So, Alaska. Cool. And of course when my company goes to Alaska they aren't talking about Anchorage or Fairbanks. The destination is on the north coast. It's still not certain we're going, but I start to do some research.
First of all, I remember there being a rule requiring a firearm be carried on board all aircraft in the state of Alaska. I don't normally carry a weapon more threatening than a Swiss army knife, so this might have to be rectified. It's certainly a more interesting avenue of preliminary investigation than the names of the charts I'll need.
I start with the local Yellow Pages. Firearms ... see guns. There are three entries, all in Whitehorse, Yukon. "Local" is a relative term for northern telephone books. This one seems to cover every Canadian community from here to the arctic sea. We could buy a gun in Whitehorse on the way up, but it would be better to have one already. I try Sporting Goods. Two places are listed locally. The first number is out of service but the second one answers and says, "no problem, what you need, right or left handed?" I tell him I was just checking on availability, that I'll get back to him when I know our requirements. A hunting rifle would be the coolest thing ever to go on my expense account.
I mention the gun thing to my co-worker. She looks at me like I'm insane and says that was discontinued ages ago. So I don't keep up on the individual state laws of places I've never been. The way she looked at me made it sound like it hasn't been a requirement since 1963, so I do a bit of research to see just how stupid I am. It was discontinued in 2001. That was after I finished my pilot training, so I'm not completely stupid. Hmm, I wonder what high profile event of that year made them decide not to require foreigners to carry guns on airside? It probably didn't actually decrease the carriage of weapons by Americans in Alaskan airplanes, but probably by foreigners who would have to figure their way around import regulations.
The law that once required guns still requires some things that aren't in my airplane. Alaska Statute 2.35.110 says:
1. The minimum equipment to be carried during summer months is as follows: (for all single engine and for multiengine aircraft licensed to carry 15 passengers or less)
(A) rations for each occupant sufficient to sustain life for one week;
(B) one axe or hatchet;
(C) one first aid kit;
(D) an assortment of tackle such as hooks, flies, lines, and sinkers;
(E) one knife;
(F) fire starter;
(G) one mosquito headnet for each occupant;
(H) two small signaling devices such as colored smoke bombs, railroad fuses, or Very pistol shells, in sealed metal containers;
We have B, C and F on board already. Everyone has a leatherman or some sort of knife, and the rest can be obtained locally. Yeah, at least I can go buy fishing gear for work.
Meanwhile the trip is a go. My coworker is trying to order charts. "What's the green book called?" she asks me.
"It's the A/FD," I say, and as this is over the phone the fact that I don't know if that's spelled A/FD or AF/D doesn't matter. It stands for Airport Facilities Directory. Or I suppose Airport/Facilities Directory.
"They don't have it," she says. "I have to know the name of which one I want and they say there isn't one for Alaska." Weird. I know it's not in the Northwest book. But there has to be one for Alaska. She's talking to a Canadian company. I suggest she try Sporty's, a US chart supplier. She's not familiar with them -- she's worked in the arctic more than I have, and I've worked in the US more than she has. Neither of us has worked in the US arctic. She turns the charts task over to me.
I go online to Sporty's and click the link for sectional maps. There's a list of all the ones available, but nothing for Alaska. I click the reference map, and Alaska is on there. Very strange. After a while I notice a separate section for "Alaskan Charts." I wonder if this is the sort of being singled out and forgotten that Alaskans have to put up with all the time. Do they perpetually 'not count' because you have to drive through Canada to get there? I've heard of Hawaiians being denied rental cars in the continental US because the agent insisted that they have a U.S. driver's licence. (Mind you, a New Mexico resident at the telling of that story had had the same experience, so the geographic knowledge of rental car employees is not necessarily a benchmark for national policy.
I eventually find the A/FD for Alaska and discover why the Canadian dealer couldn't find it based on a request for "the green book, the AFD for Alaska." First it's not green, it's orange. And Secondly it's not called the A/FD, but rather the chart supplement, with a note that it includes the A/FD. Now a seller with a clue would have figured out what the customer wanted, but its true that there was neither a green book nor a book called A/FD for the Alaska region. I put an Alaska Chart Supplement in the shopping cart.
Now for the sectionals. I notice that all the charts are obsolete, just like those for the far northern
Canadian areas. At least theirs are in print. A lot of the Canadian WACs are out of date, out of print and
no planned reprinting date. You hold onto your old ones as the only source of knowledge. It's funny to see
that the US has abandoned its north, too. Even the
A/FD Chart Supplement expired on the
7th of February. Oh wait, strike all that. American dates go M/D/Y, with the day in the middle. They are
all current. Wow. Someone updates the northern Alaska charts every six months. That's more of what I
expect from the US.
I order them all and hope there is no problem with customs.
Meanwhile more company mail has arrived in the inbox. We're going to a private strip in the middle of nowhere. I'm CCed on e-mail to the customer where my boss asks, "Get us some info on the strip such as elevation, runway heading, accurate GPS coordinates. Any controlling agency frequencies if they have one (whether it’s a Unicom or MF) Basically a frequency the pilots can communicate on with other pilots operating in and out of the strip."
I'm thinking Alaska is going to be more like northern Canada than it is like Nunavut, but I imagine it will have a flavour all its own. We're in for an adventure.
Here's a non-standard maintenance incident that didn't come from the North. The person who forwarded this to me commented that the engineer in question probably didn't use parts salvaged from a crashed B747 at the side of the runway. I'm just imagining the incredulity from the crew. I'm sure he wasn't the first passenger ever, when faced with an eight hour delay, to say "I can fix it." His engineers licence was probably shown to the flight attendant, who passed it to the captain, who faxed it to company.