Monday, September 3, 2007

Jake, Dave and Dawson

Jake and I took our bikes and went to Dawson for the weekend . It was a great trip and the weather in Dawson was great... for the most part. We rode all around, took our bikes on the ferry and rode around the campground, and generally had a nice time. It was nice to be able to have both bikes, a lot of stuff and get there in only 3 hours flight time.... I love the 180!

The first stop was Northway, 2 hours out of Palmer. We topped off on gas (took 100G into Canada hoping to save money...). Not much there, but we called Canpass for entry into Canada and checked with US Customs so we'd know the drill on the way back. All the Customs stops and contacts were just fine, but I did my homework and was prepared for it... and remembered to take the gun out of the plane, thank goodness. The FSS was great too - I can't believe the rest of the country lost the local flight Service Stations, I drop in at ours all the time and they're always a great help.

Some air taxi guy dropped all these seats in Northway so he could haul some cargo. I wonder if he puts paying passengers in the one held together with rope? We ran into some people in Northway - some from FBX that had mutual friends and 3 guys ferrying a 170 from Minnesota to Palmer.

No problem finding Dawson but we throttled back and went slow so we'd arrive at our exact time, which I don't think they really cared about. There is some waiting since it's only 1 hour flying Northway to Dawson but you're supposed to give 2 hours notice. The Canadian customs person didn't ask us much and seemed pleasantly surprised we had passports. Coming into the airport Jake took the shot of the dredge tailings on the Klondike.

We wandered around in the sun and heat (the weather was perfect) and Jake took this picture of me in the chair at Robert Service's cabin. We went to Jack Londons cabin and the train museum, too.

We stayed in town at Klondike Kate's cabins which was just fine. They gave us a ride to and from the airport and were very nice.

The next day we were leaving and the fog had rolled in which was worrisome (particularly after the recent Homer disaster...)

but it burned off fast and got warm and sunny again for the outhouse races. There were some loco folks racing the outhouses, but the Vikings were my favorite "we drink when we're thirsty, we drink when we're dry and if you don't like it you can bugger off and die..." it was morning but most of the contestants seemed to have the 'It's 5 o'clock somewhere" attitude. Queen Crapper and the Royal Flush were OK too... but they sang their ditty waaaay too much!

When we got out to the airport it was sunny and warm... again. The weather looked good for getting to Northway at least so we figured we'd go that far. There was a Hawker 748 loading up and taking off... real pretty plane and not common. It used almost all of the 5100 feet.

We made it back to Northway no problem, but used the last of their gas. I had to top off with some car gas (which is legal for me to do!). Of course we had way too much gas, but I wanted plenty in case we couldn't get through Mentasta pass (which was forecast crummy), or I got lost in the mountains since I'd never been there before. The Customs guy was very nice but DID ask for a lot of stuff including my pilots license. He filled the form out for us though, and when I called from Dawson to tell him when we'd be there, said it was fine to be early and we didn't have to wait in the plane so we showed up about 30 minutes early. Which, per the USCS instructions is a no-no.

We had to do some pilotage to find the way through Mentasta pass but made it OK, and on the other side of Duffy's it was wide open with just a few showers to dodge. Both times I went by Duffy's they were reporting 1000 and 2 miles or something equally bad when in reality it was 5000 broken both times. Maybe the reporting station "Duffys Tavern" is aptly named....?

It was fun trip I'd like to do again, except go through Eagle (which has Customs also) next time on one leg.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The ALMOST Homer trip from hell ...

We went down to Homer the other day for a day trip. Going down was awesome - CAVU and not a single bump - really, really nice.

The first thing that forebode trouble was that my flaps decided to retract from 40Deg to 0 on final - a huge bang... so I was pretty sure we hit something (after taking out the bird last month I'm paranoid anyway...), so we flew over the threshold with the throttle crammed open and me gingerly rocking the ailerons to see what still worked. I figured out it was the flaps soon enough - it's slipped a notch before (but not the whole 40!). I have a new spring for the latch I think will help. I may have bumped it with my elbow, too.

We made a real nice landing on the pavement which has not been a sure thing lately, but I was wide awake!

We spent the day messing around - took the kids to the beach and then ate at Olives. It was great. Leaving the restaurant, I saw some fog over the inlet so I called FS and hustled to the airport. FS told me that no fog was forecast and then said it would stay over the water if there was any. I dropped the rental car keys in the drop box and while I was walking back to the plane Homer went from CAVU to 100VV - hopelessly zeroed out. You couldn't see the runway from transient. The fog blew in like cotton candy rolling over the treetops. I've never seen anything like it. I called Homer FSS and they said it would likely blow over (which seemed unlikely to me) and sure enough it was solid socked in for the next hour or so we waited.

