By Mike Bissonette for SCN –
Seward has been described as the best kept secret in Alaska. With the mountains, glaciers, Resurrection Bay, and the rush of the travel season, it is easy to gloss over the depth of incredible stories all around town. The Small Office of AA Seward Air Tours is no exception. Jim and Maria Craig have recently returned from Colorado and a prepping for the busy season with a new ski equipped Cessna 185 aircraft that will allow glacier landings. The Cessna 185 Skywagon is a rugged six-seat workhorse of an aircraft with a reinforced fuselage and large vertical fin. Since their introduction in 1961 and production of more than 4,400 these resilient aircraft have been a mainstay of Alaska’s general aviation industry. In support of fellow veterans AA Seward Air Tours allows Seward Military Resort customers to book flights through the resort for special military discounts.
Like pilots everywhere, Jim talks enthusiastically about aviation and aircraft going back to 30 years of flying. His knowledge of the challenges of aviation in Alaska goes back to his Talkeetna Sky Landing training years ago and 12 years of operating out of Seward. Over those years Mr. Craig has developed a treasure trove of local knowledge, learning things like Moose will cross the runway, but not loiter on the tarmac, or that bears will spend days without food crossing the glaciers to get to the richer hunting and fishing ground on the other side.
On a Prince William Sound tour, one of the longer tours, Jim takes his clients over the village of Chenega Bay which was relocated after the devastation of the 1964 earthquake. Guests learn about the intrigue and history of Montague Island. At 305 square miles, this ‘land of giants’ it is the largest uninhabited island in the United States. The island has also suffered from the floating debris of the Japan tsunami event of March 11, 2011. With all of his local knowledge it would be easy to overlook Jim Craig’s fascinating back story.
It isn’t surprising that he has flown to remote beaches and gravel river beds to bring hunters and game spotters all over Alaska, but this is not the first successful career he has had. Before he even had a career, Jim was building an impressive travel resume. Growing up in an Army family, the background of his childhood included such exotic locales as Yugoslavia, Iran, Germany and Hawaii. Not one to take the easy path at anything, Jim started his career by entering the elite US Military Academy at West Point. After being commissioned as a Field Artillery Officer and successfully completing airborne and Ranger school, Jim served 5 years in the Army. Like many veterans, Jim’s service to others did not cease when he left the military. Jim worked as a school counselor and family therapist. He devoted twenty consecutive years to a mental health career serving children and families in Colorado. His dedication to that work didn’t prevent him being a renaissance man as he perused interests from being a professional musician and photographer, to commercial pilot and mechanic. Jim has also worked as a management consultant, sales engineer, and computer systems administrator.
Jim Craig is also the author of several Alaska themed books: North To Disaster and Blue Ice Dying in the Rain. Seward residents reading these adventures of Johnny Wainwright, a bush pilot and repo man, will recognize the local flavor from the natural beauty that surrounds us and familiar settings like the Yukon Bar. Jim’s work as a repo man and Seward’s unique character provide fertile fodder for Jim’s creativity.
Jim’s current business at AA Seward Air Tours is not limited to tours, but also serves as an air taxi and a flight school where Jim provides one-on-one flight instruction. Jim’s intrepid students learn from his experiences with the challenges of Alaska’s environment and the additional concern of anything they do that is spectrally bone-headed may end up immortalized in print.
It would be reasonable to expect that running a successful multi-faceted business and writing Alaska novels would be more than enough to keep anyone busy, however if past is prologue, neither Jim Craig nor his fictional protagonists are done having Alaskan adventures.
Editor’s Note: There are many hidden or not so hidden talents in Seward and we plan to feature them here on SCN. This is the first installment of a new series at Seward City News to feature locals that live in our community that are either masters in their fields of expertise, have a long history of adventure in Alaska, contribute greatly to the community, or preferably all of the above. Although SCN is already building a list of locals that we would like to feature, we welcomes input from the readers of who you would like to see in a future article for this series. You may submit your “Featured Local” candidate suggestions here: http://sewardcitynews.com/contact-seward-city-news/