Alaska Central Express
One of the best ways to experience the magic of Alaska is by airplane. Ever since the first small planes appeared in the 1920s, they have been an integral part of the state’s transportation system. Commercial jets service Anchorage and Fairbanks in central Alaska, but beyond that, the small plane becomes crucial and necessary. Small airplanes travel at low altitudes, allowing the traveler to gain a sense of quiet freedom - just high enough to feel removed, but close enough to take it all in. The views of the glaciers, mountains, rivers, lakes, and wildlife are second to none from the air. Mike Bergt started his flying career in 1986 in St. Mary’s, Alaska which is located about sixty miles from the mouth of the Yukon River. His son, Andrew Bergt, was interested in flying from a very young age. “It started by just going up with my Dad, very low-key,” he said. “My interest just kept growing from there.” These days Andrew flies professionally for his father’s aviation company. His work allows him to see every part of his home state. “When you are flying, you can go to the most remote spots in Alaska,” he said. He can explore the vastly different corners of the state, from the volcanic Aleutian Islands in the northwest to the southeast corner, the shape of which is said to resemble Hawaii.
At the family home, the garage is not for cars. Mike Bergt is using that space to build a plane that will help him practice his hobbies, hunting and fishing. He is quick to explain what makes his custom plane special. “It has leading-edge wing slats, double slatted flaps, and a 210 horsepower engine,” he explains. “It can almost take off and land like a helicopter.” The father and son’s passion for aviation is infectious. They both are able to share stories and anecdotes about flight school, commercial aviation, and the importance of experience, but their love for aviation is directly related to their love for Alaska. “I’ve lived in San Diego. I’ve lived in Seattle. I’ve lived in London. But there is no place like home. Alaska is just one of a kind,” said Mike. His son echoed a similar sentiment when asked about living in Alaska, "It's like you're free."