If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be a bush pilot in Alaska, a new DVD reveals the real deal. “Alaska’s Bush Pilots: The Real Deal” presents the true story of the pilots, their aircraft, nature and the wilderness of Alaska, according to the man behind the project, Jim Oltersdorf, who often contributes to the pages of General Aviation News.
Oltersdorf, who has lived in Alaska for 11 years, found himself enthralled with the tales told by the bush pilots. But he also noticed some contradictory tales. “Figuring that somewhere along the way embellishment was present, I desired to find out the truth — the ‘real deal’ about how they fly — what they fly and more of the inner workings of daily life with these people,” he said. “It is a much different story when you listen to an Alaskan bush pilot who has been flying for over 30 or 40 years than one that flew just a few years and then moved back to the lower 48. Some of the short-timers proclaim to all how they were ‘Alaskan bush pilots’ with their limited knowledge and skills and that is where the fables and mistruths began to emerge. I wanted it out of the horse’s mouth — the pilot who has 20,000 to 35,000 hours flying the bush.”
Getting those bush pilots to agree to appear in the DVD was a challenge.
“They are a proud people and rightfully so,” he said. “I found, much to my surprise, they don’t wish to be famous or seen by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Matter of fact, they are quite a humble sort of folk that prefer to be in the background of things, which made it hard for me to bring out those very personal things they didn’t wish to speak about publicly. In the end, I was so wonderfully complimented with their trust in me to produce this in light of that.”
The DVD, which features a dizzying array of airplanes and spectacular scenes of Alaska wilderness as well as wildlife, took about two years to produce. The biggest obstacle: The weather. “It changes so rapidly that it is virtually impossible to depend upon any so-called schedules here in the wilds of Alaska,” Oltersdorf said.
The costs of getting to some of the remote areas also was a factor. “Fuel costs can run $8 to $10 per gallon when you are in the bush,” he said.
Oltersdorf also had to invest in high def Sony cameras for the shoot, chosen for their “reliability and excellence in producing clear, concise and beautiful pictures,” he said.
“We used a large variety of camera lenses to produce interesting perspectives, not only with the pilots or aircraft, but with the giant Alaskan brown bears, and landscapes. We didn’t want this to have the look of a Hollywood production, which I felt gave the viewer more of the ‘real stuff.’
“Of course, the camera is only one component in the production of any given film,” he continued. “Sound gathering and engineering is extremely critical and I wanted the viewer to be placed not only visually but audibly into any given scene as well. When the pilot cranks up that $459,000 turbine Otter engine, I wanted the authentic sound of that baby lighting up! I wanted the same chills I got when I first sat in the cockpit for the viewer.”
Adding to the film’s impact is the musical score. Oltersdorf, who has been a musician for more than 40 years, noted he brought in some “very talented” individuals who composed original music for the show. “Music adds as a transition from one scene to another or it can add a great deal of emotion as well,” he said. “I absolutely loved the song by Robert Pepper, ‘Man Made Flying Machine’ at the end of the show. It makes me want to jump up and dance.”
While Oltersdorf initially thought his audience would be pilots — and, have no doubt, if you are a pilot you will enjoy the DVD and its ode to airplanes and bush pilots — the producer found it was the general public that has responded “so wonderfully” to the release of the documentary.
“It seems there is a huge interest by those who are not pilots, yet have an active curiosity, and Alaska’s bush pilots are at the top of the list,” he said.
Oltersdorf hopes that viewers will walk away from the documentary knowing that “these striking and adventuresome pilots are not some gung-ho risk-takers that are hell-bent and have perceived attitudes of ‘damn the torpedoes,’” he said. “The movie reveals they are loving fathers who take their kids fishing, that they fly with glass cockpits or with minimal equipment and that, most importantly, that they do not take chances with their passengers’ lives.”
The DVD is available worldwide for $19.95, plus $4.95 for shipping and handling.
For more information: AlaskasBushPilots.com.