Well-known Alaska pilot, business leader and TV personality Jim Tweto, 68, died Friday in an airplane crash on the coast of remote western Alaska.

Also killed in the crash was his longtime friend Shane Reynolds, 45, an Idaho fishing guide known for taking clients out into remote waters in pursuit of trophy-sized fish.

Shane Reynolds, 45

The plane crashed near the village of Shaktoolik on a land mass that extends into Norton Sound. Witnesses said the plane left the ground on takeoff but crashed shortly thereafter.

Tweto and his family gained fame as the stars of the “Flying Wild” series that ran on the Discovery Channel for three seasons, 2011-2012. The show delved into the challenges and rewards of operating a family-owned aviation services business in the sometime unfriendly skies of Alaska. The Tweto family operated Era Alaska at the time and then they later sold the business. The popularity of the series stemmed from the outgoing personalities of pilot Tweto and his family.

Reynolds most recently operated Northwest Fishing Expeditions, a guide service mainly confined to Oregon and Washington, which he began in 2014. His clientele mainly went in search of steelhead, sturgeon and salmon.

Ariel Tweto, a daughter of the late pilot, confirmed the news of his death via Instagram. She too holds a pilot’s license and was a popular figure on “Flying Wild.”

“I didn’t think anything could hurt this bad,” she wrote. “And I don’t know why I’m writing this but the news is out, so I figured you hear it from me.”

“I’d take any other type of pain if he could just land today,” she continued. “My dad and a wonderful hunting guide and friend of our family passed away this afternoon in his 180. He died doing what he truly loved and is now … up there soaring.”

Tweto was born in Kansas and grew up in Minnesota, Tribune News Service reported. He moved to Alaska to play hockey for the University of Alaska Anchorage. He met his wife, Ferno, in Unalakleet.


The late Jim Tweto. Discovery Channel photo

First published in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, June 19, 2023