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Kansas-native Dan Parry moved to Alaska 38 years ago

By Hilary Reeves

The first time Dan Parry set foot in Alaska – on a vacation with his parents in the early ‘70s – he knew he was destined to live there someday. He was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, the son of a Beech Aircraft electrical engineer and a stay-at-home mom who provided daycare for working mothers.

“My childhood was enjoyable,” said Parry. “I raised all kinds of animals, my favorite being a crow we named SPOOK – we taught him to talk. I spent many a weekend hunting rabbits and squirrels on my uncle’s farm in Manhattan, Kansas. I always believed I would work with animals when I became an adult.”

Parry said his parents instilled in him a good work ethic from an early age, encouraging him to mow lawns in the neighborhood and allowing him to work as a bagger and stocker at the local grocery and dime store a block from his house.

“I also delivered newspapers around my neighborhood on my bicycle every day,” he said.

Parry poses in front of a pushback tractor arms crossed over his yellow reflective vest.
Parry has worked for NAMS for 11 years.

Moving to Alaska

Parry’s family was part of a strong faith community, and when the time came for him to choose a college, he chose a Bible college in the Midwest. It was there where he met his wife, Birdie. They married in 1980.

“We moved to Alaska six months later,” he said.

He started working for Era Aviation, but after two years he moved to Alaska Airlines, where he worked for the next 21 years until he retired. He and Birdie finished raising three daughters, and then Parry decided to go back to work – this time on the Slope.

“I was hired by Carlile the same day I applied for a position working the ramp in Deadhorse.”

According to Parry, when Saltchuk became the parent of both Carlile and Northern Air Maintenance Services (NAMS), he was asked to join the NAMS Shared Services Aviation ramp operations as lead of the crew. Shared Services Aviation is a joint operation of ConocoPhilllips and BP that provides transportation to the North Slope for Oilfield workers. More than 20,000 employees and contract workers are flown aboard two Boeing 737-700 aircraft between Anchorage, Fairbanks and the North Slope each week. NAMS performs maintenance to the aircraft, flight check-in and baggage handling, and conducts passenger security screening, ramp and ticket counter operations.

“I’ve worked this position for 11 years and counting,” said Parry. “I work with a crew of four in weather that is sometimes minus 46 degrees, with a minus 84-degree wind-chill factor. We ground-handle the Shared Service flights that come into Deadhorse, unloading and loading passengers’ bags and freight, and turning the aircraft safely and on time. Our greatest challenge is the weather. We keep the building entries free of snow for the passengers, prepare ramps for arriving passengers, and create a 200-foot trail for passengers from the Casa and Otter aircraft to walk on safely to the terminal.”

Dan and Birdie Parry pose with two King Salmon.
Dan and Birdie Parry with King Salmon.

Best friends and co-workers

Parry currently works as the Lead Ramp Service Agent. He said the best part about life on the Slope is getting to work with Birdie, who is a passenger screener for NAMS.

“Our shifts coincide with each other’s,” he said. “We’ve worked on the North Slope together now for almost 11 years. She and I have been married for 39 years.”

Parry said he’s proud to have made so many good friends over the years, friends who hear his name and have good memories of working, hunting and fishing together.

“I’m also proud of our three daughters who are now responsible adults working in their communities and raising our grandchildren to be strong responsible adults,” he said. “I’m thankful for the airline work in Alaska that has afforded me the ability to raise our children and provide for my family a healthy and satisfying life.”

Parry said he and Birdie enjoy raising animals together – pheasants, quail, geese, turkeys, chickens (they sell fresh eggs), and pack goats – and also fishing and hunting.

“I’ve guided my three daughters on their first bear hunts,” he said. “I have a love of being around black bears and watching them and photographing them. Our family has fished with the brown bears in Illiamna, and black bears on the Russian River. One time, our fishing poles were bumped off a flight to go fishing. We decided to cut some alder branches off a tree, tied our line and Coho flies to the branches, and set out to catch our 22-fish limit for the day of red salmon.”

The big picture

Parry’s all-time favorite NAMS memory is being invited to ride jump seat back to Anchorage with the pilots.

“It was very exciting getting to view things from the pilot’s perspective,” he said. “There have been a lot of changes to the airline industry since I began in 1985. With the fluctuation in the oil industry, we expect many more changes to come to NAMS, especially on the North Slope.”

Parry’s Code of Ethics:

“Be respectful even when it is hard. Be kind and give great customer service, as it always pays high dividends. Pay attention to the details without losing sight of the big picture.”

Hilary Reeves

Hilary Reeves spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the Saltchuk family of companies as a consultant. Since People of Saltchuk launched in 2014, Reeves has interviewed more than 200 Saltchuk employees from operating companies all over the world. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Reeves is a former president of both the collegiate and local professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, a graduate of the Society’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, and a Toastmaster. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, ski, and practice the piano. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two young daughters.