Alaska Bound

Posted by on Feb 13, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Alaska Bound

Alaska Bound

Welcome to the first installment of my blog about an upcoming trip to Alaska, June 2013

This all began after Judy and I had flown our Bonanza to Idaho last summer and had an amazing adventure visiting some of the backcountry airstrips, albeit in a rental car rather than an airplane. This was mainly because the Super Cub was undergoing a massive restoration and not available for the trip. We had such a wonderful time camping and visiting with other pilots at Smiley Creek, Garden Valley and Johnson Creek that we hoped to return this summer in the Super Cub.

Recently, I was lurking on the Backcountrypilots forum, reading a thread on “Camping with the Airplane”. Some of the pilots were discussing a flight to Alaska in their Super Cubs following the annual fly-in at Johnson Creek airstrip in Idaho. I began to fantasize about joining them.

“You want to do what? Are you out of your mind?” That was my “Dammit Bird” trying to break through the clamor of my unbridled exuberance as I thought….fly toflying the cub to Alaska Alaska?  You know the Dammit Bird, he sits on our shoulders saying things like “You can’t fly all the way to Alaska from Texas in that little airplane. Do you know how much that will cost? You don’t know the procedures, you don’t know anyone who has done it, and besides…there are BEARS!” Hmmm….

As I tried to tune out the negative squawks from the bird, I posted a note on the forum that I might be interested. A couple of nights later, the phone rang and Lou Furlong was calling from Atlanta. “I understand you might be interested in flying with us to Alaska” said Lou. Now Lou is a retired FedEx pilot who has camped and flown extensively in Alaska. After an hour of discussion which consisted mainly of my asking questions and Lou reassuring me that it was (a) really going to happen and (b) I could join the group, I began to see the benefits.

Namely, the other pilots who are planning to go all have experience in flying to and around Alaska so I would be able to share in the “tribal knowledge” they possess. Also, flying as a group reduces the risk as others are nearby if mechanical issues arise. Plus, it is a really long trip and having other pilots along will make it more enjoyable. I explained to Lou that I needed to discuss it with Judy and think carefully about the logistics of the trip. After all, as the owner of a small flight training company, I have to consider the impact on my students and to realize the fact that when I am not teaching, I’m not getAlaska Glacierting paid. Could I really be gone for up to six weeks?

Judy, as usual, was on board from the first mention. She has always been amazingly supportive when I’ve proposed doing something far removed from normal. After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, I felt a strong call to go and help, knowing GA pilots could offer a unique service to people who needed help desperately. She knew it would be expensive and difficult, even dangerous, but she never hesitated in her support of our efforts. So, I was not surprised that she offered the same encouragement. “I know this is something you’ve dreamed about. The airplane is ready, you get to travel with pilots who have been there, done that, and besides, maybe I’ll fly up commercially and meet you.” She said. With that, I began to think about what it would take to make the trip a reality.

Next up, try to figure out some of the basics such as what to take, where to source the necessary gear, where to go once we arrive in Alaska, what procedures will need to be followed, including border crossings in the post-911 world, the best routes, weather considerations, and on and on… This is truly a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know!” But here is what I do know…flying a Super Cub to Alaska will be an amazing adventure.

Lane Wallace, who writes brilliantly for the Atlantic magazine and who used to write for Flying, has an interesting “take” on the whole adventure thing. She says this is part of a desire to live an interesting life. She also would say that there are some experiences that are only available to those who are willing to have them, and that these experiences often demand sacrifice. They are often not comfortable, requiring a committment to accept the challenges and risks involved. On the subject of risk, I believe that our view of the risks of any endevour varies with our understanding of the activity. I have a pretty good understanding of the risks associated with this type of flying and I feel confident in my ability to manage it. Besides, I am not seeking the “Oh my God!” moments, but rather want to explore what the trip has to offer in sharpening my awareness of the Alaska I’ve read so much about. I invite you to follow along on this adventure and welcome your thoughts, suggestions, ideas and comments.