How are your tours different from the ones they offer on the cruise ships?

In general, our tours are better in quality and longer in duration which stretches your hard earned vacation dollars.  For example, on our Misty Fjords tour we will land on a lake, taxi to shore and let you get out of the plane and walk around on land for approximately thirty minutes to stretch your legs and enjoy the serenity of the breathtaking scenery. The tours sold on the ships will land on the water but do not let you get out onto land. They float three to five minutes and then take off again.  Because we make a shore stop our tours are two hours long while the tours offered on cruise ships are an hour and fifteen minutes. Other tour operators may sell a two hour Misty Fjords tour which includes forty five minutes of land transfers to and from the cruise ship dock and their facility.  Our tour to Misty Fjords is two hours not including transfers.  We sell our tours for the actual length of the tour!

Additionally, we have voice activated headsets which enable you to converse with us and each other during the entire flight. The tours sold on the ships will have you plugged into a pre-recorded tape with no pilot communication possible. In our aircraft all seats are window seats!  Cruise line companies charge a commission for the tours they sell onboard. As a result those tours are often the most expensive. Finally, we have our reputation to uphold. We truly enjoy flying around this magnificent state. It is a lifestyle as much as a livelihood. We take pride and pleasure showing you the best that southeast Alaska has to offer!  Michelle has been conducting and polishing her tours for over twenty years.  In that time, many of her competitors have tried to copy her tours, thereby eliciting the sincerest form of flattery - imitation, but they cannot take her place!

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How will we get to your facility from the cruise ship dock?

Transportation to and from the cruise ship dock and our floatplane facility is included in all tour prices. Our twelve passenger van will pick you up ten to fifteen minutes before your scheduled flight time.  The van is parked just north of the Ketchikan Liquid Sunshine Gauge also known as the Rain Gauge on the north side of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau. The Rain Gauge is next to “The Rock” a bronze statue with seven life size figures. The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau is a wood sided building centrally located in front of Berth 2 on the cruise ship dock.  The Island Wings van will be parked in the designated tour van parking area about 100 feet north of the Rain Gauge and bronze statue.  We will also return you to the dock when you are finished with your tour. We are the closest air taxi business to the cruise ship dock about a two minute drive or a five minute walk from berth 1-3 and a thirty second walk or swim from berth 4!

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How do we find you on the cruise ship dock?

The meeting place is located at the Ketchikan Liquid Sunshine Gauge also known as the Rain Gauge, which is a twenty five foot tall thermometer type cartoon structure standing at the north end of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau building. The Rain Gauge is next to “The Rock” a bronze statue with seven life size figures. The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau is a wood sided building centrally located in front of Berth 2 on the cruise ship dock.  The Island Wings van will be parked in the designated tour van parking area about 100 feet north of the Rain Gauge and bronze statue.  Our van has our red floatplane and our name on all sides.  Pick up times are 10 to 15 minutes prior to your scheduled flight departure.

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How many people will your plane hold?

Our DeHavilland Beaver holds seven passengers comfortably.  We only sell six seats per flight as there are only six window seats. The exception to this is for groups of seven people who all want to go together. Our DeHavilland Beaver has had the interior seating reconfigured. This means that all six seats are window seats. Many of our competitors are flying DeHavilland Beaver aircraft that only have five window seats with a total capacity of seven seats. The result is that people in the middle have to look across the person next to them to see anything.

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What should we bring and wear for the tour?

Per FAA regulations you are not allowed to bring carry-on luggage on an aircraft without proper storage.  This includes our aircraft.  You are allowed to bring small items you can carry around your neck or in your pockets.  These include but are not limited to: binoculars, cameras, cell phones, small purses or fanny packs.  Large items such as backpacks, shopping bags, large camera bags and large purses will be stored in our secure office.  It is locked and monitored by a security camera.

Passengers going to Anan Creek or Traitors Cove please call for more information.

Wear comfortable shoes. Getting off and on the plane is generally the most difficult part of the trip. You will need shoes with good traction that are comfortable on your feet!  Ladies, save your heels for formal night!  Wear layered clothing, such as a fleece jacket and a raincoat shell.

Bring plenty of camera batteries and memory storage.  Many people run out of one or the other on this tour!  If you bring a camera with removable/multiple lenses, for example a SLR, make sure to bring a wide angle lens.  See Photo tips at bottom of page before you come!

For music junkies, you can bring your iPhone or iPod if you wish to play your own favorite music as we fly.

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What is required to make a reservation?

You secure your reservation by making a 50% deposit of the full trip cost via credit card or check.

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What is your cancellation policy?

We will refund your down payment under the following conditions:

1. Weather that we decide is not suitable for your trip.  Do not be discouraged if, when you arrive, the weather seems inclement.  The weather in Ketchikan is often much more rainy than the surrounding areas, such as the Fjords, and we will only take you on flights that are safe and enjoyable.

2. Acts of God and things beyond your control (i.e. you broke your leg and cannot go on your Alaska vacation, or your cruise ship goes aground before arriving in Ketchikan, don't laugh it has happened, your ship arrives late, or similar.)  In case of illness or injury, please contact us as soon as possible. 

3. If you give us 2 weeks prior notice of your cancellation.

Failure to meet the Island Wings Air Service van at the appropriate time and location will result in the loss of all deposited funds and any remaining balance due will be charged to your credit card.

If you make a deposit with a credit card and the trip is cancelled for whatever reason and we have to process a refund, you will receive your refund less the credit card banking fees, or 3% of the deposit.  The credit card companies charge us 3% to charge your card and 3% more to refund your deposit, for a total of 6%.  In the event of a refund, we'll split the charges with you.  If your deposit was made with a check or cash, the full amount will be refunded. 

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A word about the weather.

