- To Barrow on Wein Air Alaska. We were wondering if the baby's birth certificate was going to say
"Born on a Wein B-737 somewhere between Fairbanks and Barrow..."
- Got to ride in the cockpit jumpseat to Barrow. Having done virtually all of my flying in the congested northeast corridor of the US, I was quite impressed with the ATC clearance: "Cleared to cruise, Flight Level 310". (This meant that all airspace between us and the destination airport 100 miles ahead was clear of any instrument traffic, and we were cleared to descend and do any approach.)
- Definitely the most unusual place in the US that we'd ever experienced. Mud everywhere, gravel roads. Snow piled up, even in mid-June. Watched the sun pass through the north sky at midnight for the first time.
- At 2 am, while sleeping in a room with the windows covered in aluminum foil, we heard a gunshot close-by and then "He's dead! He's dead!..." We found out later that a dog was the victim. Although a 'dry' town [in theory...], there was a distinct feel of "the Wild West".
- Most houses were built from container ship packing crate wood. Most 'toilets' consisted of 'honey buckets' that were tossed out the back doors. Mud everywhere.
- A gallon of milk was $7, a small turkey: $38; tap water cost 7 cents per gallon.
- A small dish of ice cream was $1.00, a huge cone was just 50 cents. Why? "It costs money to wash the dish..."
- Walked on the 'beach' along the Arctic Ocean - still ice encrusted.
- The Mexican restaurant "Tacos on the Tundra" with its genuine Mexican tile and lively music was a welcome oasis.
- Later, while reading "Going to Extremes", I nodded my head in agreement the entire time in the chapter about Barrow.
- Otherwise, indescribable. Except: Mud everywhere.
- Numerous trips to Anchorage as First Officer on the MD-11.
- Fell in love with the spectacular scenery on descents and climb outs east of Anchorage over the Chugach mountains and further east over the Prince William Sound and the Wrangell St. Elias National Park & Preserve. The huge glaciers and ice fields seem to extend forever, and will consume any amount of film that you might have.
- Received some float flying recurrency dual out of Lake Hood, taildragger recurrency and dual on mountain / bush / rough field flying while on layovers.
- Early September brings the most spectacular change of color - the birch trees turn a beautiful yellow, combined with the spruce evergreens and snow settling on the higher elevations, there is a wonderful mixture of color. My vote is that mid September is the most picturesque in Anchorage.
- Renting a bicycle and enjoying the numerous city bike trails became a pleasant routine.
- As winter settled in, I found the scenery and multi-pink colors during twilight on the snow-covered mountains just beautiful. Even during the days of longer darkness, the additional brightness from reflections off of the snow made everything cheerier than I'd envisioned.
- Bringing winter hiking gear, I'd enjoy walking several miles a day in the snow. Merrill field with it's innumerable taildraggers was a favorite destination.
- Displays of the Northern Lights lasted for hours on the night flights to and from Anchorage.
- On many occasions they were either overhead or even south of our position. It was pretty neat flying on a northwest heading, seeing them in the distance, then an hour or two later being under them for an hour or two, then seeing them "move" to the south as we flew further north and west, shimmering and slowly changing shapes and colors the entire time. Over northwestern Canada, with no lights of civilization below to obscure the intensity, it was almost a religious experience.
First Light Airplane Trip Planned
- We'd planned to take the family from Tennessee to Alaska in our Twin Comanche June of 1995, but a tornado severely damaged it in May, 1995, just weeks before our trip, dashing those plans.
- The four of us took the airlines instead. (Linda says that I pouted most of the way.)
- We flew in a rented C-172 east of Anchorage over the Chugach Mountains, the Eagle and Knik glaciers, enjoying the tremendous views not visible from Anchorage or an airliner's windows.
- The kids having to get out of the pool and get ready for bed "ALREADY Dad?" at 11 PM, (when it appeared like late afternoon) still gets talked about now that the boys are older.
- On July 4th, Tim, at age 13, caught a 43-pound King Salmon (bigger than his little brother!) which decorates our living room wall today.
- We had intended to watch the fireworks display at 2 AM (at darkest twilight), but dad fell asleep without setting an alarm - and has been reminded about that every year since.
- Another visit to Anchorage via the airlines. Rented a C-172 again and flew the Tokositna Glacier up the south side of Mt. McKinley, through the Don Sheldon Amphitheater and Great Gorge and down the Ruth Glacier. A spectacular flight, although the 12,000 foot overcast prevented seeing the upper half of the mountain that day.
- A brief stop at Talkeetna let us mingle with the bustling activity of climbers and wheel-ski plane pilots flying to and from The Mountain.
- The skies cleared the day of the Phillips 26 Glacier Tour - on the most spotless catamaran you'll ever see. Another film-gobbling, words-can't-describe-it experience of pulling right up to aqua-blue glaciers and watching / hearing / feeling them calving into Prince William Sound.
