In Memory of Gary Bishop
9/2/1946 - 2/4/2018
The flying community lost a great pilot Sunday, February 4, 2018 as he took his very last flight. Gary was a good friend to many and especially to those of us who knew him through AAA Alaskan Outfitters. Gary started flying for AAA in the fall of 1991. He was the chief pilot for the Dog Salmon River Camp until he retired in 2014. I personally learned so much about flying “super cubs” from Gary. He always knew he could count on me in short field landings and flying in bad winds but knew my weakness was flying in low visibility. His super cub, 645 Romeo Fox, flew about 3 MPH faster than my 36 Alpha, which was good because Gary would be ahead of me and would talk me into staying focused and keeping calm in those conditions. I know he saved my behind more than once.
As the chief pilot one of his duties was to check the strip and open up the lodge every season and then turn off the lights at the end. While around camp in the evenings Gary loved to play cribbage and hearts. He was good and played tough. He tried several times to teach me cribbage but somehow it just didn’t sink in. While visiting him in the hospital I kept saying to him, "Get better so you can try to teach me again how to play cribbage." He would smile knowing I was a lost cause.
Gary was a man of many talents. Not only was he the owner and operator of Palmer Air dropping off sheep hunters and doing animal surveys for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, he was also a building contractor. AAA took advantage of that and had him build a new ten foot high walled guide bunkhouse that could sleep twelve with equipment storage overhead.
I specifically remember two bad days flying with Gary and both were in the same general location. We were going around the point from Wide Bay to Imuya Bay. The first time in such severe turbulence I literally thought I was going to come out of the sky as my head was hitting the ceiling. I radioed him and asked if he knew when the wings would come off of a cub. He replied, “Can’t talk now, too rough!” The second was when Gary, Dan and I were taking a camp into Big Creek in really high winds. As we went over the ridge looking into Imuya Bay we saw numerous water spouts and Gary said we should turn around. When we did the wind was blowing so hard that my GPS indicated 8 MPH and I could hear one of our guides, Paul Chervenak who was flying with Gary, say over the radio that their GPS was flat lined. Poor Dan was caught in the suction and was flying backwards and had to land on the other side. While Gary was in the hospital and we were reminiscing about those bad times, and I said, “We don’t miss that do we Gary” and he would always say, “We don’t miss that.”
Gary was a talented moose caller. One season he called a moose in so close to the lodge that after the client shot it the packers used the camp wheelbarrow to bring the meat to the meat house. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
My fondest memories flying with Gary were during the spring bear season while flying over the islands in Wide Bay on those few beautiful bluebird windless days. It was like a different world just floating in the air and he would always say, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Gary was quite a family man always talking about Janis his loving wife of many years and his two children. He was so proud of his son Garon and daughter Elizabeth.
Rest in peace Gary. You will be missed by all especially your three "old" lunch buddies, Steve, Dan and me. As you would always say, “Be safe out there.” See you on the other side my friend.
There is going to be a Celebration of Gary’s life on June 9th at 12:00 at his hanger in Palmer. Janis has asked if any of you have any pictures, stories or videos of Gary that you want to share to please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to PO Box 3409 Palmer, AK 99645. She will print them and have them hanging in the hanger the day of the celebration.