It does rain an average of 180 inches per year here. This "liquid sunshine" is what contributes to the lush rainforest we live in. We will not cancel flights due to rain. We will however cancel flights that we feel you will not enjoy due to poor visibility or turbulence.  The distance between the town of Ketchikan and the point at which we turn around on the Misty Fjords tour is a total of about 70 miles. Within that great of a distance, the weather can and does often change dramatically. We can literally have fog in Ketchikan and sunshine in the fjords. To make an assumption that the weather in Ketchikan is the same elsewhere is a mistake. So if the weather does not look the best when you arrive, don't be discouraged, it is likely to be very different outside of town!  The worst weather is usually right in town.

Legally we can fly in all weather conditions that meet or exceed Federal Aviation Administration minimums. These minimums are 500 foot cloud ceilings and two miles forward visibility. While I feel it is safe to transport people under these conditions, I do not feel it is enjoyable for a flight seeing tour. As a result of my desire to uphold a wonderful reputation in the visitor industry, I often cancel tours in weather that is safe to fly in, but not necessarily joyful for the customer. Some of my competitors will fly in all weather that meets or exceeds the FAA minimums regardless of customer satisfaction. They fly hundreds of people daily and stand to lose a great deal of revenue if even one of their tours are canceled.

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My husband and I were to take this tour with our friend Mary Louise C.  The weather was horrible, but other flights went.  I was so impressed that you said we could go, but that we would not see anything and would not enjoy it.  Thank you for your genuine concern.  We will definitely keep you in mind if we return and will send friends your way. I really hate that we did not get to take the trip, but would have been very hesitant considering the weather.
Peggy M.

What is your safety record?

Michelle has been flying for 39 years and has accumulated over 22,000 hours flying time, 18,000 of those hours in Southeast Alaska. She is the only pilot at Island Wings and flies here in Ketchikan year round. We do not hire seasonal pilots as many companies do. In addition we are flying aircraft that Michelle personally owns. As a result our plane is maintained well above the normal Federal Aviation Administration standards. 

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What if you are a Nervous Flyer?

“I have spent over 22,000 hours or more than two and a half years of my life above the earth’s surface in a little plane.  18,000 of those hours have been flown in Southeast Alaska.  But don’t ask me to drive a car on a freeway, I am terrified!  A plane to me is like a car to you; even more, the sky is my home. How often do you spend eight to twelve hours a day, seven days a week in your car?  The bottom line is we do not fear familiarity, we fear the unknown.  So even if you fear small planes, know that I plan on being an old lady pilot not a bold lady pilot. I hope you will come and fly with me despite your reservations and let me show you the beauty of Alaska...”

Dear Michelle and Friends…
I sent my deposit to you and signed it “chicken” Edith.  Well I certainly was afraid – until you took off.  I am not a kid but I was so happy I felt like I was in Never-Never Land.  If I had a choice to “come back” after death it would be as bird.  Flying with you gave me a most calm and peaceful feeling and I was very, very happy.  I think of you often …I so much enjoyed flying – To me it was as if time stood still. ….I will not see you again but you will be in my heart as wonderful…

Formerly “Chicken” Edith – Now Edith

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What if you are prone to motion sickness?

Motion sickness is an inner ear issue. People who suffer from motion sickness normally have it their entire life. If you are one of these people who feel ill in cars, boats, or airplanes consider the following tips to help you enjoy the ride.

 •  Do not get overheated in airplanes. Overdressed people can get hot which makes the symptoms worse.
 •  Do not take pictures! Let someone else in your group do the photography.
 •  Keep your vision looking outside the window – not inside the plane!
 •  Keep the air vent directed towards your face – fresh air helps.
 •  Eat real ginger – you can get candied ginger for travelling – I also carry some in the plane.
 •  Take medication. Ask your doctor what is the best for you. Many doctors prescribe ear patches with Scopolamine that can be worn for up to three days. You can also try taking a motion sickness pill on a “stay at home day” before your vacation to test for side effects. Dramamine and Bonine are over the counter options.

Flying in Alaska can be smooth and glass or bumpy or both in a single flight depending on the weather. Most people find the ride and the landing to be smoother than most jet flights.

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Photo Tips:

 •  Know before you go!  I know those camera directions booklets are good insomnia material however, read just a few of the directions before going on this tour!  You are on vacation, take it to the pool with you!
 •  Know how to make the flash turn on (Also called forced flash).  Use this for taking pics of people inside the plane to lighten up their faces. Know how to turn the flash off.  Use this for taking pics outside of the plane through the glass while flying so the flash will not put glare on the window and mess up your photos!  For those of your going to Anan Creek or Traitors Cove Bear viewing areas, flash is not allowed at all as it scares the animals.
 •  If you bring a camera with removable/multiple lenses, for example a SLR, make sure to bring a wide angle lens.
 •  Know where the scene selections are!  When shooting scenery it is best to use a mode that will help you capture it.  On some cameras it is called a landscape mode or a scenery mode, on the Cannons it is often called infinity mode. Other cameras have an aerial mode or a shooting through glass mode. Any of these setting will help to get the camera to focus on the distant most point (aka the beautiful Alaskan scenery) and not on the window!  Unless you want very good pictures of my windows, you will want to figure out this mode before you go on the flight!
 •  Whenever possible take pics on highest pixel setting.  Uses up more memory but it's worth it!
 •  Bring extra batteries and memory!  On every flight at least one person runs out of either batteries or memory on this flight!
 •  Wear a dark shirt or jacket. This will help reduce the glare on the window while shooting from inside the plane.  We charge extra for shooting from outside the plane!  Ha,ha…
 •  Lastly, taking pictures is fun and makes for great memories.  But while you are flying along, remember to enjoy the ride too. It’s not all about capturing the moment, it is also about living the moment!
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