Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 60

Thread: Taking the ferry (flight) to Alaska

  1. #1

    Default Taking the ferry (flight) to Alaska

    Well good folks, I damaged my plane last fall. Not very bad in the larger sense, but when I added up the cost of the repairs, the things that I felt needed to be done over the next few years, and the overall value of the plane, we elected to sell ours as an easily fixed project and get a slight upgrade within the model.

    So my son and I are leaving this evening to go to Clintonville, Wisconsin. We will be picking up our new (to us) Tri-Pacer and flying it back home to Alaska. We hope to visit some friends on the way, experience beautiful and perfect flying weather throughout the voyage, and get familiar with the new bird.

    The new plane is a 1959 model with a 150 hp O-320 engine. We're looking forward to a few extra horsepower, greater useful load, and a baggage area, which was missing from our other PA-22. I will endeavor to post photos of the journey.

    I'm thinking that maybe this time my son should write the book. Or maybe he can help me write one. It should be fun.
    14 Days to Alaska
    Also available on Kindle and Nook

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2011


    Quote Originally Posted by Troy Hamon View Post
    Well good folks, I damaged my plane last fall. Not very bad in the larger sense, but when I added up the cost of the repairs, the things that I felt needed to be done over the next few years, and the overall value of the plane, we elected to sell ours as an easily fixed project and get a slight upgrade within the model.

    So my son and I are leaving this evening to go to Clintonville, Wisconsin. We will be picking up our new (to us) Tri-Pacer and flying it back home to Alaska. We hope to visit some friends on the way, experience beautiful and perfect flying weather throughout the voyage, and get familiar with the new bird.

    The new plane is a 1959 model with a 150 hp O-320 engine. We're looking forward to a few extra horsepower, greater useful load, and a baggage area, which was missing from our other PA-22. I will endeavor to post photos of the journey.

    I'm thinking that maybe this time my son should write the book. Or maybe he can help me write one. It should be fun.
    Go for it !!!

  3. #3
    Member 4merguide's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Kenai Peninsula, Alaska


    Sounds like a wonderful thing for a father and son to do...

    Good luck and smooth sailing...!!!
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

  4. #4


    The flights were a bit nuts because we got to Anchorage at 9 pm then left at 5:45 am. Just the kind of timing where nothing really makes sense. Including staying at the airport. But staying at the airport is the least complicated not-making-sense thing we could do, so that is what we did. Thankfully they let us check our bags immediately, so we didn't have to lug them around until 4 hours before the flight or whatever the rule I had heard some time in the distant past.

    We ended up so tired that we actually had some of that most uncomfortable sleep in the world kind of sleep on the flight to Minneapolis, then on to Milwaukee, run around and shop real quick, and get up the road to Clintonville arriving 10 pm and going straight to sleep.

    We were camping at the airport in Clintonville last night, had a semi-heated room we threw our sleeping pads and bags in, and this morning we met our new girlfriend. The sides of the plane say she is, "Island Girl." I hope my wife doesn't mind me adding a girlfriend to the mix.

    Saturday in the morning before I finished packing, my wife asked me whether I was going to visit my brother in Kansas City, he who flew up with me last time. I responded that of course I was not, it was out of the way. But then I ran a quick flight plan and it added less that 3 hours of flight here we are in Kansas City. It looks like the next few days are pretty good, so we may hang out one day since I haven't seen his family in years, but we're launching for Buffalo, WY early on Wednesday.

    On the way down, DS got some quality stick (okay, yoke) time. I showed him where the heading indicator is and how to maintain a heading. Here he is fixating on the heading indicator and flying straighter than I did when I was flying.
    14 Days to Alaska
    Also available on Kindle and Nook

  5. #5


    How cool. Have a great flight up.

  6. #6


    Well I'm sure the bug has bit that young man! May as well just get ready to pass the keys over to him.

    1977 Cessna 185 Floatplane
    2006 Kingfisher 2825
    2006 Elan Eagle Air
    2010 Playcraft 2400
    2011 Pelican Paddle Boat (Priceless!!!)

