Alaska is one of the last great frontiers. Distant, intimidating and wild, it has a population density of one person for every square mile and most of that concentrated in the capital city of Anchorage. So when you head into the outback, you're truly going into the middle of nowhere.
That's one thing that drew pro paraglider pilot Paul Guschlbauer to Alaska. The other thing? He had bought a plane — a 1959 Piper Super Cub — sight unseen. Of course, he'd have to head over to check it out. And once he was there, what would he use it for? To find more places to paraglide, of course. Watch the video above to learn more.
Paul and his new toy
What's so special about this little plane? The Piper Super Cub is the plane of choice for bush pilots everywhere. What's a bush pilot? No ordinary jet jockey, that's for sure — these guys specialize in getting out of and into hairy situations.
Since there are very few people in Alaska, there are very few roads — so that means people fly. Planes are like cars — you want to visit your friend 10 miles down the road? Fly. People don't have driveways, they have airstrips.
Done flying? Time to fly
Thus it was the perfect place for Paul to hone his skills as a small plane backcountry pilot. Bringing with him a clear understanding of unpowered flight, terrain and weather, he was uniquely suited for such a challenge.
His tutor would be backcountry legend Ken MacDonald, a pilot living near Willow, Alaska, close to the infamous Brooks range. MacDonald has been in the sky for decades which such confidence that he learned to skydive from YouTube. If you're going to learn bush flying, there's no better teacher.
The first thing on Paul's to-do list wasn't flying the plane — it was fixing it. The rig — almost 60 years old — needed a little tuning before it was ready for Alaska's backcountry. Part of being a bush pilot means being a mechanic and engineer too, so Paul started by replacing the starter, and fixing small leaks in the fuel lines.
Of course, there was still plenty of time for a classic Alaskan adventure — hiking, fishing and anything an outdoorsman could ask for.
Once in the air, it was all about gaining sound fundamentals, and learning to land in places that don't have runways — including beaches, river banks, sand dunes or snow.
Here’s how you land in a river
The reason for all this is was to get more access to incredible paragliding spots — and that's what Paul did, grabbing incredible glides in unbelievably remote locations.
"With a plane, you can access places that otherwise you would need two weeks to walk to. It's the ultimate tool in Alaska."Paul Guschlbauer
The Piper Super Cub became his transportation, toy and even his shelter, as he used it to camp out in places so remote, they only see a few humans every year, if at all.
From lush forest to arctic ice, Paul, his plane and his paraglider saw it all logging 210 hours and over 15,500 miles of flight time over the wilderness. His conclusion? There's no better way to see Alaska than from above.