Thursday, September 09, 2010


If we're going back to northern Canada I can reverse my original route, but it sounds like we'll be going to the states, so I am planning a route down the Alaska Panhandle to see if I can do it without landing in Canada. That will save clearing customs twice. It's doable, even though the seasonal headwinds are intense. Planning with ten knots above today's top headwind for the route, I can go Ketchikan to Bellingham in one hop. My alternate kind of has to be Abbotsford or Vancouver, because if the weather is too bad to get into Bellingham, how am I getting into Orcas Island? And I don't think I can plan Whidby Air Base. Paine Field might be stretching it on gas.

I call CANPASS to find out how they would react to an unscheduled landing in Canada from an airplane that had not filed customs paperwork. She's perfectly nice, but doesn't give me any real information. "An emergency is an emergency, we'd just have to deal with it as it comes, but it would have to be an emergency, not just a fuel stop." I don't try to explain the concept of an alternate or an emergency fuel stop. I'd better treat Canada like untracked jungle or an ocean as far as flight planning goes. It's doable, but it has to be IFR because the Alaska Panhandle is permanently IFR. I don't think they ever see the sun there.

I send an e-mail to my boss about the status of the airplane, and my planning so far. He e-mails back to ask if I can fly from Alaska to Washington without clearing customs. I blink. Wasn't that the point of the e-mail I just sent? Next time I'll write a shorter e-mail. The chief pilot (whom I cc:ed) assures me that my e-mail was perfectly clear, but thinks it might be cutting it a bit close. The big problem though, is that my IFR just expired. Another pilot will come up and do the trip with me, which is safer anyway.

Alaska feels lonely in the evening because I don't get any e-mail. I'm west of everyone, so they've all gone to bed already. And you know what else is sad? After all my looking for beluga whales, someone sends me a link to tell me that the beluga whale I was almost guaranteed to fly over on the way to Washington State died.


A Squared said...

I once discovered midway that I was not going to make it from Ketchikan to Bellingham in one hop. I made an unscheduled stop in Port Hardy and spent the night. Customs was accomplished with a phone call and was nothing more than the standard questions. Nobody got excited. I wouldn't plan on it being that way today, this happened about 12 years ago.

nec Timide said...

Just thought I would let you know that your link to the news story about the beluga whale is no longer active. I guess Google news doesn't keep articles for very long.

Ali H said...

it is so fascinating to hear about your planning routes. It just sounds so exciting and liberating to me that you can actually take off and fly yourself to destinations such as Alaska.

Anoynmous said...

My family's return trip down the coast (in a single-engine Bonanza) was interrupted by weather. We ended up spending the night on the floor of a maintenance shop after landing at Annette Island's Coast Guard station.

(Their unofficial motto: Simply Forgot Us.)

Echojuliet said...

I understand the lonely evenings... Especially when its still light at 10 pm. I always consider time zones before calling or texting friends. And I still usually end up calling too late. But they get me back by texting earlier than I am planning on getting out of bed. The later I can sleep in, the more texts I get.