Flightseeing is a great way to see Alaska. This review of Rust's Flying Service will tell you all you need to know about seeing Alaska by air!

Our preferred flightseeing partner, Rust’s Flying Service, will enhance & amplify your Alaska experience. They are truly the “shortcut” in your Alaska adventure. The views they provide are breathtaking. Plus you’ll have the opportunity to literally cover tremendous ground during your visit. You will also have a team of local, friendly experts to provide unique insight along the way.

Two quick asides provide some context:

First, small aircraft operations are prevalent and important throughout Alaska. It’s common for folks on and off of the Alaska road system to have access to (or to outright own) a private airstrip or seaplane lake. We live in Eagle River and small aircraft flying along the ridge line are a common and fun sight. Plus there is a neighborhood of houses on a local lake, home to many parked seaplanes!

Second, my enthusiasm for Rust’s Flying Service is rooted in my knowledge of how I’ve seen them conduct business. Simply put, they do things the right way. In all regards – from not only the folksy & professional services provided to customers but also because they deliver on a top-notch experience for their employees and business partners. Rust’s is a family run business where the family isn’t resting on their laurels. They started as a small, single aircraft operation after World War II and have enjoyed steady growth ever since. And they’ve somehow figured out how to retain the feel of a welcoming, family owned business even while their business enjoyed growth. It’s quite remarkable. Professionals jump at the chance to join their team (and they are happy to stay), business partners are greeted with a sincere sense of gratitude, and the friendly welcome customers receive is genuine.

Needless to say, when the Rust’s team gave me the opportunity to join them on their Denali flightseeing tour I jumped on it! My flight at the end of September provided prime viewing for Autumn leaves & landscapes — words and pictures don’t do it justice. I was also fortunate to spend time with Cole, Rust’s Director of Sales & Marketing, to ask my aviation geek questions and learn more about what goes on behind the scenes. With all of that as context I’m happy to share what you should expect!

Arrival and Check-In

I flew with Rust’s Flying Service out of their Anchorage flight center (their sister operation K2 Aviation operates out of Talkeetna), with easy access along the road to Ted Stevens Anchorage International airport. Rust’s is next door to the Alaska Aviation Museum so keep that in mind if that is also on your list of places to see!

Upon arriving look for the big, red Rust’s sign on the roof (you can’t miss it) then walk in the door with the smaller sign marked “Flight Office”, pictured here:

The Rust's check-in office is marked by a "Flight Office" sign".

You’ll be greeted with a smile by their operations team. Nicole, also a Navy veteran, is Rust’s Customer Service Manager. Nicole’s team will get you checked in and make sure you meet all of the COVID travel requirements (see my separate blog post about COVID testing on arrival to Alaska). You’ll also step on to a scale with any gear you have (in the corner of the check-in area for a discreet measurement) because they need to make sure the weight of passengers and any cargo is properly distributed on the aircraft. After you check in you’ll be free to walk around, ask questions, and take pictures.


Paul, our pilot, came around to let everyone know it was time to board, delivered the safety brief, closed the door, started the engine, and had us in the air in less than five minutes. You can check out the bios for Cole, Nicole, Paul, and the rest of the team on the “Our Crew” page.

Boarding one of Rust's seaplanes for a flightseeing tour.

Pro tip: When you arrive and/or meet the pilot ask nicely if you can call “shotgun” to sit up front! But rest assured the views are spectacular regardless of your seat location.

The Experience!

I should also note that Paul had THE smoothest takeoff and landings I’ve ever felt. This was my first seaplane flight so I was quite curious how the transitions would feel. Butter. Smooth as glass. I could only nod my head in admiration. The only way I knew we’d lifted from water to air and later touched down back to water was with my eyes.

Takeoff in a seaplane on one of Rust's flightseeing tour is incredibly smooth!

One of the joys of flight on smaller aircraft is that you see and hear everything going on! To include the activity up in the cockpit. Each passenger has access to a set of David Clark headsets. Note the volume control knob atop one side of the headset. You always have the ability to talk via “hot mic”. Meaning when you talk everyone on board hears.

