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UPDATE: What Happened to Ariel Tweto?

Since the conclusion of Flying Wild Alaska, Ariel Tweto hasn't slowed down at all.
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After Flying Wild Alaska, what’s Ariel Tweto been up to?

UPDATE 10-12-16: After three seasons of Flying Wild Alaska, earning her private pilot certificate, and going through some serious stall training with MzeroA, Ariel Tweto is still excited  to explore her love for spending time in the air. Just yesterday, she shared on her Instagram account that she’s taken her first paragliding lesson, and is excited to continue learning the fine art of gliding.


The Discovery Channel’s Flying Wild Alaska was a rare gem among reality shows. Not only was it about aviation, but it featured likeable people doing interesting things. For three seasons we were immersed in the day-to-day operations of Alaska’s largest regional airline, Era Alaska, as its personnel dealt with the challenges of operating in the beautiful but harsh Alaskan bush. Central to the story was the flying Tweto family: Jim, Era’s Chief Operating Officer and in-demand bush pilot; his wife Ferno, Station Manager and self-described “cargo girl;” and the sisters Ayla and Ariel, multi-tasked ground crew, ticket sellers and receptionists. Along the way we got to know Ariel Tweto as a major character but not necessarily the center around whom the story revolved. However, there’s a lot more to Ariel Eva Tundraq Atauchiaq Tweto than first appears, as we learned when we had a chance to talk with her last April.

Ariel Tweto standing on a runway in front a tailldragger airplane.For one thing, there would never have been a Flying Wild Alaska without Ariel.

The genesis of Flying Wild was Ariel’s appearance on the game show Wipeout. This is often referred to as the “Where’s the pole?” episode. That’s what Ariel shouted when she couldn’t spot the pole in the Pole Vault obstacle, despite it being right in front of her (she said later that she thought the pole would be yellow). Ariel charmed the audience during the contestant interview with her comments about Unalakleet, the remote Alaskan village she was from, and her ingenuous revelation that she had “never been kissed” (because of this the episode is also referred to as the “Never Been Kissed” episode). This made such an impression on the producers that they approached her about doing a reality show. Her father Jim initially expressed skepticism about the marketability of the show’s concept, not understanding how anyone could find their ordinary life in any way interesting. Much to his surprise, people did, a lot of people.

In this “look at me!” age of Instagram and Periscope it seems odd that someone might not want to be on TV, but that’s the case for one member of the Tweto family, Ariel’s younger sister Elaine. In our interview Ariel described Elaine as a “genius,” an accomplished pilot with multiple ratings, including instrument and rotorcraft. Although confirmation is lacking, it seems likely that she plans to carry on in the family business.

The show ended after three seasons, ostensibly because Jim had decided to retire. It seems sad to think of someone who has flown for so long and done so much for aviation giving it up, and suspicion surfaced that this couldn’t be the whole story, that perhaps something was terribly wrong? “No, he’s flying more than ever,” Ariel said in our interview. The family had had enough of cameras being in their faces at every turn, so it was decided to end the show gracefully, on a high note, instead of dragging it out until it became an ordeal.

Although Flying Wild is over, Ariel Tweto has continued her media career along several paths. She hosted the Sundance Institute’s Native Shorts television series in 2013 and the Miss Alaska USA pageant in 2014. She was a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman and appeared no less than fifteen times on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (who is himself a pilot).

She is involved with MzeroA Flight Training’s Flying Again feature film and made a training video with them titled “Turning Stalls With Ariel Tweto” which was released on Youtube June 4, 2015.

One major television project is a series titled Covering Alaska that is planned to air this year. On the lighter side, her non-aviation acting gigs include a Brazilian beer commercial!

An ad for a Brazilian beer featuring Ariel Tweto.

A distinctive feature of Flying Wild Alaska was that it did not shrink from the darker issues affecting life in rural Alaska, such as the high teen suicide rate. A poignant episode in the first season dealt with just such an event and its effect on the close-knit community. Ariel’s effort to address this problem is a nonprofit called Popping Bubbles. It was originally intended to raise suicide awareness but “it’s gone way beyond that” into the realm of actively motivating young people. The idea is that individuals tend to stay in their “bubble,” their comfort zone, but this “bubble” can become a trap, isolating rather than protecting its occupant. Ariel urges young folks to “pop the bubble,” to get out of their comfort zone and live their lives to the fullest.

Ariel Tweto standing next to the propeller of a small single engine aircraft.Ariel may be unique in that she started training in a Cessna 207, “graduated” to a Cessna 150 and finished in a spanking-new Cessna 172. Complications along the way included landing in a 15-knot crosswind on her first solo and handling radio problems during a solo cross-country.

None of this kept her from completing her practical test and getting her license in April 2012. These days she keeps her skills sharp by flying during her visits home to Unalakleet and with Lynn Freeman of Build-A-Plane when she’s in California. There may be a rotorcraft rating in her future because her father Jim has added a Robinson helicopter to the fleet, to make it easier for them to fly to their cabin.

 

Flying Wild Alaska may have gone to DVD and Netflix, but star Ariel Tweto is still going strong. Whatever project she undertakes next, we can be confident she’ll bring to it the same enthusiasm and spirit of adventure that made Flying Wild such a hit in the aviation community.

