Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Alaska Bound

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.


Dave Earl said...

Don't feel too bad - Cessna Owners magazine just published an article with the gun requirement, so you do better research than they do!
I work at a remote private strip on the North Coast (which Alaskans call the North Slope) so maybe we'll have lunch lol.
AND, I cruised into a Florida FBO asking for the East Coast supplement because I'd never seen a real A/FD.... :-)

Aviatrix said...

Dave, I love your comment, not only because it DOES make me feel better about being out of date, but also because it proves that Alaska is a place unto itself.

The image of everyone in Alaska having a gun rack over the fuel gauges is just so enduringly iconic that no one wants to do the research to know it's not true anymore.

I also like that if you'd asked in Canada for the flight supplement you would have got one no questions asked. Of course they'd want upwards of $25 dollars for it, but that's a separate problem.

A Squared said...

Wow. Someone updates the northern Alaska charts every six months.

Well, they don't care quite that much. Alaska sectionals are on a 12 month revision cycle vs. 6 months for the lower 48

Unknown said...

I'd imagine the pace of life is so slow up there, that Ice-movement, tree-growth , mining alterations etc. show very minor changes ,so an annual update is probably fairly cost-effective.

Re- the "mechanic on board " incident....... Back in the day, one John Dodds was cruising on the Continent (europe) in his "Rolls Royce" which was powered by a Merlin engine! He was returning from a job, his line of business being an unauthorised independent RR automatic transmission specialist.....he happens upon a Rolls "failing to proceed" Stops, diagnoses the problem, drags an old oil-drum from a field, to use as a workbench, and works from the boot of the car, which was fully fitted as a mobile workshop.
Needless to say, the owner was on his way much quicker and a lot less impoverished than if he'd waited for official recovery/repair. Telegrams to "Doddomobile, Surrey " will not elicit a response nowadays, but his story is on the Net and so is a Video of the car which still exists.

Hope the travel-co had the decency to reimburse the guy's airfair!

Carrying the fishing-gear is well and good, but how many could use it?

Joe said...

Flying to the northern reaches of Alaska! This type of adventure certainly appeals to me as I contemplate yet another day of moving stacks of paper from one side of a desk to the other. I look forward to reading about your exploits.

Aviatrix said...

"How many could use it?"

What do you mean, Steve? Who doesn't know how to fish? And only one person has to catch the fish for everyone to eat them.

Wayne Conrad said...

Aviatrix, Apropos of nothing, I've asked google to find me your post where you mentioned the official liquid (and the unofficial alternative that works just as well) for cleaning aircraft windshields. I'm sure you've mentioned it once or twice, but Google refuses to cough up the goods. Am I only imagining that you've mentioned it?

Aviatrix said...

The most common unofficial plastic windshield polish is Lemon Pledge, a furniture polish. I remember being in a Canadian Tire while the PRM and the Chief Pilot had a serious discussion about whether new Orange (which was on sale) would suffice. It's not that great, actually. Yes, it fills in little scratches, but it also leaves a film.

We also use detergent (I think it's Sunlight dishwashing liquid, but that's just what was available in a small size) and water in a spray bottle.

There are a number of products approved for use on aircraft windshields. The only name I remember is 210 Polish. You buy them in FBOs and read the label to make sure they are usable on glass or plastic or both, depending on what your windshield is made out of.

Wayne Conrad said...

You are a font of aviation knowledge. Thank you so much.

Sarah said...

Sounds like a great trip! Do you get to fly the ferry flight as well? That will be a lonely trip across the far north Yukon. Unless the route through Dawson and up past Fairbanks makes more sense.

Have you flown much in far northern Canada? Mountainous AK is wonderful, but so is the whole Yukon. ( I hear. :( ) Gorgeous terrain knows no national boundary lines.

I'm looking forward to hearing about it. Bring lots of camera batteries please.

A Squared said...

That will be a lonely trip across the far north Yukon.

I'd bet long odds that Aviatrix has flown much more lonely routes. Heck, there's a road you can follow, with cars and trucks and gas stations, 'n stuff.

Unknown said...

@ Wayne: The 210 Aviatrix mentioned is the best by far, however if that is unavailable there is a similar product called 'Prist'. It is more available than the 210 in my experience. Any FBO should have a can or two on hand.

I too had no idea the firearm rule had changed. I still believe it isn't a bad idea to have one. Remember in the event of a crash you are inserting yourself in the food chain. Best to be at the top...

If you are planning to take a firearm from Canada be sure to check with the ATF. A temp permit for importation is an NIB form 6 IIRC. As a non-resident alien you would require a hunting licence to allow you to possess said firearm in the US, and to buy and possess ammunition as well. Best to check this is still the case as my info may be dated.

zb said...

The story about the mechanic who was one of the passengers is great. While it's probably every aviation geek's secret (and strange) dream to be called to the controls by a flight attendand and saving the plane in an emergency where the pilots can't fly for some reason, I'd say this sounds like my geek's dream. Fixing stuff is always great. Like Jim Williams says: "And, finally, fixing is simply a lot of fun. I'm probably the only person at an electronic flea market who pays more for the busted stuff than for the equipment that works!"

zb said...

Oh, I guess I have to chime in again... because this video
1) has aviation-related stuff,
2) shows a successful attempt at fixing one of the best measuring machines ever: A pre-1980 Tek scope
3) and shows that not all engineers delay their work because they want a cup of coffee first (although you never know if the coffee part has been edited out).

Unknown said...

Aviatrix said"Who doesn't know how to fish? And only one person has to catch the fish for everyone to eat them."

*cough* "me"....I did get a rough idea that the flies weren't for feeding to frogs, but have a very hazy idea about deployment or which sort of fish can be found near the surface, middle or bottom.

guess i'll have to make sure I'm always accompanied if i ever venture into somewhere wild.