  7. #7


    Today we took my brother's family to the airport and got a little flight time for the whole crew. First I took my brother and his daughter for a trip around the pattern. We only talked his son into letting us go by promising him that if he waited he could ride in the front. Then my sister-in-law decided that since her husband is a pilot he may as well give her a ride, which meant that instead of me giving rides he needed to get passenger current. Since he is not current in singles, he went out and played around for a bit to get the required takeoffs and landings, then took his whole family for a pattern. Here they are, smiling in the Tri-Pacer.

    Then we went down to his work at Kansas City Downtown, and Cedric and I got to take an up close tour of an Embraer Phenom 100 and a whole lot of other cool planes at hangar 10.

    Shiny slick go-fast machines.
    14 Days to Alaska
    Also available on Kindle and Nook

  8. #8


    Yep! It's over! Get that young man some cool pilots glasses!!

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I747 using Tapatalk 2

  9. #9
    Member Float Pilot's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Kachemak Bay Alaska


    Boy somebody has been buffing the heck out of that hangar floor.....
    Floatplane,Tailwheel and Firearms Instructor- Dragonfly Aero
    Experimental Hand-Loader, NRA Life Member

  10. #10
    Member Redlander's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Now in Anchorage


    Sweet new ride.

  11. #11


    So we made it from Clintonville to Kansas City to Buffalo, WY to Wenatchee. I had a hard time getting connectivity and time and energy to coincide, but now we are stuck waiting for a flywire, so I'm catching up.

    So here we go: First stop a few hours in the Anchorage Airport:

    It was cold in Clintonville and we jetted out pretty quick, but first we got to be part of a shortwing piper event...okay we both just got fuel, but still there were two of us there.

    My son was pretty stoked and ready to go see his uncle, aunt, and cousins in KC, especially since we had no phone or data service at the Clintonville Airport and were living in a connectivity vacuum that defies the rhythm of our modern existence.

    Not sure who this bozo is.

    Wisconsin didn't get the memo about it being spring...but at least the river was not frozen. Love the little sand bars.

    Does this look cold? It was.

    Every once in a while my glasses start hurting underneath the headset, or it gets too dark and ominous outside. This time it was sort of the glasses took up residence on the glareshield.

    The storm that dropped all that snow was on the way out, but was leaving with some angst, so we were in some turbulence between Clintonville and Vinton, Iowa as we neared Vinton. With the new experience of having an aviation GPS to deal with in the plane, I was sorting out how to make it work to my advantage. Among my challenges now is to sort out whether I can update the data or not.

    As we neared Vinton, there were a bunch of towers and I was inspecting my charts and the towers to make sure I knew where to look, and where to avoid, and I looked at the GPS and it claimed we were flying right over Vinton Airport. I banked left and looked around, then right, looked back at the GPS, and it showed us directly over the airport. So I banked hard, looked straight down, and what do you know, I flew smack over the airport without seeing it. A little embarrassing. The wind was pretty stiff, but the airplane lands like a Tri-Pacer and we had a break to get fuel while I sorted out the weather.

    It was all improving, so we took off for Kansas City where we flew into Midwest National Airport and met my brother, where we took a day to visit and look at his cool go-fast machines I posted in the previous entry. The weather in Kansas City when we were on the ground at Vinton was not great, but the radar returns suggested it was all mostly moving south so off we went. In fact, the weather was good, and the turbulence was dying down as we went so it was a little more enjoyable. Out ahead, there was a bright spot beneath the clouds in our direction of travel, so I figured we'd soon fly past the dark clouds and have a little sunlight.

    It was not to be. As we neared KC, the bright mirage evaporated and it started looking pretty hazy ahead. At 20 miles out, I called up the unicom to ask for a weather update. The reply was scratchy, but I gathered enough to hear that it didn't seem to be too bad, so we headed on that way and when we got closer got better reception to verify. Finally at about 5 miles we picked up the airport. The wind was moderate at a 70 degree angle to the runway, so a little crosswind practice was in the offing. Landed good, taxied off, and tied down.