Flying to Alaska by Mustang II Experimental Airplane
May 30, 2002 -
- First 'on the fly' journal entry [not sure how this will work with all the other priorities...]
- Will fill in earlier preparations prior to this date as time allows.
- Decided to not take the Bear Repellant spray in the airplane - too dangerous.
- Steve Crocker loaned me his shotgun and gave me some recurrency 'dual'. Much safer and probably more effective as bear repellant. It just fit, wedged between the firewall, right of the copilot rudder pedals, along the sidewall by the right seat. No interference.
- Back to packing...
May 31, 2002
- Called a few airports along route confirming that camping is available.
- Finished packing camping, survival gear, food
- Determined(?) that my "AT&T WorldNet" laptop ISP won't work from Canada. So much for updates while there.
- Studied the Canada Flight Supplement. Very good reference.
June 1, 2002
- Looked at Aviation Weather charts and forecasts for Canada, Alaska. On http://aawu.arh.noaa.gov/outlook.php, slew down to " NCEP Extended Outlook North American Surface Maps: Day 3, Day 4, Day 5" for good color forecast maps for all of North America.
June 2, 2002
- Satisfaction then Disappointment.
- Packed the airplane. Made a "Copilot foot area baggage compartment" from a plastic milk crate. This gave an extra cubic foot of usable room. Of course checked rudder cables and rudder / brake pedal clearance - all OK. Was pleased, and a bit surprised that everything except the cot fit . (OK, I'll 'rough it'). Weighed each of the many bags and noted where they were packed. At home did the Weight & Balance... That's when disappointment set in - (18 hours prior to departure)... My "eyeball estimates" didn't match the Excel W&B spreadsheet. Major shift in plans as well as CG are now required. I really thought that just bulk was going to be the issue, but the aft CG is.
- Had to make a decision whether to toss some of the gear, or even if camping at all was going to work. Removed several items such as the water jug, spare tire / tube and tailwheel, jumper cables and oil; and designated some of the main tank fuel as "ballast" to put the Zero Fuel CG at the aft limit. This worked, but made me carry up to 10 gallons of main tank fuel as unusable, and only 4 hours endurance total. Not what I'd planned. Tried multiple shifts of the heavy items forward which eliminated the "ballast fuel" requirement.
- To see if this spreadsheet loading would even work, (tools, survival gear and tiedowns all need to go into the new forward "crate baggage compartment"), will require another trip to the airport [tomorrow]. If this doesn't work, then camping is out and it'll have to be the usual motel routine.
- As of now, I'm hoping to launch Tuesday morning, June 4th.
- Watching the weather along the Nebraska / Iowa area, which will probably become an additional challenge for tomorrow.
Departure Day - Tennessee to Iowa
- Went to airport to try and fit the gear to stay within CG limits. Removed several items that I was hoping to carry, but came up with an acceptable load that still included all necessities plus most camping gear.
- Weather in the upper Midwest had a break in it, so made the decision to go and filed for Topeka, KS.
- Was airborne just after 3:30. Finally on the way to Alaska!
- Flew IFR all three legs. Stopped in Topeka, KS; then Omaha, NE; then filed for Le Mars, IA since camping was available there.
- Sioux City Approach Control vectored me for the VOR / DME 36 at Le Mars, and the AWOS was calling a ceiling of 1,300' Overcast. The approach had an 800' AGL Minimum Descent Altitude, so it should have been no problem. Sunset was right at 9 PM as I was on the approach at MDA, still in the clouds - nothing in sight. Bummer! Missed approach and diverted back to Sioux City. There it was also calling a 1,100 ceiling, but the full ILS made it no problem. Circled out of the ILS to land on 35.
- The forecast called for a chance of thunderstorms, so had the airplane put in the hangar.
- Below are the times for today:
From To Flight Block Airway
KOLV KTOP 2+33 2+44 379
KTOP KOMA 0+57 1+10 149
KOMA KSUX 1+02
approach at Le Mars)
Total for day 4+32 5+08 598
June 4 - Iowa to Saskatchewan
- Pouring rain in the morning at Sioux City.
- Mustang builder Bruce Atherton came out to the airport to see the plane.
- There was a 600' ceiling at Worthington, MN; the next planned stop, but it had an ILS, so I filed and was off about 12:45 PM.
- Shot an actual ILS 'on my own' (with procedure turn) at Worthington, MN. Ceiling was up to about 1,000' with winds out of the north at 12 knots, so circled to runway 35.
- No one in sight. Took a picture, started up again and called FSS to pick up a clearance to Aberdeen, SD.
- Weather cleared just as I crossed into SD. Landed at ABR for lunch.
- IFR to Minot, ND. In and out of a few showers enroute, beneath the cloud bases most of the time. Fairly turbulent.