You are also able to listen to the Air Traffic Control (ATC) “chatter”! To make it easier to follow note your aircraft numbers and letters before you board. Then key words to listen for are takeoff and landing clearances. You’ll hear your pilot, the air traffic controllers, and all of the other aircraft on your frequency!

During the flightseeing tour Paul treated us with tidbits of Alaska and Denali information, trivia questions, and answered our questions. One thing I truly appreciated was that when Paul was asked an oddball question and he didn’t know the answer he said so! Paul has all of my respect, he was professional through and through.

Picture of the fall foliage along a river on our Denali flightseeing tour.  Pictures do not do the view justice.

One funny story:

Navy standard issue is steel toed boots. So when we first boarded it made me laugh to see Paul wearing sandals. Here my ignorance of seaplane operations came in to play. The lightbulb came on when we landed on Chelatna Lake out near Denali. After landing and taxiing to the shore Paul jumped in the shallow water. A required step to turn the plane around for our subsequent departure. Don’t worry, we didn’t get our feet wet as Paul lowered a ladder for our use. Now the sandals made all the sense in the world!

Paul, our pilot, docking the plane on the lake for our flightseeing tour of Denali National Park

Total time to fly up to and around Denali was about an hour each way (much faster than driving, with a closer view of the mountain scenery!) and we spent about 30 minutes on the ground at Chelatna Lake. Total time of our flightseeing tour from take off to landing in Anchorage was three hours. The time went fast!

About the only downside of my flightseeing experience with Rust’s is that there were too many photo opportunities! I probably spent too much time taking pictures and not enough time simply sitting and watching.

Tip: Don’t Let Denali Distract You

Denali was partially covered by clouds. That is totally normal! It’s rare to have an unobstructed view. The surrounding mountains and scenery are just as stunning, if not more so! It was funny to hear everyone on hot mic repeatedly ask if they were looking at Denali. The answer was finally yes but everything we saw before and after Denali was, in my opinion, more spectacular. When you come to Alaska you’ll know you were special if you get a full view of Denali, just don’t be disappointed if you don’t.

Rust’s Probably Flies Where You Want to Go

Rust’s Flying Service offers multiple different flightseeing tours, charters, day trips, and overnight excursions, to include premium wilderness accommodations if that is your goal. They base their schedule on maximizing your experience. So for example if your goal is to see bears and wildlife then they may offer flights to Lake Clark or they may offer flights to Katmai – the time of the year will probably determine where you go to see the bears. Either way you’ll have the expertise of a wildlife guides on the ground. Rust’s has been doing this long enough to know where to bring folks to experience the action.

Bottom Line

We build our Christopher Travel itineraries to include at least one flightseeing tour with Rust’s Flying Service. You’ll maximize your Alaska experience while enjoying unbeatable views.

In a follow up post I will have more photos, drone footage from our stop at the lake, and video from the air!

Get in touch with us at Christopher Travel, we’d be happy to plan and coordinate your Alaska adventure!

Enjoy the serenity of Alaska!

Linked image to Christopher Travel

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About Rick

Rick is a Navy veteran, an aviation geek, and loves to take care of the "boring" parts of running the Christopher Travel business. He still loves to fly even though he is no longer at the controls of the aircraft!


  1. Rachel on November 23, 2020 at 6:09 pm

    I always wanted to do something like this 🙂 sounds so fun!

    • Mary on November 30, 2020 at 1:53 pm

      Yeah, I let my husband take this one because he loves flying, but I am looking forward to doing it too. I would love to go on the Katmai flight!

  2. Kate on November 29, 2020 at 10:42 am

    We lived in Juneau for a couple years (USCG) and this was something I always wanted to do but we never ended up doing it!! Love this post and hearing about your experience!

    • Mary on November 30, 2020 at 1:51 pm

      Well next time you are in Alaska give us a call and we can set you up with Rust’s. Juneau is such a pretty town btw. I would love to live there!

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