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Garfield Thorsrud (February 20, 1928 to November 23, 2014) A Montana pilot and smoke jumper who was initially contracted by the Central Intelligence Agency to fly aircraft for the Tibetan insertion operation, encrypted STBARNUM, in the early 1950s. He was one of the first eight smokejumpers recruited out of the University of Montana by the Central Intelligence Agency in Spring 1951.[1]

He was subsequently offered a staff position in Special Operating Group and, together with Major (later Brigadier General) Heinie Aderholt—who had been seconded to the Agency from the US Air Force—stood up a separate paramilitary air wing—later formalized as Air Branch. SOG/Air Branch (and Thorsrud) subsequently played a major role in virtually every Agency covert action in the Third World during the cold war and beyond. In 1956, Thorsrud established an air operations base carved out of the jungle in a western pacific location and from there he oversaw air delivery of men and supplies to support President Eisenhower's program to de-stabilize the Sukarno regime in Indonesia. When the Soviets abandoned an arctic weather and listening station in the mid-1960s, after the ice pack it was built on broke adrift, Thorsrud organized the air assets from Intermountain Aviation for Operation Cold Feet, a remarkable joint CIA-US Navy operation that put 2 officers on the floating ice flow to recover a treasure trove of documents, instruments and equipment abandoned there by the Soviets. Thorsrud then successfully extracted the two officers by means of a "cow catcher" attached to a converted B-17 bomber that snagged a line attached to an inflated balloon and connected to the men by harness. This incredible feat in the arctic slowly leaked out and became the basis for the spy thriller film "Ice Station Zebra." During the early years of China operations, Air Branch assumed control of several private Asian cargo airlines and turned them into CIA proprietary companies. These included Civil Air Transport (CAT), purchased from its founder General Claire Chennault, as well as Air America, and lesser known air proprietaries such as BirdAir, and Southern Air Transport.

Thorsrud later founded Mountain West Aviation in 1975 which in turn became Sierra Pacific Airlines.



            Headquarters:  7700 North Business Park Drive, Tucson, Arizona, 85743, USA


Sierra Pacific Airlines is a part 121 American airline based in Tucson, Arizona, USA. It operates passenger charters and sub-charters for other airlines, as well as for the United States Forest Service, United States Military and the United States Marshals Service.


The airline was initially founded as Trans Sierra Airlines in 1970 by Chris Condon and Allan Silliphant with profits from their box office hit soft X and later R rated 3-D film The Stewardesses. It was renamed Sierra Pacific Airlines when the FAA granted permission to operate aircraft over 12,500 lbs. in 1971. The original aircraft were 8 passenger Cessna 402 aircraft followed by 44 passenger Convair 440 prop airliners. The aircraft were operated out of Burbank Airport in southern California (BUR, now known as Bob Hope Airport). The original routes included Burbank, Los Angeles, Bishop, Mammoth and San Jose. In 1973 it was purchased by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. It operated a number of years with turboprops including Convair 580 and smaller de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft as a scheduled intrastate PUC California airline while also having interstate CAB exemption to cross state lines. In February 1976 it became Mountainwest Aviation. It is wholly owned by the Sierra Pacific Group.

Pilots,  Currently there are only two aircraft on the certificate staffed by eight pilots and staff of flight attendants.  The pilots are paid a flat retainer fee, CA's about $36,00 a year, FO's about $24,000 a year along with an hourly flight pay and a per diem.  The company mainly operates in North America and its business is mainly military, tour company, and gambleing charters along with flying contract for the forest service shuttling fire fighters around.  The company is known to be extremly cost counsious.  The pilots will handle much of the operating and handling of a flight, from fueling the aircraft in a military base, to directly coordinating catering work while out on trips.  Their policy is to only hire current and type rated pilots.  

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