    I have to tell you, I loved this airport. The FBO is seriously friendly and service oriented, and are looking to get you fuel at a price that is hard to beat. Highly recommended.

    The next day when my brother and his family came to the airport with us, Quinn and I took his daughter up while we went around the pattern. She was happy to ride in the airplane, but she couldn't see anything, so he got her up so she could see a bit. That wasn't really what she had in mind, as it interrupted her snack pack of M&M's, so back in the seat for her, and we came in to land. I came in a little steep, floated 50 feet or so, missed the centerline by a couple feet, and generally gave a performance that would not have satisfied my original instructor. And there he was in the plane with me.

    But he said I could take his son for a flight, which his son was begging for. The son had to be in the front seat though...otherwise it would have been a big issue.

    So I guess I didn't do too bad. My brother is a picky guy.

    But then again...when he came back out from the FBO he asked if it would be okay with me if he took the plane up and got current. Turns out his wife wanted him to take them all flying, as they had only ever done that once. He flies for a living, but is not current in singles, so off he went to buzz around the pattern a few times.

    When he came back, I asked him how he did. He said he did three landings, and they all stunk. But he took his family up and they all came back in good shape and his landing with the family was better. He said he would need a few more landings to sort it out again. In looking over his logs, we realized that he has never flown any one plane that much. Being a working pilot in jobs with multiple planes and pilots, he has a lot of different tail numbers in his logbook. He figured he could have used a little more brushup time.

    Maybe he will decide to get a plane someday, but after as many years as he's been flying, I have a hard time imagining he will launch into ownership. But you never know.

    Kansas City to Buffalo coming tomorrow.
    14 Days to Alaska
    Also available on Kindle and Nook

  12. #12


    After a lovely day in Kansas City that involved getting my brother and his family some Tri-Pacer time, wandering around looking at the shiny go-fast planes he flies, and eating some really good food, we blasted off the following morning for Buffalo, Wyoming. Quinn and I had stopped there on our initial adventure, visiting a couple that we met through their son, who worked out in our corner of Alaska for a few years. Now there are a lot of ways of getting from Wisconsin, or Kansas City, to Washington that don't involve necessarily stopping at Buffalo. But between the stories from their son, as well as from Quinn and I after our other trip, my son was bound and determined he was going to see Albert and Sherri because he wanted to see their house.

    It isn't that the house is the most amazing custom home in history. Well, it is pretty amazing, but Cedric wouldn't have really cared about that. No, Albert is a hunter. An amazing hunter, one that combines the ethic of feeding his family, feeding the village, and an awesome respect for the game. And he has a few, a very few, mounts on his walls. It may look like a lot of mounts, but in relation to the number of animals he did not mount, it is few. There aren't really that many men I know who for part of their adult life made a living hunting animals, but Albert did exactly that for many years when the local economy around Buffalo was poor, selling furs for a living. He really is a storehouse of knowledge on animals. And Cedric couldn't wait to see him again.

    When we checked the weather, it was pretty good after getting out of Kansas City, but the morning weather near KC was not great. Not bad, but not great. It didn't look like there would be much wind, but there was an area with restricted visibility that was mostly south of us but would be somewhat in our route of flight. Kansas City has a major Class B airport, a few miles west of Midwest National Airport. I had tried the nifty AirNav fuel planning site, and was destined for Minden, Nebraska, which would take me straight through beneath the approach for the pair of primary runways in use at Kansas City International. I could have held beneath 2400 feet, but with terrain at 1100, that gave me pretty much 300 feet to maintain between adequate clearance for a congested area and the Class B airspace, and I was pretty sure that the controllers wouldn't be falling all over themselves to help me save 5 minutes by making a mess of their arrival queue.

    So we took off and skirted north, holding under the 4000 foot floor of the outer shelf of their airspace, where we had lots more leeway. We headed up to the upper end of Smithville Lake before turning direct toward Minden. But we hadn't been in the air too long when the forecasts for occasional reduced visibility in the KC area started to concern me. We found there was a bit of precipitation hitting the windshield, then a little later it got more. Visibility, while restricted, was never less than 5 miles, but when I noticed the precipitation I looked at the outside air temperature gauge and it said...32 degrees. Uh oh.

