Alaska Turbine Otter Tour Video Goes Viral Thanks to Co-Star

Cara Siciliano and her husband Gerry Buchheit (third and fourth, respectively from left) got a little more then they bargained for when they took this de Havilland DHC-3 Turbine Otter from Homer, Alaska, to Katmai National Park. Courtesy Cara Siciliano

Cara Siciliano didn’t have TikTok on her phone until just before she went on a floatplane tour—in a de Havilland DHC-3 Turbine Otter—from Homer, Alaska, to Brooks Camp at Katmai National Park in King Salmon about three weeks ago.

“I only had Facebook and Instagram,” she said. “My friends kept sending me these videos and I couldn’t watch them because I didn’t want to get TikTok on my phone.”

But then, before leaving for Alaska, she gave in.

“Just to watch the videos,” she said.

And then, on her tour, she created a video that’s gotten more than 20 million views on the social media platform. The video shows Siciliano and her group having a very close encounter with a 1,400-pound brown bear who’s so well-known, the locals have named him “Bear 747.”

In the video, you can hear the floatplane pilot, Patrick Carter, speaking very softly to the bear. This helped keep the bear calm, and may have kept things from escalating.

While the video shows what would appear to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, Carter, who flies for Bald Mountain Air Service in Homer, Alaska, says in this area of the world—where Carter gives tours to nearly every day during the month of July—it really was no big deal.

“It was not an unusual event,” Carter said. “It’s not a deadly thing. It’s sort of like a ‘nothing to see here’ thing.

“You could literally take that video every day.”

How common is it? The company website guarantees that you’ll see brown bears on their tours.

A Pound of Prevention

Part of that no-big-deal nature of these things is tied to specialized knowledge that Carter has. Not only is he practiced at flying the Turbine Otter on floats (a 1956 DHC-3 with the Garrett-powered Texas Turbine conversion), he has training as a bear guide, which he got from the national park service.

In fact, Siciliano and her tour group were given something known as “bear orientation” by Carter once they arrived at Brooks Camp. It’s something Carter gives to every group he serves when they arrive.

“We just tell them how to behave around the bears,” Carter said.

What were Siciliano and her group told? She quickly remembered which accessories were no-nos.

“We were told ‘no food, no gum, no mints, nothing. Lock up your backpack,.” she said.

At the time, all the commotion seemed a bit too much for Siciliano.

“I was like ‘no way.’ How bad can this be?”

The Moment—And The Aftermath

It didn’t take long for Siciliano—a real estate agent—to find out. There were a few different bear sightings during her day, including when Bear 747 sauntered on over. At that moment, Siciliano knew what she needed to do.

“I said a little prayer right away, to make sure we’re good,” she said. “Then I started taking videos and pictures.

“I figured if this was it, I’m gonna video it.”

Of course, the moment passed without incident. Siciliano and her husband Gerry—who flies a Cessna Citation 10+—made it safely back to their home in Fort Myers, Florida. Once Siciliano got home, the phone started ringing, as media outlets wanted to hear more about her adventure. She also had to learn more about TikTok.

“I kept seeing that more and more people were watching the video and I asked my daughter, ‘What do I do now?’ She said ‘just keep making cool videos.’

But she hasn’t jumped any deeper into the TikTok pool.

“I only follow one person and that’s my daughter,” she said. “But I do live for all of these hilarious comments in my newsfeed. There truly are some incredibly funny people out there.”

The Calm Before The Storm

As so often happens in the tight-knit aviation community, this big event started with a friendship, actually a couple of them.

“We have a good friend who used to work for Cessna,” Siciliano said. “He moved out to Alaska to do helicopter tours. I actually took a tour of the glaciers.

“[That pilot] hooked us up with Patrick. They are friends.”

Bear 747 introduces himself to the tour group. Courtesy Cara Siciliano

But What About Bear 747?

The bear in the viral video already had a good bit of fame before it ran into this tour group. Bear 747 was voted the biggest bear in last year’s “Big Bear Week,” an weeklong online vote put on by the park, where people choose the “fattest bear in Alaska.”

The contest drew more than 600,000 votes last fall.

You can check out a live cam of the bears here.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest FLYING stories delivered directly to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter