaranteed.
Taku Lodge Site Rental:
The Lodge is available May through September for private rentals on a limited basis. We have hosted Board meetings, team building sessions, family reunions, Birthday celebrations and wedding parties for a unique wilderness occasion. The Taku Lodge has a seating capacity for 50 people maximum.
Engagements & Weddings:
It would be difficult to find a more uniquely Alaskan location for your special day. Rustic elegance surrounds you and your guests from the moment you land on the Taku River at the Taku Lodge. Say I do while immersed in breathtaking Alaskan wilderness. Photos of your ceremony will be epic with one of the Juneau Icefield’s most gorgeous glaciers, the Hole-In-The-Wall glacier as a backdrop to your perfectly Alaskan wedding.
Endless charter options:
With endless alpine lakes in the nearby area there are virtually untouched lakes waiting to be explored. Whether it’s for a beach combing adventure, astonishing wilderness hiking or secluded fishing opportunities we offer customized charters that will allow your party something out of the ordinary. An experience not soon to be forgotten.
For the more involved Alaska visitor we also offer charter floatplane drop off and pick ups to several Forest Service Cabins throughout the Southeast Alaska. Our experienced pilots can fly you in and schedule a pick up after a single or multi night stay. An exclusive cabin experience that allows you the quiet seclusion of the Tongass National Forest and all it’s splendor.
Contact us for availability and pricing.