- At MOT, filed an IFR flight plan to Regina, Saskatchewan and called Canadian Customs (1-888-CAN-PASS) to advise of the ETA.
- [Regina is pronounced 'Rej-EYE-na', the 'i' is long.]
- Off of Minot at 5:45. There are no airways between MOT and Regina. The clearance was: "Maintain heading 300 degrees for direct Regina" (194 miles away!).
- At the US / Canadian border Minneapolis Center said: "Radar service terminated, contact Winnipeg Center when 70 miles southeast of Regina." Felt a little bit like 'Lost in Space' for 20 minutes or so.
- "Radar Identified" was the term used by Winnipeg Center.
- Visual approach to 26. Beautiful evening.
- Most of the videos and books about flying to Alaska refer to clearing into Canada at Lethbridge, but from most of the eastern half of the US, the Great Circle route to Northway, AK (where you normally need to enter in a light plane) is further east than you might think. From Memphis, it enters Canada in southern Saskatchewan and passes just about over Regina, Saskatoon and Edmonton.
- Canadian Customs folks are very friendly and courteous. They do take a special interest in firearms, and I of course declared and registered the shotgun that I had with me. There is a $50 CDN fee for this, and they carefully inspected the gun, taking the serial number, measuring the barrel length, etc. In addition to the firearm registration form, I was given a CAN-PASS number (on a Post-It Note) as my proof of having cleared Customs. No longer do they issue tourist cards that previously had to be posted in the airplane window.
- Regina is a nice, modern, clean town. Helpful, friendly FBO. Stayed at the West Harvest Inn and enjoyed the 'Earl's' restaurant across the street. So far, I highly recommend this stop.
From To Flight Block Airway
KSUX KOTG 0+52 1+05 85
KOTG KABR 1+13 1+23 178
KABR KMOT 1+28 1+42 218
KMOT CYQR 1+16 1+29 194
Total for day 4+49 5+39 675
Total for trip 9+21 10+47 1273
June 5 - Saskatchewan to British Columbia
- Departed Regina for Edmonton City Centre Airport. - Great weather in the Regina area but got into moderate turbulence west of Saskatoon. IFR at 8,000'. Climbed to 14,000' (on oxygen) trying to get out of the turbulence, but just made things worse since I was in and out of the cumulus and starting to get a little ice. Began a descent into the Edmonton Terminal area.
- A Medi-Vac flight was behind me for the airport, so I got vectored around and came in behind him.
- There were significant thunderstorms west of Edmonton moving northeast cutting me off from continuing. Secured the plane, expecting to spend the night and got a late lunch.
- By 4 PM, the cells had moved through fairly quickly, so filed IFR to Ft. St. John, about 2 1/2 hours away.
- Was in the clear the entire flight, but the turbulence from the Low that was moving through western Alberta was bone-jarring for almost the entire flight. Again, I said to myself: "This would not have been a good 'Linda Flight' "....
- I couldn't help but keep inspecting the sheet metal and rivets of my wings out there... "You did a good job of riveting [my son] Tim..."
- Slowing to a more tolerable speed extended my ETA, but made things much more bearable.
- The scenery was getting wilderness-like, with mostly trees for as far as you could see. Visibility must have been between 70 and 100 miles. In the distance I could see just the tops of cumulus clouds that were so far away, the lower parts were below the horizon.
- There were blocks of two distinct tree colors - very dark green and very light green. (Spruce and Birch?) Interesting 'patchwork' of nature.
- Here is a Flight Tracker image my wife captured:
Click for larger image
|CYQR||CYXD||2+43||3+00||401||CYXD||CYXJ||2+08||2+28||310||Total for day||4+51||5+28||711||Total for trip||14+12||16+15||1984|
|CYXJ||CYQH||2+20||2+35||364||CYQH||CYXY||1+28||1+31||192||Total for day||3+48||4+06||556||Total for trip||18+00||20+21||2540|
|CYXY||PAOR||1+39||1+49||247||PAOR||PAMR||1+47||1+57||268||Total for day||3+26||3+46||515||Total for trip||21+26||24+07||3055|
|PAMR||CYXY||3+15||3+36||515||CYXY||CYYE||2+26||2+35||385||Total for day||5+41||6+11||900||Total return trip||5+41||6+11||900||Total for trip||27+07||30+18||3955|
|CYYE||CYZU||2+25||2+31||391||CYZU||KGTF||2+53||3+03||441||KGTF||KSHR||1+41||1+53||240||Total for day||6+59||7+27||1072||Total return trip||12+40||13+38||1972||Total for trip||34+06||37+45||5027|
|KSHR||2V2||2+06||2+15||296||2V2||KOLV||5+43||5+55||836||Total for day||7+49||8+10||1132||Total return trip||20+29||21+48||3104||Total for trip|
plus 7.7 'local' flying
|41+55||45+55||6159||Total Statute miles||7095||Total Kilometers||11,406|