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October 21, 2011
By Julie Summers Walker
Photo Credit: Discovery Channel.
Fans of The Discovery Channel television series Flying Wild Alaska need to set their reminders for Friday, Oct. 28 at 10 p.m. for the first show of the second season. Flying Wild Alaska chronicles the life and work of the Tweto family, who operates and flies Era Alaska, Alaska's largest regional airline. AOPA sat down with the show's effervescent star Ariel Tweto recently, and she's as bubbly, happy, and, yes, a little ditsy, just as she appears on the reality series. However, under that ditsy exterior is a very driven, smart, and ambitious young woman, who is the driving force behind the show. She is not only one of the “stars” on the reality show, but is also an associate producer.
Ariel appeared on the reality show Wipeout as one of the crazy young people who attempt to cross a multiple-hazard obstacle course and, because of her bubbly personality and antics, became a fan favorite. She was also spotted by producer Tommy Baynard and the two embarked on a plan to get the young woman her own reality show. It was The Discovery Channel that saw beyond Ariel and her antics; her family's business and the harsh environs and hazardous flying in Alaska appealed to the Discovery audience and last year the network began filming and the broadcast. Flying Wild Alaska was the highest rated new series premiere ever for The Discovery Channel when it premiered on Jan. 14 last year.
For the second season, the stories of flying in Alaska and the unusual cargoes the airline must deliver continue, but for the show's flying audience—and those who have succumbed to Ariel's charms—one of the most interesting story lines throughout the season will be Ariel's quest for her private pilot certificate. Of course, the show's producers as well as Ariel will not say if in fact she has earned the certificate (the show finished filming over the summer), but there was money on the line in the form of a bet from her instructor, John Ponts, and, as determined as this young woman is, it's impossible to believe she doesn't get it. Everyone will find out at the season's conclusion in January. Ariel will be featured in the January 2012 issue of Flight Training magazine, and the TV series will be a feature in AOPA Pilot in 2012.
Oh, and for those who are curious about the taste of “stink flipper,” that unusual Alaskan food discussed on the series, Ariel says she loves it. “It melts in your mouth. I am salivating just thinking about it,” she said. Adding that it tastes much like the fat on a beef brisket, she admits that it's disappointing when the six-month decomposing process of the seal flipper doesn't exactly work out and they have to wait another whole year for another batch. Yum.
AOPA Director of Publications and Managing Editor for AOPA Pilot and Flight Training, Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.
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