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Jay Kelley- Volcano Tour Pilot/ Bush Pilot

Pilots pursuing a flying career frequently aim for the airlines. After all, there's excellent pay and fine equipment. Look around, and you'll also discover a world of flying having nothing to do with heavy iron. The breed of professional pilot who selects smaller planes may sacrifice pay and security, but they often find reward in an adventurous lifestyle, independence, and strong friendships with others of their kind.

Consider Jay Kelley. In winter he carries sightseers above the steaming world of Kilauea Volcano. You say he looks amazingly similar to that floatplane pilot who transported you from Anchorage to a hidden trout lake in the Alaskan wilderness last summer? No surprise, because Mr. Kelley lives both these lives.
      Jay first took to the sky in an Aeroca 7AC, paying $6.50/hr. for dual instruction. Initial flying job was in 1968 as a part time flight instructor. By 1973 construction of the Alaskan pipeline opened up a chance for winter flying in the northernmost state between Fairbanks and Prudoe Bay. The summer flying proved an amazing feast of natural beauty. Jay Kelley was hooked.
     His Alaska home became Cordova, where he learned the craft of float flying over a fourteen year period. Commercial fishing provided the finances for much of the flying during this period. Parts needed to be flown to repair broken boats, and fish needed to be spotted from the air. The fish spotting presented a major challenge. A pilot must know how to identify the fish in the water, how to direct particular types of boats to best catch the fish, and how to survive in a sky full of other planes. As the herring season in specific locations grew shorter and shorter until it was a mere 15 minutes long, the competition was tremendous and mid-air collisions a frightening reality all too often.
     In 1988 Jay moved to Hawaii. Here he discovered the amazing world of Kilauea Volcano. Each year the volcano changed, displaying new personalities which kept the flying interesting. Jay has observed some wild activity in the volcano area as a pilot for Hawaii Flight Academy, and some of those observations are reproduced in our "stories" section right here. Jay's wife instructs at the university in Hilo.
     Come spring, Jay returns to his beloved Alaska. Lately, he's been flying float-equipped Beavers and Cessnas for Rust's Flying Service of Anchorage. Duties typically include transporting sportsmen and resupplying lodges.
     Wondering what it takes to capture a flying job in Hawaii? Check out www.flyalaska.com .This is a very complete guide created by none other than Jay Kelley himself. Be sure to check out the photo section. Jay is author of "Fish Spotting Secrets" an e-book available on the web site.
     When it come to flying, sometimes a dual personality is a good thing, and when it involves both Hawaii and Alaska, it's a recipe for an interesting life.

Previous Appearances
Bruce Clements, Barnstormer

Pat Magie, Seaplane Pilot

Elmer Udd, Glider Instructor

Mike Carstensen, Ground Instructor