Island Wings Air Service

Island Wings' Pilots & Planes

Michelle Masden, pilot and owner of Island Wings, arrived in Ketchikan in 1985. Since then she has had many experiences which uniquely qualify her as an expert in providing you with a memorable trip. A self-described “flight junkie” Michelle has spent over twenty-one thousand hours, or almost two and a half years, above the Earth’s surface. She conducts business from the left seat of her magnificent flying machine. Come visit Michelle’s unique office! Share Michelle's love of flying through our vast Alaskan wilderness.
Michelle's first solo flight 1977Michelle on her first solo flight in 1977. Michelle’s addiction to flying started early in life. As a young girl, she frequently traveled alone on commercial flights from her home in Nebraska to visit family in other parts of the country. At the end of each journey, the flight attendants always tried to give her stewardess’ wings. She would hand them back and ask for pilot’s wings instead! As an adolescent she took solitary bus trips to the airport to watch airplanes take off and land. At the age of 16, Michelle took her first flying lesson, and shortly after turning 17 she earned her pilot’s license. At that time she was aspiring to become an airline pilot.
Seven years later on a summer college getaway Masden sailed from Seattle to Ketchikan and fell in love with Southeast Alaska. While watching floatplanes, the predominate aircraft in Southeast Alaska, take off and land on the water she quickly lost interest in piloting an airliner. Coming from the Midwest, she had never seen a seaplane. After she took her first flightseeing tour in one she knew that seaplanes were what she wanted to fly. Early morning takeoff as Island Wings leaves on another sea plane trip in souteast Alaska.
To earn enough money to start a flightseeing and wildlife viewing business, Michelle worked as a deckhand on a fishing boat for seven years. The following summer, Michelle started looking for ways to earn enough money to achieve her goal of owning her own floatplane. Local fishermen advised her that she could get a job as a deckhand earning good money on a commercial salmon fishing boat. She rose to the challenge and for the next seven years she spent three months each summer hauling in purse seine nets full of salmon in the Southeast Alaskan waters. This summer venture provided her the opportunity to earn her instrument rating, commercial pilot license and purchase her first airplane, a Cessna 172 on wheels.
Those years in which she worked as a fisherman in the summer months, Michelle spent her winters in the warmer waters of the Virgin Islands. While there she operated an air taxi service transporting sailors to regattas and tourists to St. Thomas for shopping. In 1993 she purchased her first floatplane, a Cessna 185. From that point on she remained a year round pilot in Ketchikan. A love for flying, aspirations of success and plain old fashioned tenacity were the building blocks that turned a child's dream into a thriving Ketchikan floatplane business - Island Wings Air Service. Michelle has a passion for flying floatplanes and a passion for showing southeast Alaska and the Misty Fiords to all who come to Alaska.
Michelle's mentors were the old time local pilots from Ketchikan who taught her well, safty first! Although she delights in her triumphs, she has always given credit to those who helped along the way. Michelle relied upon the direction of older bush pilots for piloting information and business logistics. She attributes much support and development to the late Jack Cousins, (1930-1999) a veteran bush pilot. At last count Cousins spent 50 years flying in Southeast Alaska. As a flight instructor he spread his enthusiasm to hundreds of students. Jack would talk to anyone who would listen about the greatest place to fly in the world - Alaska! Jack used to say “Float flying is the free spot left on Earth!” He was Michelle’s personal friend and mentor and is deeply missed.
Island Wings has been up and flying in Ketchikan, Alaska since 1993. Michelle’s passenger list is as varied as the terrain she flies over in her seaplane Lady Esther. In addition to showing visitors the beauty of Alaska, she transports campers and hunters to remote areas, facilitates aerial surveys of wildlife with biologists and conducts fish spotting trips with commercial fisherman. It is not unusual for her to make five or more trips a day, yet she never tires of showing others the spectacular beauty of the area. Michelle in the Misty Fjords flightseeing.
There's not much room in a DHC-2.  After a long day of Misty Fiords flightseeing a good strech is in order. What does Michelle do on her rare days off? She flies of course. “Passion is good fuel to get you through life,” she says. “Alaska is vast, beautiful and diverse, and I love how free it feels to fly through it.” What are the rewards of being the pilot and her own boss? “Independence, flying in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and an abundance of thank you notes from visitors and locals alike."
Hi Michelle,
We just got back from our Alaska cruise following a stopover in Vancouver. I just wanted to tell you that our flight with you was the most memorable part of our 12 day odyssey. We’ve told several people about it and will definitely see you the next time we pass that way. It was REALLY good. And, although most people probably don’t notice, I saw what you did with a 1959 airplane. It was a beautiful job. I have a 1956 Chevy and, before that, had a 1957 Chevy show-car. Believe me, I know the effort you must have put in to make it that nice.
Anyway, kudos to you for both the airplane and the fantastic treat we got. We’ll remember it.
Don and Janice K.
Island Wings and pilot Michelle Masden take off for another flgihtseeing tour in Ketchikan Alaska.

Island Wings Air Service belongs to these organizations

Capstone Alaska Air Carriers Association Ketchikan Visitors Bureau
Federal Aviation Administration Transport Canada
Photos on this site are courtesy of Jim Kelnhofer, Mike Beedell, Craig Flatten, Amy Gulik, Dave & Leah Alcyon, Chip Porter, Carla Tchalemian and Lisa Thompson.  Many thanks to our guests who've
provided us with photos over the years.  Unauthorized use of any content from this site is prohibited.  Content on this website is subject to change without notice.  Island Wings Air Service is fully
licensed.  Flightseeing and Air Tours conducted in the Tongass National Forest and Misty Fjords National Monument are operated under permits issued by USDA Forest Service and the State of
Alaska.  Island Wings Air Service is an equal opportunity provider.

Island Wings Air Service | P.O. Box 7432 Ketchikan, AK 99901 | Toll Free (888) 854-2444 | Email:

©Island Wings Air Service® 1993