    I started dialing in nearest on the GPS and found St. Joseph 25 miles away. I dialed in their ATIS frequency on 125.05 and they were reporting clear skies and visibility 10 miles. That definitely sounded better than where I was. As we flew along, I kept watching the drops to make sure they kept moving, and I kept an eye on the distance to St. Joseph so I would know what I was dealing with in case the water drops stopped moving...

    Before I even had a chance to decide whether I could remember ever seeing water on my windshield and 32 degree temperatures, and before I was in that long enough to decide I ought to turn around, we broke out into fantastic weather that held for the rest of the flight.


    The snow was still holding, and the patterns of snow in the farms below was mesmerizing.

    Cedric had long since started his morning nap. He isn't a morning person in general, and he certainly wasn't going to be up early for these flights without some help. And after getting in the plane, he was down for the count. He didn't even last until the first raindrop.

    He says that he doesn't want to move the seat up even though it would help him see better. The reason? He says he likes my shoulder...

    As we went, the air got a little burbly in keeping with the clouds, but it was a beautiful day.

    Finally, we arrived at Minden, Nebraska, having completely skipped Kansas by flying over without stopping.
    14 Days to Alaska
    Also available on Kindle and Nook

  13. #13


    Minden is a funny airport. A fine little runway, with traffic patterns designed to keep the airplanes away from town. There is no automated weather reporting, so I entered a downwind for runway 16, which gave me a good view of the windsock. Flying past, it was clear that the wind was not ideal for 16, though it also wasn't ideal for 34. But the cross runway was turf, which I wasn't excited about since we had just finally flown out of the snow and I didn't know how long the ground had been frozen or how mushy it was, so we landed on 34. It was a little sporty feeling, and we ended up well down the runway past where I thought we should be, but still with plenty of room. We taxied over to the fuel tanks and I looked at the flag. Hmm. That didn't make any sense. Looked back at the windsock. The winsock and the flag were indicating 180 degrees opposite. Very odd.

    Minden has about the most affordable fuel anywhere, but there was no place to pay for fuel on a self serve, so I went in the office and there were signs with numbers to call for fuel. Called a couple of them until I got an answer and a helpful gentleman showed up to run my credit card and we were on our way again. Walking out of the office, I looked at the flag, then the windsock. Still complete disagreement. Huh. I guess you just take your pick and take your chances.

    Forgot to mention, after we left the crummy weather behind, I spent most of the rest of the flight to Minden dodging huge flocks of huge birds. My impression is they were swans. They were flying south in huge numbers, and all imaginable altitudes. I found myself peering into the distance with a laser focus, trying to see the next flock in time to identify whether I needed to turn. I probably only altered course a couple times, but it was exhausting knowing they were all over the place and we couldn't afford to miss seeing any group that was going to be at our altitude. Cedric was asleep, so no help from the passenger on that one.

    After leaving Minden, our selected AirNav route had us going to Torrington, Wyoming for fuel next. The line took us right up a major highway, which was fun as it gives a good set of visual references. It also yields up one airport after another. So we flew along, crossing airports from high above, and then as I looked at the next one on the map, I grabbed the camera and took a picture.

    And here it is, in all its glory: Quinn Field.

    Named after my brother, I'm sure. Well, okay, probably not. But pretty cool. Looks like a nice field, and that is a huge turf runway.

    The terrain then started looking more like desert, and Cedric, who was alert now that he had slept in by dozing through the entire first flight, remarked that it reminded him of the Alaska countryside where the tundra flats stretch for miles in the Bristol Bay lowlands.

    On toward Torrington, we got a great view of Scott's Bluff.

    Torrington is not long after, but there is a lovely river that we flew up as we went from Scott's Bluff to Torrington, the Platte River.

