Al Clayton: Vice-President Americas

How did I get into flying?

My father was a big game hunting guide in Alaska.  My first flight was about age 8 in a Cessna 182 that one of his clients flew from South Carolina to visit Alaska.  Soon after that I got a ride in a Piper Super Cub on floats to a tiny lake where my father hosted his clients.  I knew looking out the windows of those planes that I needed to fly.  I took ground school in high school and then was stuck for many years, lacking the money to fuel my dreams.  After law school was completed, my dear wife Beth thoughtfully gave me a pilot’s log book for Christmas, apparently without realizing that the $10.00 book was a money gobbling monster.  I got my private pilot’s license in 1994.

And my flying since then? 

There are now multiple aircraft in the Clayton collection.  They include a 1966 Cessna 182 which is shared with a partner and a 1956 Cessna 180 shared with a different partner.  I have a one third interest in a Cessna 170B, which had been wrecked.  My friend Rob Tasker and I restored that 170 project with the parts occupying my garage for one year and his garage the next.  Finally, I fly an experimental Super Cub, built by lifelong Alaskan Kirk Ellis, which I do not share with any partner.  Flying low and slow in this Cub and absorbing the amazing scenery of Alaska puts a big smile on my face.

Cub 69R at Kenai Lake

Frequent flight destinations for my family include airstrips in the Wrangell –St. Elias National Park near McCarthy, Alaska, the lakes and ponds of southwestern Alaska, and a small private bush airstrip near Skwentna, Alaska.  This strip provides access to my secret fishing hole where leopard-spotted rainbow trout abound.  These trout eat mice.

Talkeetna Glacier

 I enjoy all of the variety that the seasons offer for flight in Alaska, spending some time on straight floats and on skis in the 170 and the Super Cub.

Oil coolers need covering when its -15 Fahrenheit

Do you see aviation as a good medium for service?

Yes.  I am active in several aviation service organizations in addition to IFFR.  My local EAA chapter 42 and I are big supporters of the Young Eagles program.  Wearing my hat as Recreational Aviation Foundation representative in Alaska, we have engaged in a number of fly out work parties to improve the safety and usefulness of remote airstrips on public land.

Flying the Flag for the Recreational Aviation Foundation

How did I get into Rotary and IFFR?

My first employer after college “voluntold” me to become a Rotarian.  Although I first joined because it was expected of me, I soon embraced all aspects of Anchorage Hillside Rotary club.  Over the years, my best friends have come into my circle because of Rotary.  I have served as club president, youth exchange officer and in other roles.  My father in law was a very involved member of the Portland Oregon Rotary Club and encouraged my developing engagement with Rotary.

Flight seeing with VIPs at the Rotary District Conference

A few years ago, longstanding Alaskan IFFR member Phil Livingston invited me out for lunch and pressed me to become active in IFFR.  I am very happy to be the newly minted Regional Vice President for IFFR Americas, an unexpected honor.  I have enjoyed getting to know the IFFR family and look forward to serving where I can.

How about work and home life?

I am happy to have enjoyed a long career as a lawyer in private practice helping my clients achieve their objectives in transactions and in the courtroom.  I have seen several cases through to successful resolution in the Alaska Supreme Court and have helped other clients prudently avoid lawsuits and other disputes altogether.  My dear wife Beth is the office manager in my law firm and everyone there would agree she is more essential to the firm’s success than I.  My law partner is also a lifelong Alaskan and was a commercial pilot before he went to law school.  So we share a lot of interests inside and outside the office.

Family Clayton on Ruth Glacier in Denali National Park

Beth and I have been married for 37 years.  We have a son who lives in Alaska and a daughter who lives with her husband in Colorado.  Our son is a one third owner of the Cessna 170, is addicted to the lifestyle available in Alaska and I am happy to see his continuing interest in aviation.  Our daughter enjoys the ski slopes in Colorado and flying and fishing adventures when she visits us in Alaska.

And when I’m not flying?

As just noted, we are a fishing family.  We had the kids out on overnight rafting/fishing adventures as soon as they could walk.  Both son and daughter tie their own flies to tempt a strike from our trout, salmon and arctic grayling.  We will get to our remote fishing destination with aircraft or rafts or both, in order to leave the crowds behind and have our “own” piece of paradise on an Alaska river.

Family fishing trip

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