Sunday, February 22, 2015

Interview with an Alaska pilot: Keith Manternach, Iron Dog volunteer

Several team aircraft lined up to depart McGrath for Galena during Iron Dog 2014. 
Courtesy Keith Manternach

By Colleen Mondor
February 22, 2015

As part of an ongoing series highlighting the diversity of Alaska's aviation community, Bush Pilot exchanged some recent emails with Keith Manternach, who lives on Anchorage's Upper Hillside. Manternach has flown all over the state and said he became interested in flying in the early 1990s, because "it seemed that all of my hunting and fishing buddies had airplanes or had friends with airplanes, since I was an avid hunter (and) fisherman I decided to get my pilot’s license and bought my own airplanes shortly after that."

He currently holds a private pilot certificate with a performance rating, float rating, and tailwheel endorsement and is actively involved with the Iron Dog as a volunteer team pilot. His work with the race gives him "the opportunity to fly from Anchorage to Nome and then onto Fairbanks before returning back to Anchorage in late February each year." Manternach regards this week away from home, flying everyday "in some very challenging situations," as a "great learning experience" which he enjoys a great deal.

Manternach plans to purchase a fast twin engine airplane in the near future to "leave home for months at a time to fly around North America".  

Q: What item (or items) in your flight bag do you consider to be the most indispensable?

A: I think that the most valuable items in my flight bag are my satellite phone and my personal locator beacon; between the two of them no matter how bad the situation I should be able to find my way to safety.

Q: What is your favorite place to fly to (or over) in Alaska and why?

A: My favorite places to fly to in Alaska on floats or skis would have to be Rainy Pass Lodge and/or Shell Lake Lodge. Both of these lodges are very remote and run by great people that cater to the aviation population.

Q: What is the best flying advice you ever received?

A: The best flying advice I ever got was that the preflight is more important than the actual flight; an unprepared airplane and/or pilot is a recipe for disaster.

Q: What type of aircraft do you most enjoy flying and why?

A: I mainly fly my 1958 Cessna 180; it is equipped with floats in the summer, hydraulic wheel skis in the winter, and tundra tires in the spring and fall. I also have a 1954 Piper PA-18 Super Cub that I fly on tundra tires in the summer and straight skis in the winter. Both airplanes have their strong points: the Cessna is very comfortable and fast and the Piper is capable of taking off and landing in very short spots.

For many years I owned a home in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. When I first started flying internationally we simply needed to call Canadian Customs to let them know that we were going to be entering Canada, and then let the U.S. Customs know when we were coming back. During my years of flying in and out of Canada things changed dramatically -- today you have to have to be registered with eapis (Electronic Advanced Passenger Information System) which is a computer-based pilot information system that lets the Canadian and U.S. Customs know what your flight intentions are. I am sure that this has improved the security although it has also turned some people off from flying internationally due to the excessive paperwork involved.

I have made a few trips from Alaska to Washington state to ferry other people’s airplanes, and I would encourage any avid pilot to make this trip; it has the chance of weather delays but I think Southeast Alaska might be the most beautiful part of our state. As far as flying in and around the Lower 48, I have regularly rented airplanes out of Seattle, Las Vegas and Chicago; this takes a bit of time and planning but it exposes you to a whole different type of flying due to the large volume of traffic at Class B airports.

Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen[at] if you would like to tell us your favorite place to fly in Alaska.

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