    I said we'd get to Buffalo tonight, but I've run out of steam. Maybe tomorrow. Right now we are nearing Torrington.
    14 Days to Alaska
    Also available on Kindle and Nook

  14. #14


    On approach to Torrington, the density altitude was reported as 5,000 feet. Since the airport is at 4,200 feet, that isn't a lot higher than the actual elevation, but I was already looking at this as a good warmup for the next few stops, where Buffalo would likely be the highest airport at 4,970 feet. For all you Western States flyers, these numbers are probably laughably low. But keep in mind that the highest airport I've landed at in Alaska is pretty low...probably PAIN at 1,720 feet. I definitely don't feel like a high altitude wizard.

    The winds were light and somewhat indeterminate, but apparently sort of favored runway 10, so we flew downwind, got a look, and negotiated with an ag plane on the ground for sequencing of our arrival and his departure. As we came down, the airspeed and the groundspeed were noticeably at odds with each other. We started mushing while moving over the ground at speeds I don't usually expect, but the airspeed indicator doesn't lie. It played its normal tune, and we ended up touching down with a nice landing and getting a little help from the Unicom operator to figure out where we were taxiing to. The fuel tanks weren't apparent, and the fueling equipment was housed in little cubes that looked like weather covers, so I didn't recognize it as a fueling station.

    We hit the restrooms, sat around and flew the armchairs for a few minutes with the gentlemen that were there, then loaded up and headed out. Still 5,000 foot density altitude. Still sort of favoring runway 10. We lined up and leaned to best power, then launched. The airplane took a little while longer than normal to get to flying speed, then started lifting off nicely. I verified positive rate of climb, reached down, and stowed the flaps. I didn't just dump them, but I didn't exactly milk them off either. We immediately started sinking back down to the runway, and mushing along. Pushed the nose down, watched the airspeed indicator, and we flew most of the runway between 50 and 100 feet AGL before we got enough speed up to be absolutely positive that re-initiating climb was not going to be a disappointment.


    Guess I better think about how I am going to do that, starting with the flaps are going to come up slowly next time...

    We turned on course toward Buffalo and headed into the undeveloped country. We were climbing up to get above terrain, but we were going to try to climb higher than we needed to as a bit of a test. One of the routes we were considering taking was over Yellowstone National Park after leaving Buffalo. En route altitudes for that adventure were going to need to be in the 10,000 foot range, or close to it. Clouds on the landscape made for a lovely view, but there was definitely some vertical air movement going on.

    We made 8,500 feet with no problem, but we were getting close enough to get increasing levels of updrafts and downdrafts, and we didn't have enough climb authority to feel like we could accurately hold our altitude in the face of the thermal activity. At one point we hit 8,900 feet, followed shortly by 8,250 feet. Which gave me pause. If we encountered similar thermal activity at similar altitudes over Yellowstone, we might find ourselves doing a high speed taxi instead of flying...

    As we flew across the major expanse of high plains, I punched in nearest on the GPS to see what airports were around, as I like listening to the most relevant traffic. The nearest airport was over 50 miles away. That was unexpected. Those are Alaska sorts of gaps in infrastructure.

    Nearing Buffalo, the breaks started to become pretty impressive below. I can only imagine the slow nature of foot passage over those folds in the earth, having never been down in them.

    Looking at Buffalo, I knew exactly where the runway had to be, both because I remembered it from before and also because it was clearly indicated by the GPS. But it was still very difficult to pick out. Have a look at this photo, perhaps you'll see what I mean...

    The wind favored a landing on 13, which is a slight downhill, but with winds around 10 kts, the downhill was a better option, so we entered left downwind for 13. A low-wing plane on the ground started taxiing and a Centurion called in from 10 north. We came around and landed while the low-winger was waiting at the taxiway, and the Centurion landed after we taxied off.

    We taxied over to Johnson County Aero, where we parked last time we were here, and parked. I went in to ask about tie downs and fuel, and noticed the signs in the window. Apparently the owner has had enough. The signs indicated he would rather collect welfare than continue fighting to run the business. And it appeared he didn't appreciate the results of the most recent election, as that figured prominently on one of the signs.

    I ran into him inside and he indicated he wasn't selling fuel anymore, as the self-serve installation around the corner had undercut him too much to make it worthwhile to continue.