So, we went back the rental car counter where luckily they had not locked the key drop box... no one was around so we unofficially "re-rented" the car. Sweet. A bunch of ERA pax were stranded at the airport so we started calling hotels and finally managed to find a B&B that would take us. The lady was nice but we beat out some other people by just minutes. I felt like we got the last beds in town.

In the morning we got the usual FSS updated forecasts where they call for the fog to burn off in the next couple hours - the same forecast with the time changed out 2 hours every time you call. So we parked at Safeway and went for a short hike to the community gardens and up on Pioneer Ave. The weather was perfectly clear if you stayed above the Sterling hwy - it was just a low fog layer.

When we got back to the car there were a few people standing around... Uh Oh...So, get THIS - the guy that does the body work for the rental car agency had backed into our rental car. Go figure THAT one... One of the guys that was hanging around asking questions (and didn't seem to have any legitimate involvement) turned out to be the owner of the rental car agency who was completely cool - he said I had to go talk to the cops since they'd been called but not to worry about it -- they already had it scheduled into the shop for the body work. Before we knew who he was, Julie had said "Who cares - it' s just rented..." which made him laugh. So I had to go to the police station and now I have a bunch of paperwork to fill out.

After the cop shop we go out to airport - fog all around but the airport and everything to the North is fine. We load up the plane, return the dented car... and the fog comes rolling in again... while we're walking back from the rental car return counter... deja vu all over again. The FSS guy says he'll give me a special but I really can't even see across the runway. I ask him if I can taxi down and look at it. If the wind hadn't been blowing I could have just punched it going N and had a clear shot, but it's over 15 Kts on the tail, gusty, I've never tried that much tailwind on takeoff and the plane is pretty loaded so I can't count on horsing it off if directional control becomes a problem… probably would have been fine if I used the gravel taxiway though.

So I tell the guy I'll take the special and head down to takeoff to the south, towards the fog. We have to wait for some twin on final and meantime the fog is rolling down the RW like a 100 ft wall. The twin touches down and disappears. I told FSS I was going as soon as the twin called clear of the runway, so I was already rolling by the time I got my 'clearance'. Oops. He asked me if I was 'ready to copy' when he gave the special which I thought was pretty funny. Yeah I copied - maintain 1 mi and clear of clouds - better write that down. I cranked it around and went out North. It couldn't have been more than 100 ft thick but I had decided not to climb through it regardless and it was too close to climb over. Although I'm convinced (like everyone else!) that I could easily fly on the gauges.

I checked the GPS later and we took off and made the 180 degree turn in 1000 ft. It was pretty tight. That max performance horn thingy was beeping a lot ;-) I told the guy I was in the clear and he gave me the whole "So I understand you are maintaining VFR in our CL E airspace" thing since I never know what to say... Anyway, after he had me confirm I was VFR he announced that the airport had just gone IFR... he was pretty cool and waited to call it until I was off the ground. As soon as I turned around it was CAVU and I could see 200 miles to the North but by the time we got over the ridge the entire bay was fogged in behind us. The FSS guy was trying to help people get in - telling them he was issuing specials (which he is not allowed to offer without being asked).

Then, an uneventful easy cruise back, again no clouds (other than the entire inlet being fogged in), no bumps, not even any noticeable wind at 8K, sunny and 70F in Palmer and we'd brought back a growler of China Poot Porter from Homer Brewing.... so it all ended well.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Chitna River

Jake and I went over to the Chitina River 2 nights ago to meet up with my Uncle and some of his friends that were camping out there. It was a real pretty day... We got to Chitina in just over an hour but went down the Copper River for a while (wrong way..) getting hammered by 30plus MPH headwinds in the canyon before I figured it out. It was much nicer on the Chitina.

Taneta Pass was not too good either way - rain on the way out and then between layers on the way back (but we could see the land ahead so it was cool). Coming into Palmer it was raining pretty good and I was joking with Jake that we might want to go around to the runway with the approach lights to be sure of where we were but it all cleared up a mile or so out.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Big Sue April

After a pretty landbound winter I finally got out for some off-airport stuff last night. It was a nice night, pretty calm, a bit cool and we saw quite a few Moose and Eagles.

Coming into Hood Strip for some hanger flying with the locals and gas before I went home to Palmer, tower told me to keep my speed up (for what turned out to be another 180 that was about out of gas when I talked to the guy later) so I did - so much so that I bounced twice and had to go around.

My Uncle was following me on final and the tower controller told him to look out for the 180 going around... My Uncle said "Don't worry, I won't hit him - that's my nephew and my sister would kill me...".

There was a lot of pumice on the river bars which was interesting. It must have come from this winters volcanic activity, I brought some home and the kids and I floated it in water... there were also places where a few inches of sand had blown over the snow so it looked firm, but you'd sink in a long ways - very strange to walk on and probably no fun to land on.