Flying Wild Alaska | Hosts | Outdoor Channel
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Meet The Host(s)


Jim Tweto

Jim Tweto

Jim was born in Wichita, KS in 1954, but his family moved to Silver Bay, Minnesota shortly after his birth. Like many boys growing up in Minnesota, Jim's passion was hockey, and in high school he was the starting goalie on the school team. By his senior year Jim had become well known for his abilities on the ice and was recruited by colleges from across the country, including the University of Anchorage. So at the age of 18 the strapping young man from Minnesota moved to Alaska to play college hockey, but it was here that he discovered his love for flying. Jim would take flying lessons whenever he could find time between his college classes and hockey practice, and eventually earned his pilot's license.

Although Jim was a talented hockey player, he knew that it wouldn't be his lifelong career. So in 1980 he stopped playing hockey and moved to the village of Unalakleet to start building fishing boats. Jim was a hard worker, but not without a sense of humor, naming his company "Gussik Ventures" after the Eskimo term for a white person. These "Tweto Boats" were used by the locals for all types of fishing, and nearly three-quarters of the boats in the region today were built by Jim in the early 80's.

In December of 1984, Jim decided to try his hand as a professional pilot and started flying for a small airline in Unalakleet. The company was run by Ferno's father, and it was here that Jim and Ferno's relationship blossomed. Jim was a natural as a pilot, and his entrepreneurial spirit encouraged him to start his own company several years later. A far cry from the Era Alaska of today, Jim's company started with one airplane and Ferno taking calls at home while their young daughters Ayla and Ariel were toddling around their small apartment. Jim's business was a big success, and in 1990 he joined forces with Mike Hageland to form Hageland Aviation. Over the next decade the company continued to grow, and in 2008 they merged with Era Alaska, creating the largest regional airline in Alaska.

Jim is respected across the state as one of the best small plane pilots, and has logged over 30,000 hours behind the yoke of an aircraft. But flying small planes in Alaska can be a dangerous profession, so it is rare for a pilot to rack up so many hours of flying in the bush without a mishap. Jim has only had one accident during his many years of flying, during a 2007 off airport landing in his Super Cub. Although Jim's neck was broken in the accident, within months he was back to work, loading planes with essential supplies and flying the wilds of bush Alaska.


Ferno Tweto

Ferno Tweto

Born in August of 1961 and raised in Unalakleet, Ferno is part Russian and part Inupiaq Eskimo. An athlete like Jim, Ferno competed in cross-country in high school and has continued to run almost every day since then, even when the winds in Unalakleet blow over 30 miles per hour and the temperature drops to 20 below. Flying is also in Ferno's blood, as her father was a pilot and regional airline owner. As a young woman she worked for her dad's airline cleaning and loading planes, and in December 1981 received her private pilot's license from a flight school in Everett, Washington. Ferno met Jim when he arrived in Unalakleet in 1980, and eight years later they were married on a sand bar just outside of town. Ferno and Jim have worked side by side to build their company from its simple beginnings, making many sacrifices along the way. On the day of their wedding Jim didn't return home from work until 6am, exhausted from a long night of flying cargo across Alaska. He managed to make it through the ceremony, but afterwards went straight home to bed while Ferno celebrated the day with his brothers. Ferno wasn't too pleased about Jim's absence, but they have developed a give and take in their relationship that has allowed them to live and work together 24/7 and still enjoy each other's company.


Ayla Tweto

Ayla Tweto

Ayla was born and raised in Unalakleet. In high school she was the powerhouse of the Unalakleet athletics department, competing in cheerleading, volleyball and cross-country. She now lives in Anchorage and is studying to be a paramedic, but returns to Unalakleet every weekend. She also has her private pilot's license.


Ariel Tweto

Ariel Tweto

Born in 1987, Ariel grew up in Unalakleet, following in the footsteps of her hard working parents. She was known around town for being a fierce competitor on her high school's co-ed wrestling team! Like her mother, she competed in cross-country, and has run every day since May of 2002. One of her most vivid memories was when she shot her first caribou with her grandma at age 9. The recoil from the gun was so strong that she was left with a black eye. Ariel studied communications at Chapman University in Southern California, where she fell in love with being warm. Currently she travels between there and her hometown of Unalakleet to assist in her family-run business, Era Alaska. She is the only member of the family who does not have a pilot's license, but gets in flying time whenever possible with the hope of qualifying for solo someday.


Benjamin Pedersen

Benjamin Pedersen

Ben was born in 1986 in Fort Collins, Colorado and moved to Alaska in the 90's. He has been flying for over 10 years and was a licensed pilot before graduating high school in the village of Galena, Alaska. He spent four years in the Air Force and was stationed at RAF Lakenheath, England and Eglin AFB, Florida. He also served in support of operation Iraqi Freedom in Ballad, Iraq and Qatar. While in the Air Force he continued advancing his pilot training and also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle. It was his dream and goal to return to Alaska to fly planes. In 2006 Ben and his dad, Jeff Pedersen, trained in and flew float planes together. Ben holds the world speed record in the SR22 Cirrus. This was the same type of plane that Ben did a trans-Atlantic flight from Duluth, Minnesota to Groningen, Holland. Ben has flown in Korea, Germany, France, England, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, Netherlands, and all over the US. Ben absolutely loves being a part of the ERA team and family. Currently Ben is finishing his commercial helicopter license in the foot hills of Colorado.


Doug Stewart

Doug Stewart

Doug obtained his pilot's license in Seattle during his senior year of high school. After a brief stint as an actor on "All My Children," he arrived in Nome and was immediately given the nickname "Hollywood" by the other pilots. His favorite thing about flying in Alaska is the freedom, the lack of air-traffic, and the lack of people on the radio telling you what to do. But with that freedom comes risk. Doug recalls his most harrowing experience as being when he had to perform the "Rockford Maneuver" while landing on the Diomede Island ice runway years ago. This maneuver is named after the "J-Turn" frequently used in the car chase scenes in "The Rockford Files" TV show. The tires of Doug's Piper Navjo were slipping on the wet icy surface and with the end of the runway fast approaching, he spun the plane 180 degrees and used forward thrust to prevent an imminent crash. It was a gutsy maneuver that saved his life, but one he hopes to never repeat.


Jared Cummings

Jared Cummings

Jared was born into the off-airport world of aviation. At the age of 18, his father, Jim Cummings, started an air-taxi service out of Delta Junction that continues to operate to this day. While Jared was growing up, there weren't many maintained runways in that area, so under the watchful eye of his father he learned to land in riverbeds, the tundra, or any patch of dirt wider than a sidewalk. To date he has completed nearly 5500 hours of flying in the state of Alaska. When he is not flying routes for Era Alaska he is operating his own small off-airport operation in Kotzebue known as Golden Eagle Outfitters.


Erik Snuggerud

Erik Snuggerud

As a young boy in Oregon Erik would watch the planes overhead and dream of flying to far away places. At the age of 18 he enlisted in the army to pursue that dream. It set him on a course that eventually had him flying in the bush of Alaska at age 26. As the lead pilot for the Era Alaska operation in Bethel, the largest and busiest hub in Western Alaska, his days include running the early morning pilot safety meetings and transporting passengers and cargo across thousands and thousands of miles of desolate tundra in his Cessna 208 Caravan.


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