    On the way back out, the Centurion pilot came by and we chatted for a while. This was the polar opposite experience. The gentleman was incredibly upbeat about the day, the great weather, and the fact that he had been so happy about the weather he had commuted to work by plane that day, and was just getting back. Life was good.

    Sort of like running into the two faces from the theatrical society logos in rapid succession.

    Our friend Albert came and picked us up and Cedric got to go have all his hopes verified. He later told me that we had done a terrible job describing the awesomeness that Albert had stored in his trophy rooms.

    I can see why he might like it...I pretty much like it myself...
    14 Days to Alaska
    Also available on Kindle and Nook

  15. #15


    We had launched fairly early from Kansas City because we wanted to make sure we got to Buffalo with enough time left in the day to relax a bit. Getting in late then leaving early would have made for more fatigue than I really wanted to deal with. But leaving Buffalo, we didn't really need to be early. We were heading to Wenatchee to visit my brother Shane, and planning to spend a couple nights while we waited for the registration to get finalized in the FAA's Oklahoma City offices. I wanted to make sure we had enough leeway to account for unexpected longer-than-planned stops and still arrive with good visibility, but we didn't really need to leave early to accomplish that according to the flight planning I was looking at with the assistance of Skyvector. It seemed hard to believe that the flight time to Wenatchee could really be less than seven hours, but I plugged the flights into and got similar results even when the winds were accounted for. That also seemed optimistic, as the Tri-Pacer that lives within is a pretty speedy beast, but the Island Girl seems to be pretty speedy compared to our previous plane, so maybe it would be accurate. I was especially unconvinced because I had previously flown from Buffalo to Omak, Washington. That took three days. The first day was 6.8 hours just going from Buffalo to Missoula. Then most of a day spent waiting for maintenance and a dash to Coeur d'Alene, then a short flight to Omak. But the flight planning sites were suggesting that the 6.8 hours would get us all the way to Wenatchee...seemed too good to be true.

    But every way we looked it claimed that we were going to be having no trouble getting to Wenatchee. It was obvious in our planning, but the reality of having the longer days coming was really paying off. Last time we were dealing with October daylight, losing ground every day. This trip we had already found more than an hour of extra daylight per day, and more every day that passed.

    So we elected to sleep until we woke up, then had a wonderful breakfast with our amazing hosts, and enjoyed the lovely Buffalo morning.

    We didn't dally all day, not because we needed to get moving for daylight reasons, but because I wanted to get in the air in Buffalo before the density altitude got too high. It was such a nice day that it warmed up quick, and we were taking off with DA of nearly 6,000 feet. The wind had turned around overnight, and again it wasn't really blowing much, but it was just enough, at 7 knots, to make it worth planning the takeoff into the wind. This despite the fact that we would be taking off on the slightly uphill runway that we had used last time we flew out of Buffalo. After that event, I had been pretty sure that I would take the downhill runway the next time, but here we were and the uphill runway was the better option, so I ended up doing it again.

    This time, we set off down the runway after leaning for power, and as I started to feel like pulling back on the yoke to ease us into the air, I looked down at the airspeed indicator and we only had about 45 mph indicated. Felt like 60, amazing how much different things feel when the density altitude gets up there. So I waited, and as we moved past 65 indicated I started giving some back pressure and we floated off the runway. Instead of dropping flaps when we reached 80 mph, I held the flap handle and let the flaps out over about a 10 second span, slowly...slowly...

    That worked out a lot better than the previous day's departure from Torrington, so I was happy with the improvement. I left the airplane in a climb configuration and we headed along the Bighorn mountains, flying northwest toward Helena.

    Everything about the Bighorns is high, so I wasn't really sure we would be attaining an altitude to cross over, but we kept moving up and soon were at an altitude to cut over a little finger of mountains that stuck out toward Banner, Wyoming. We kept going, and soon reached the point of deciding whether to fly on around the main range, or follow some drainages across near Duncum and Sheer Mountains. I've been doing a lot of direct flights over mountains in Alaska when the weather is good, so I started across. But the ever-ready auto-rough kicked in as soon as I realized I had put myself out of glide distance of a road...the road over the mountain didn't take the direction we were taking...

