Monday, April 23, 2012

Trip Journal: Flying ALAR from Alaska to Indiana!

Well, we finally made it back!  What a trip!  The weather wasn’t exactly perfect, like it was all the way to Barrow, and the whole time we were in Barrow.  The weather was really exactly the same in Barrow, every day - sunny, cold and winds from the northeast.  I think we got outta Dodge just in time!  Because of some problems with a relay on the master switch at low temperatures, we decided we would fly back through Fairbanks, so that our first overnight would be in a warmer climate (about 50F warmer in Fairbanks compared to Barrow).  
The view was fantastic, going over the Brooks Range!
On April 2nd, we stayed over night in Fairbanks, at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge.  Nice place!  Unfortunately, the area was socked in the next day, with a good chance of icing.  Since our airplane has no deicing equipment, we had to sit for a day.  This never happened in Barrow - it is too cold for icing!  So, Brian and I visited Everts Air Cargo.  They have a field full of classic airplanes, which they use for cargo jobs all around Alaska.  They seem to use lots of DC-4s.  They have an amazing maintenance staff at Everts.  Anyone want a job flying DC-4s?  I think they are looking for pilots!   Below is a pic of one of the airplanes on the field.  It is a Curtis C-46 most famous for flying the "Hump" over the mountains in China during WW2. 
The next day, April 4, we headed off for our border crossing into Canada, at Whitehorse, Yukon Territories.  See above below for a cool volcanic mountain on the way.
At Whitehorse, we got an in-person briefing from a nice guy, who told us, yes, you will now get into icing, on the way to Ft. Nelson.  But, you can follow the Alcan Highway, VFR, all the way, with multiple places to land, if you needed to (“we typically try to discourage people from landing on the road.  But…”).  So, this is what we did.  It was a great suggestion, we had a fantastic flight, once again with great views!  The picture below shows what it looked like following the road to Ft. Nelson.  We then landed at Ft. Nelson, where there is, well, nothing. 
From Ft. Nelson we flew to Peace River, Alberta (IFR), and, well, not much to see there, and it was late in the day.  When we got to Peace River, the weather turned bad, and we had to stay there an extra day.  Brian and I walked all the way around Peace River.  Peace River is nice, lots of ice all around the banks of the river.  A pretty cool looking ski area there, called “Misery Mountain Ski Hill”.  Sounds like fun, eh?  A pic of the ski area is shown below, from our hotel window. 
On April 6, we flew to Lethbridge, near the Montana border with Alberta.  It was time to cross the border back into the U.S., but the ceiling was low, and, again, there was a chance of icing.  So, we decided, after talking with some locals, to cross the border at Del Bonita, Albert/Montana.  There is a grass strip there, and the center “line” of the runway is right on the border.  The right side of the center line is Canada, and the left side of the center line is the U.S. (when you are landing to the west).  It was a 38mile trip.  We landed, and they seemed happy to have something to do.  In the U.S. customs building (turn left at the end of the “runway”; if you turn right, you are at Canada Customs), we signed in and they told us we were the second airplane to land there in 2012!  See the pic of the N762JT at “Wetstone International Airport”, below. 
We then tried to go a little further, but the weather got worse, so, we landed at Starr-Browning airport, in Browning, Montana.  This is a Blackfeet Reservation.  Interesting place.  Great views!  See Brian, standing next to 2JT and near the runway, looking west, below.  The nice man who owns the airport gave us a ride into town, and we stayed over night.  Dinner at the casino…. 
The next day the weather was fine.  We flew to Miles City MT, and then through South Dakota.  Hey, there’s no one down there at all!  Then Des Moines, through a light rain frontal system, and then, here is what we saw - ILS Runway 10, KLAF.  It is hard to tell you how good it felt to see that!  Brian!!!  We did it!!!
 Here's the full route, up and back:

- Prof. Paul Shepson

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