Jim Tweto, legendary Alaska bush pilot, and one other person dies in Cessna that crashed in Western Alaska


Note: This story is likely to be updated several times in the coming hours as information becomes available.

The National Transportation Safety Board is responding to a plane crash in Western Alaska, in the area of Shaktoolik and Unalakleet. Troopers are en route to the site but as of this writing have not reached it.

Troopers issued a statement:

On June 16, 2023, at 11:48 am, Alaska State Troopers were notified of an SOS activation from an InReach device. It was reported that there had been a plane crash 35 miles Northeast of Shaktoolik. The Cessna 180 aircraft was witnessed taking off but not climbing and then crashing.  Subsequent information was reported that both occupants of the aircraft were deceased. AST responded from Nome and recovered the two bodies from the crash site. Tentative identification of the deceased is Pilot Jim Tweto, age 68 of Unalakleet, Alaska, and passenger Shane Reynolds, age 45 of Orofino, Idaho. Next of kin has been notified. The bodies are being transported to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage.  NTSB was notified of the crash.

Earlier Must Read Alaska report:

Reports from pilots in the area say two souls were on board — the pilot, Jim Tweto, and a bear hunting guide. Tweto, who is from the Unalakleet flying community, is a very experienced bush pilot and typically flies a Cessna 180 or 207.

A helicopter from Bering Air was en route to the scene, sources say. The pilot community is not optimistic about the fate of the two on board, based on reports.

His daughter Ariel confirmed Jim’s death in a heart-wrenching post on social media:

“NTSB investigating the crash of a Cessna 180H airplane near Unalakleet, Alaska,” is the terse statement on Twitter from the federal agency in charge of aviation incidents.

Tweto was featured on Flying Wild Alaska, a Discovery show that finished its last season 12 years ago. He was born in Kansas, raised in Minnesota, and made his way to Alaska at age 18 with a hockey scholarship to University of Alaska Anchorage. He settled in Unalakleet, where he married Ferno Tweto.

In 1990, the Twetos’ flying company merged with Hageland Aviation, which merged with with Era Alaska in 2008. Jim became the chief operating officer of Era when they merged with Frontier Flying Service in 2009 and became a major regional air carrier in Alaska. A community leader in the region, Tweto is a household name in Western Alaska.

“He has helped so many people out in good times and bad, he was just that kind of guy,” said one source who asked to remain anonymous. “He was a highly respected and generous man.”

Another source said, “He was a good guy,” adding that the aviation community is close knit, and in shock.

Tweet’s brother Ron died in 2008 in a plane crash in Arkansas.

Shane Reynolds, the passenger, is the owner of Northwest Fishing Expeditions of Idaho.


  1. This family taxied us around Norton Sound for years, they brought us to Grandma’s fish camp.
    Wonderful people. Condolences to Ferno & her daughters …. all of Norton Sound is praying for you.
    Rest in Peace Jim Tweeto – you lived a great life & will be missed by many.

  2. This is such a terrible loss. Jim was loved and respected by his pilots (I was one of them) and I’ll always remember his kindness to me. I didn’t get to work with him a lot, but he treated me as if he’d known me forever. All the best to his family.

  3. So bad to see this. I still have my ERA t-shirt and hoodie and hat, along with my Flying wild Alaska DVDs and t-shirts. That family was very special. Just crushed. Just shows even the most experience pilots are still vulnerable. Fate is still the hunter when you fly. My condolences to his family and friends.

  4. Hard working family providing a valuable service to a large area! My heart goes out to ALL the family members. What a great man! RIP

  5. I worked for Jim at Era Alaska- we got along great, and shared our MN upbringing. I was lucky enough to meet the family a time or two as well…a great man and great family- fly high Jim, and my condolences Ferno and girls

  6. Will no one find a way to blame this horrible incident on “radical leftist extremists”? C’mon Jefferson, get in there.

    • This Whidbey guy is a complete nutcase and shouldn’t be allowed to bring his disrespectful comments here at MRAK. We are remembering a fellow pilot who helped many people, some in tough situations. And here, some wacko lefty finds his way in to spoil our memorial site. This is what the Democrats are all about. RIP, Mr. Tweto. I’ll dip the 737 wings in your honor.

      • Yes, that was an awful thing for Whidbey to say, but please don’t lower yourself to his standards by insinuating that “The Democrats” are all some bad people. With all due respect, you haven’t met all of them (democrats)…..have you?
        I have nothing but profound respect for Jim & the entire Tweto family for all of they have done & given to many in need.
        Flying Wild Alaska was one of the best family shows on T.V.
        May God bless Jim, Ferno, their girls & chosen family.

  7. So very sad. Condolences to Ferno, Ayla, Ariel and Elaine. Also to all the people who worked with him and for him. Such a nice family. This is heartbreaking.

  8. Yeah!! Really sad to hear this. Jim Tweto helped me get out of bad icing conditions once while I was flying a C-207 from Koyuk to Unalakleet back when I was a green pilot. Jim was heading to Nome in a Cessna 310 and told me to bust on up through the icing layer to clear sunshine skies above. Best advice I could have had at the time. I have lots of good memories of Jim Tweto from back in those days (early 80s).

  9. Each of these accidents is a terrible tragedy, even if those involved aren’t as well known as Jim Tweto. In this relatively small State in population, for which aviation is an essential part of our travel, I suspect that most of us have been touched by an aviation accident, or are close to those who has been. To me, it is sad that something we love so much has this dark side. I am wondering about the inReach Trooper notification, which would suggest that either Jim or Shane was alive after the accident. Or perhaps it is a mistake in the initial reports, and maybe it was an ELT signal?

  10. As a member of the flying brotherhood I am so saddened to hear of Jim’s passing. Loved the TV series Flying Wild Alaska which I always felt displayed the heart and sole of flying especially in extremely difficult conditions. So Fly High Jim Tweto, altitude is no longer a limiting factor. God Speed.
    Sincere condolences to the Tweto family.

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