Jim was born in Wichita, KS in 1954, but his family moved to Silver Bay, Minnesota shortly after his birth. 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.
In December of 1984, Jim decided to try as 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.
Wife / Station Manager
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.
Ground Crew for ERA
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
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 Unakaleet 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 some day.
Ground Crew for ERA
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