15 Comments

  • Dalee Sambo Dorough says:

    What an inspiration for young people and in particular, young Inuit women. We have roots in Unalakleet [Inuit] as well as North Carolina [Waccamaw Siouan]. And, though not inspired by Ariel and the so-called “reality” show, our daughter, Hannah, received her Private Pilot license before graduating high school in 2013. Later, in February 2014, she flew our 1960 C182 from Anchorage, Alaska to Clearwater, Florida to gain her Instrument Rating, one of the most difficult ratings to receive. In just over a month and a half, she completed the course, passed both the written exam and practical [flight] exam — all on the first try, then flew home. To sum it all up, we received one of the most precious gifts ever. This past Christmas, she gave us a book that she wrote, bound and constructed a beautiful cover for, entitled “The Fifty Hour Journey.” As noted in her Introduction, commenting upon gaining her Instrument Rating: “It’s always a good thing to have, it makes you a better pilot, more aware, makes the flying smoother.” We’re proud of her achievements, but we’re even more proud to have her as our daughter.

  • Deleu y says:

    you re a particularly lovely person, with the greatest courage I never saw, and highest minds and preoccupations about your fellow natives I share your concerns and your action, I admire you quite much and support at upmost your action from my so far place. in french it s said “chapeau Ariel”. I hope I’ll recieve news from you on facebook.

  • Bob and Jeri says:

    When we were young we dreamed of living in Alaska. Life changed our plans but now, in our 70s, we watched this family and their friends and co-workers in Flying Wild Alaska (over and over) and “we are there.” Thank you to the Tweetos for our getting to be part of their journey. We find their strength and their amazing courage phenomenal. We are grateful that they allowed us to be a part of their journey. We hope that they ending of their trip has been as exciting as the wings that flew them through that wild part of Alaska.

  • Mike and Joyce says:

    We are enjoying the reruns of Flying Wild Alaska on the Outdoor Channel here in tiny little Mink Shoals, West Virginia. The Tweto family is amazing! Thank you for sharing your lives with us. And Ferno, you are a hero, a very strong lady indeed.

  • Nick says:

    Marry me, Ariel!

  • Kenneth Schell says:

    I am a private pilot and really enjoyed the TV show and we fell in love with the family and cast, my wife and I wish them great success.
    God Bless
    Kenneth & Georgia Schell

  • Margaret Earle says:

    I would like to hear how the whole family is doing! In fact, what has happened to entire cast n what they are doing now. Thanks.
    I think this was one of your best TV shows and couldn’t was for each one! Margaret Earle, Alabama

  • Kaz21 says:

    Ariel has attention deficit disorder (ADD). Doesn’t anyone else recognize this. That why she shouldn’t fly solo.

    • Flyboy1 says:

      Thanks for bringing that up only a select few can see this clearly. She is misleading the public of who she really is. I’ve met people that known her personally from one of her college professors, a couple of natives ( one from the village of where she lives, another that use to wrestle with her back in highschool), to several folks that use to work with her dad. None of them said anything positive about her and speaks of her lack of intelligence, but only that she seeks attention and she hides a lot. It’s sad. Many have praise her sisters especially the youngest one as the be the smartest and prettiest out of the whole bunch.

      These shows besides her own show, that she has been doing been given her a boost in ego, to become narcissistic, to crave more attention,and also helped to cover up who she really is. But, also these shows type cast her to be nice young innocent female , but not smart at all. She does not realize that she has given away most of her handicaps on social media. I am not going to speak of those handicaps. KAZ21 you already pointed out one of them. Only the spiritual awaken can see through some of her bull crap she idolize to be or represent ! I know she is not dumb, but is perceive to be by many folks that new her not connected through hollywood or her fame. I know Ariel is smart even though she has possible condition. She just has so much to hide and tries to present herself as a saint to many. Well she is not a saint. I hope one day she becomes real and actually speak from the heart of which can really help others that have her condition. I believe a lot of what she says and does she is not being real (sincere), until the real her comes up and ego drops then I will have more respect for this person that world perceive to idolize!

  • Lindsey Jones says:

    I must say that I truly miss Flying Wild Alaska and the Tweto’s especially Ariel and her love for flying. I certainly enjoyed those three years of episodes and hopefully one day there will be an update on the family business and just maybe Ariel’s business being carried on in the family traditions.

  • Gary Blackburn says:

    I so miss the TV show but at the same time I understand Dad’s desire to gain back his sanity and privacy and like all his endeavors did it perfectly. He and his wife have done an awesome job raising the kids and he should protect what they have together !!
    So far as Ariel goes, well I’m 67 years old and have had a crush on her since the first show that I watched. She made me a dirty old man…. hehehe

  • JANILDO JOSE DE OLIVEIRA says:

    Meu interesse em conhecer o Alaska passou a ser a minha prioridade depois de assistir a série “PERIGOS NO AR”

  • Pamela Conley says:

    My husband and I were quite fond of Ariel. We thourghly enjoyed Flying Wild Alaska. It was the first “Alaska” show that we were introduced to. Now, there are several shows that we won’t miss!

  • Kenneth Scott says:

    Miss this show so much, They really need to bring it back and get rid of that stupid Alaska Bush people…..yeah I’m a fan of Ariel…………

  • I MISS SEEING FLYING WILD ALASKA says:

    I HOPE YOU ARE ALIVE AND WELL. Ariel and family.

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