Escaping Blood-Sucking Vampires of the Alaskan Summer


It’s no secret that Alaska is the place to be during the summer. Fishing, hunting, outdoor fun, an abundance of daylight…Alaska has it all. It’s these things that make working in Alaska during the summer one of the greatest adventures.

One of my favorite flights we do during the summer months is to the small community of Noatak. Noatak has around 500 residents and is located about 50 miles north of Kotzebue, along the stunning Noatak River. Though the flight is only 15 minutes from Kotzebue, you get the opportunity to see stunning scenery, as well as an abundance of wildlife. It is not uncommon to see brown bears stalking a group of musk-ox, or moose trudging across the runway as you come in to land…just another one of the unique hazards of the job.

As much as I enjoy flying into Noatak, as soon as we land we try to get out of there as quick as possible. For those of you wondering if vampires exist, they absolutely do…just not in the way you think. In all my time in Alaska, I have never visited a place that had such an overwhelming amount of blood sucking mosquitos as bad as Noatak.

Ask any Alaskan what they hate most about the summer and I would be surprised if most people didn’t say the mosquitos. Alaskans like to joke that the mosquito is our unofficial state bird. You know you’re in Alaska when the mosquitoes have landing lights and the most effective mosquito repellent is a shotgun.

This summer was a busy one for construction in the small village of Noatak. The warm months of summer allow a small window to complete all necessary construction projects. These projects vary from road work, improvements to schools, as well as the construction of new homes.

Flying building materials into these villages often provides a unique challenge. For the Noatak school project, we were tasked with transporting large wooden beams that were longer than our actual cargo area…the solution? Leave the rear cargo door open and strap the lumber down like your life depends on it…because well, it does. A cargo shift and loss of control is the LAST thing any pilot wants to experience. This procedure is completely legal and safe of course and is an extremely cool thing to experience. We’re serious when we say, “if it fits, it ships”.  We always seem to get weird looks from other pilots and airport employees as we taxi for takeoff with our back door open. Yes, we know our cargo door is open, no need to remind us!

airplane cargo bush pilot alaska door open

alaska bush plane cargo door open

Another great thing about summers in Alaska is the abundance of daylight. It’s hard to describe to people just how cool it is to live and work in a place where the sun literally doesn’t set for weeks at a time. There aren’t many places where you can drive around at 2 a.m. and must throw on your sunglasses and put your sun visor down because the sun is in your eyes.

During the long nights of summer, there’s no better way to end a long day of flying than to go outside and take advantage of the wealth of daylight. Berry picking, fishing, bonfires on the beach; there’s a reason they call Alaska the land of the midnight sun.

kotzebue alaska sunset midnight sun

Some say the long and beautiful Alaska summers are our reward for the long, dark winter and perhaps that is true. It takes a special type of person to put up with the abuse of the long Alaska winters…but if you can stick it out through the winter, the summer more than makes up for the abuse. I like to take pride in the fact that Alaska isn’t only the biggest state in the union, but when you think about it, we’re also the brightest.

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