Message 10.02.2014

A Special Air Taxi Business

The La Porte family operates an air taxi business and often helps out the residents of Iliamna, a small village in Alaska. Tim La Porte is quite probably also the world's most experienced PC-12 pilot! Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd

Chances are, if you live in Alaska, you know of Tim, Nancy and Heidi La Porte of Iliamna Air Taxi. The La Porte family has been running Iliamna Air Taxi since 1977 and operates a small fleet of aircraft including three PC-12s. I have corresponded with Tim for more than 10 years. Just like many others, Tim was a PC-12 customer who occasionally reached out to Pilatus with support questions. In March 2013, I contacted Tim for an update on hours and landings flown by Iliamna Air Taxi’s fleet. “Hi Pete, good to hear from you again”, Tim replied. He proceeded to give me the hours on his aircraft and gave me a  bit of trivia about his PC-12s. The registration numbers N715NL, N715HL and N715TL represent the family’s initials combined with 7, Tim’s high school hockey jersey number, and 15, the number Heidi sported on her high school basketball, softball, and volleyball teams.

1 year, 51 days and 16 hours 

Flash forward to May 2014. Tim had officially logged more than 10,000 hours as Pilot in Command of a PC-12. That is the equivalent of 1 year, 51 days and 16 hoursof flying time, and by all accounts the most hours logged by a single individual in a PC-12.

The annual Great Alaska Aviation Gathering in Anchorage on 2 until 4 May 2014 was the perfect opportunity to meet the La Portes and show appreciation to one of our long-standing customers. I planned a special surprise for Tim and coordinated with his wife Nancy to ensure Tim would be in attendance. During the exhibitor reception, I was asked to come to the podium and speak. When I spoke the words “Special operator, Iliamna Air Taxi” I saw plenty of nods and smiles and most importantly, instant attention. It was very obvious that the La Portes are well known and respected in this community. I presented Heidi and Nancy with new Pilatus leather jackets left Tim for last, as the surprise was about to get better!

When it was Tim’s turn, I announced to the crowd the true reason for the celebration: “We are here to honor the world’s most experienced PC-12 pilot, Tim La Porte of Iliamna Air Taxi. 10 000 hours of safe flying and counting!”and awarded him with a commemorative plaque.

A “few things” in the luggage compartment

The following day, Tim invited a few Pilatus representatives to do a quick turn to his home base in Iliamna, on an “empty” PC-12, about 45 minutes each way. When we arrived at the Iliamna AirTaxi terminal in Anchorage, we were told that Tim was loading a few items on the aircraft for the residents of Iliamna. We flew a direct course past Mount Iliamna, an active volcano, and Lake Iliamna, the largest lake in Alaska. After landing in Iliamna, a small village with just over 100 residents, it was time to help unload the “few items” we brought from Anchorage which turned out to be large pallets of boxes. Iliamna Air Taxi is in many ways a lifeline for the residents of Iliamna who cannot simply go to the store, since there isn’t one. On the way back, we took a more northeasterly course, slightly away from a direct route to Anchorage. Flying Visual Flight Rules (VFR) below the peaks of magnificent mountains, we toured the glaciers and volcanos of the Lake Clark National Park.

The Pilatus family

The success of Iliamna Air Taxi is made possible through the hard work, dedication, unselfishness, and integrity of the La Porte family. Their impact is made apparent by the many “Thank You” awards from communities, local organizations, and individuals adorning the walls of their offices. Be it a shopping trip, prom night in a remote town, or a flood relief mission, Iliamna Air Taxi provides vital transportation services, many times for free, to the isolated communities of Alaska. There are no press releases or marketing efforts boasting their work. Instead, there are people that know and acknow ledge their effort.

The Alaska Adventure of 2014 made me reflect on our Pilatus family and what it means to me. Iliamna Air Taxiis a loyal Pilatus customer who represents the true meaningof the word “family”. Western Aircraft has been supporting them for 15 years now, and has established a very personal relationship with the La Portes. This trip reinforced my strong belief that the personal interaction with the people we often only know by aircraft serial numbers is what makes our jobs so rewarding. I am very grateful for the opportunity to get to know the people behind these numbers. This is what the Pilatus family is all about.