The reported weather across the north slope of Alaska has been solid IFR all week. I'm remembering when we were sent to work in Florida in thunderstorm and hurricane season, and southern California in fire season. "Did someone research when this place has a good season we could work there?" I idly ask my chief pilot.
"This is the good season," is the reply.
Company is working out how to schedule maintenance when we are in northern Alaska. Flurries of e-mail, (including attachements I can't open on either the iPod or the crippled business centre computer) go back and forth. Plan A is for us to fly to the job site, work until just before maintenance is due, then ferry south to Fairbanks and have company maintenance personnel fly into the large airport to do the work. Plan B is to do scheduled maintenance twenty hours early, before we leave here, and then try to do the ferry north, the work, and the ferry back to Canada, all within fifty hours plus an extension. That requires everything to go right: no diversions, no aborted flights, and no unscheduled maintenance requirements. This is highly unlikely. Airplanes are never that cooperative. Doing the maintenance twenty hours early essentially costs the company the profit that they could have earned on those twenty hours of flight. A ferry, at maximum three hours each way, costs the company the profit they would have earned on that six hours of flight, plus the fuel and wear and tear on the airplane. Those aren't the only costs to consider.
It is also at least twice as expensive to fly maintenance personnel to our current location as it would be to have them to fly to Fairbanks. Accommodations are probably about the same. Not doing what makes the customer happiest may cost future contracts. It's complex.
Management decides on option B. In fact they will add a multiplier to the expense of airfare out of here, by doing a crew change before the trip, and swapping pilots during the maintenance. I've flown home commercially from this airport once before and it was the most expensive one-way fare I've ever purchased. Recall that I've flown one-way two or from seven out of ten provinces from coast to coast, plus many states, including California and Florida. I don't care personally about the expense of the flight, but I was looking forward to flying to Alaska. We both were. And I'll bet you wanted to hear about such an adventure too.