    This plane is new to us, so the auto-rough feature is more noticeable. I haven't got the familiarity of long hours in the shop looking over every aspect of it. I gave it one of the better preflight inspections of my life before we left Clintonville, but all of a sudden I had a burning desire to know where the closest airports were.

    Not close.

    So I payed inordinately careful attention to the gauges, kept climbing until we hit 10,000 feet (yes, that's right, I have now made it to 10,000 feet, with a fairly heavy load, in a PA-22...) and found ourselves coming down off the other side of the mountains. We still weren't over any decent roads, but the terrain looked a lot more landable, and the auto-rough shut off as we got a nice view of Bighorn Canyon.

    By now, Cedric was getting groggy and preparing for his morning nap, and we were well on our way to Helena, and obviously going to make it with no problem unless some real surprise popped up in terms of a headwind. And to make it even better, the air was butter-smooth.

    I had initially intended to try a flight over Yellowstone. But the needed altitudes for that flight had concerned me, so we had abandoned that plan. And the previous night, while flight planning, I had checked out the weather in the area and there was turbulence forecast pretty much over the entire park. So if I had any inclination to change my mind, it had been ended by that forecast.

    As we flew along, north and west of the Bighorns now, I could see over the range that included Yellowstone. And the entire mountain range was blanketed in clouds, occasionally with the tops visible and the clouds just above them, but it looked like active air movement over there. No thanks.

    Then the active air movement started hitting us. The butter-smooth air was traded for burbles that pushed us around a little, though not too bad, as we made a beeline to Helena, knowing that as we moved north we should be getting out of the bumps. When we went past Livingston, I tuned in the weather there and the surface wind in Livingston had not yet hit the gusty peaks they were forecasting for that airport. But as we flew north another 15 miles, the air got rougher rather than smoother, so I tuned in Livingston again, and sure enough we were there right when the wind got there. But another 15 miles and it was starting to get better.

    Bozeman was on the other side of the mountains from us as we sailed on toward Helena.

    We finally dropped across the mountains above Canyon Ferry Lake. The air smoothed out again, and we started descending to prepare for arrival at Helena. I looked left, thinking of the last flight of Sparky Imeson, but we went on toward Helena and the weather was so calm and traffic so light we got cleared for a straight-in arrival from five miles out, landing on 27. The landing felt great, probably in part because we were at substantially lower altitude here than we had been at Buffalo, and as we taxied off the tower controller started asking us question about the airplane.

    "Out of curiosity, how many seats does a Tri-Pacer have?"

    "It is a four-seat airplane."

    "And, if I might ask, what sort of engine does it have?"

    "This one has a 150 horsepower Lycoming O-320 engine."

    "Very good, thanks very much!"

    I can't remember anybody ever asking over the air about my airplane before. I thought it was kind of fun. So here we were, in a little over three hours, having made a flight that took a stop in Billings and a lot more time to make last time. We still had to take off from here and climb pretty good to get across toward Missoula, but that seemed like it might be less of a challenge with this plane than it had been with the last one.
    14 Days to Alaska
    Also available on Kindle and Nook

  16. #16


    As somebody who envisions doing this one day, making the flight from Alaska to the lower 48, I love this thread.

    Thanks for the thorough description and time that you are dedicating in describing your experience. This will prove to be valuable to both yourself (mini journal) and others (good reference) in the future!

    Safe journey.

  17. #17


    This is actually a really poorly organized way to put together a rough draft of a it happens...but it is fun and I like getting it out there.
    14 Days to Alaska
    Also available on Kindle and Nook

  18. #18
    Member IndyCzar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Just 55 miles north of ANC ... on the lake


    I was fortunate enough to have an acquaintance, (70 hr private pilot) fly with me last year bringing an airplane up...It was on his bucket list and all during the flight I noticed him taking a LOT of pictures... A month later he sent me a book that documented the whole trip with over a thousand pictures geocached along our route...Wish one of my kids could have made the trip, but this guy was great company...You are lucky indeed to have such a great copilot with you...

