ALASKA

ALASKA

DUTCH HARBOR FLIGHT 001

A Short Story

Dutch Harbor, ‘Dutch,’ is the largest and busiest fishing port in the nation. It supports Alaska’s fishing industry in the highly productive Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. These waters are home to king crab, salmon, halibut, Pollack, shrimp, etc. Hundreds of fish boats, including the ‘Deadliest Catch’ crab boats, sail out of Dutch. The onshore industries include canneries, fishing supply vendors, construction, hotels, and bars.

Dutch is hard to get to. It is in a remote location half way down Alaska’s Aleutian island chain, and pretty close to Russia.  The canneries, contractors and the fish boat captains fly thousands of workers between Seattle and Dutch Harbor, (Dutch) for the multiple fishing and construction seasons. The workers fly to Anchorage on day one, spend the night, and weather permitting, board a little commuter plane the following day and fly down the chain to Dutch. $2,000 dollars, and thirty some hours later, they arrive in Dutch ready to go to work.

Along comes Captain Kirk, a local Mt. Vernon, Washington character. He is, first and foremost, a heads up entrepreneur, always looking for an opportunity. His current ventures include a small tugboat company on Puget Sound and a crop dusting service in Eastern Washington. His chief pilot and close friend is Jimmy John Matlock, better know as ‘Crash’ since he had crash landed three planes during his long career.

In June 2009, Captain Kirk had a chance encounter with one of the cannery owners in Seattle. Their conversation turned to the subject of the hassle to get workers in and out of Dutch. A light went off in Kirk’s brain, he told them he was in the air transport and service business, and he may be able to come up a plan to solve their worker transport issue. He said, “Give me a week and let’s talk again.”

Kirk’s idea was to start a private airline that would provide a direct 6-hour flight to and from Mt. Vernon, a small town north of Seattle, and Dutch Harbor. This would replace the current two-day travel time. He figured that the cannery owners and others would embrace this air service, save a lot of money and he, In turn, would make a pile of money. Kirk believes that his plan is well conceived and he was hot after putting it together.

The gimmick in Kirk’s business plan, which allowed this miracle to work was the concept of flying a direct Northwest route over the Gulf of Alaska instead of following the traditional commercial route North to Anchorage and then West to Dutch. This eliminates the Anchorage stop and the dogleg run from Anchorage down the chain to Dutch, saving both air time and fuel. Capt. Kirk and Crash gave this endeavor their full attention for a week. Capt. Kirk was convinced he was on to something big. The canneries are going to love his pitch. It was a no-brainer, a six-hour flight compared to two days traveling.

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