Era lead pilot wins JCVB Visitor's Choice award

Mike Bury of Era Helicopters has won the Visitor's Choice Award through the Juneau Convention and Visitor's Bureau. He was chosen by the mayor after reading comments put in comment boxes at the bureau building.

Mike Bury spends his days carting visitors across the skies of Juneau, no matter the weather. He’s the lead pilot at Era Helicopters, and has flown with the company since 2004.


But besides flying, Mike has other loves: skiing with his 5-year-old son in the off season, and a good serving of peanut butter and banana.

“I have peanut butter and banana every day between 9 and 10 in the morning,” he said with a smile at the Era tarmac on Douglas Island. “It’s the bees knees if you haven’t tried it.”

Juneau visitors think Bury’s the bees knees, too. The pilot was awarded the Visitor’s Choice Award last week, one of the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Stars of the Summer awards. The recipient of the award is chosen based on positive comments dropped in boxes at the bureau, Tourism Marketing Manager Elizabeth Arnett said. The bureau collects the comments and passes them on to Mayor Merrill Sanford, who makes the final decision, she said.

Other 2013 Stars of the Summer award recipients were: Kirby Day of Princess Cruises, Pioneer Award; Emmy Garnish of Westmark Baranof Hotel, Rising Star Award; Natalie Schier of Macaulay Salmon Hatchery, Spirit of Customer Service Award; and Rick Salamida of JCVB, Volunteer of the Year Award.

Bury said he was pleasantly surprised by the award, and didn’t even know he had received it until a friend called from the June 26 awards ceremony at Centennial Hall.

“They were like, ‘Hey, you won an award tonight,’” Bury said. “I’ve never received anything like that. It’s kind of neat to get people’s opinions.”

Bury is originally from Pennsylvania, but fell in love with Juneau while working on cruise ships for five years. He said he’d sometimes take helicopter rides in the passenger seat and yearned to learn piloting himself.

“I was like, ‘I want to be in that seat over there,’” he said with a laugh.

Now he lives in Juneau with his wife and two children. He said that since he started flying in 2004, he’s taken thousands of people in the air, in all kinds of weather. He loves sharing all he knows about Juneau with his passengers.

“I take people out there in pouring down rain — they love it,” Bury said. “I like having a good time with the folks, telling them about the glaciers.”

He said one of his favorite things about flying in Juneau is watching the changing of the seasons.

“Seeing it change from the beginning of the season with everything covered in snow, to everything being green,” Bury said.

As much as he loves flying, Bury can’t say if he’ll continue until he retires, but he does know his heart is in the city.

“I’ve been doing it for 10 years, and I love Juneau,” he said. “Until I retire? Maybe.”

Contact reporter Katie Moritz at (907)523-2294, or at


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