Cowboys in Cessnas: The pilots flying across the most remote stretches of America’s Lower 48

It was around that time that Mike’s dad, Bill Dorris, founded McCall Air Taxi. Bill flew Sea Planes for the Marine Corps, during World War II, and had plenty to teach his son. At just 24 years old, Mike went to work in the sky, making haul deliveries for his dad, who, even as an esteemed pilot himself, later admitted that Mike was the best he’d ever seen.

In 1985, Mike bought McCall Air Taxi from his father. Although he’s since sold that business and started another—Sawtooth Flying—he’s been flying here ever since.

Now near-70-year-old, Mike and his brothers—George, and Bill—are still navigating the skies in and out of the country’s most remote airstrips. Watching them fly is awe-inspiring. Hands fly from switch to button to switch, all while holding a conversation. A mix between mountain man and cowboy, I’ve seen these characters kick rocks out of the runway and bat beers out of soon-to-be passengers’ hands. George is ornery, a little difficult (or at least he wants you to think so). Mike’s cheerful smile lights up the dirt runway. Bill is happy to chat, and happy to stick to business just the same. They’re often gruff but not grumpy, and blunt but not mean, with sparkling smiles and eyes that twinkle with a hint of a life well-lived.

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