  19. #19


    I would love to make a trip like that with my twin boys.


    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I747 using Tapatalk 2

  20. #20


    After filling the tanks we were ready to launch for Coeur d'Alene. Last time we had tried this, the wind was coming from the west and we were given a takeoff on 27. We then had to turn, fly back across the valley to the hill next to Canyon Ferry Lake, and ride the updraft next to the hill to gain altitude so we could make the climb needed to get over the pass west of Helena. This time, there was a little west wind aloft, but not much on the ground. In fact, as we checked the ATIS, the wind was reported calm. I called up departure to ask about departure procedures, but they seemed mostly baffled that I had asked, so I switched over to ground and requested a departure on 9, and was cleared to taxi to 9 for takeoff. We did our runup next to the hold short line, then contacted tower for departure. We were sent on our way with permission to turn left for a westbound heading, and as we were rolling a business jet called in for a straight-in on 27...

    They were a ways out, and we were climbing out at our comparatively anemic rate, but I started a turn to the left to get out of the way and off we went. I wondered how wide I would need to swing to get the altitude we were going to need, but the improved power and climb were still new to me...we set a course for Coeur d'Alene and as we neared the mountains we were sufficiently high to make the first crossing. There were some pretty high mountains ahead of us though, and it looked as though there was a variety of problematic clouds ahead as well. There were some very dark patches ahead...

    We scooted over to the alignment of the highway so we would have the lowest pass to duck down into if needed, and started hitting some updrafts and downdrafts that warned of the potential for a lot more fun ahead. I was starting to expect that this might be the flight leg I had been hoping to avoid. After a couple good bumps, the air slowly settle down and soon I had stopped thinking about the bumps and was just watching the clouds. For the most part, we managed to scoot beneath or around everything of consequence without even coming close to it until we were past Missoula and headed down the long pass to Coeur d'Alene. As we left Missoula behind, it started looking like we were going to get wet. In fact, perhaps quite wet.

    We were going to be flying through that. Not the cloud, the heavy gray precip beneath it.

    Of course, a little rain never hurt anybody, right? But as we started getting a good dose of water on the windshield, Cedric pointed out to me that the airplane was leaking! The water was wrapping right around the windshield, going back to the door post, then wrapping right around the door post...and trickling down the door post onto his leg...

    "Good thing I let you sit over there!"

    "Thanks a lot, Dad!"

    "Hey, don't mention it!"

    On the other hand, I might want to sit over there some time, so maybe I better have that sealed a little better.

    After we passed through the first rain squall, we found another couple, then the clouds brightened and we flew along past fantastic could formations that came down on either side of the pass, but left a high ceiling above us. I've seen similar effects in Lake Clark Pass, where the clouds lift in the center of the pass but hug the mountains on either side. Beautiful, but a little weird.

    To either side, the mountains were carpeted with trees and had timber sales spread across the tops. The most amazing thing about that is that it suggests there must be roads to the tops of all those

    The sky continued to lighten all the way to Idaho, and as we were nearing the end of the mountains, we passed over a beautiful little airport in the valley bottom. Shoshone County Airport. If I had done a better job planning my fuel stops with AirNav, I would have stopped down there for the $0.45/gal cheaper gas...but in my blissful, and somewhat expensive, ignorance I had set in my mind that I would be getting fuel in Coeur d'Alene, so we flew on and spent a bunch more for the privilege. That should teach me not to pay attention to fuel prices!

    Arriving in Coeur d'Alene is like dropping off the edge of the mountains into a bowl fairly precipitously. Tri-Pacers give up altitude in a hurry, so we had no trouble getting down and setting up for a landing. The wind was persistently about 30 degrees off the runway heading, and was enough to be a good crosswind practice, but we had a nice smooth landing and rolled over to the scenic but expensive self serve to make a quick turn and get on our way to Wenatchee.
    14 Days to Alaska
    Also available on Kindle and Nook

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts