The view from the hotel deck outside the bar, looking towards the airport.
After arriving in Kentchikan, most of us just sat back on the deck outside the bar and watched the float planes passing, the ocassional Alaskan Airlines Boeing arrive and depart and generally being inspired by the view. Food was ordered from the bar and most of us toped up our reserves with some good local cooking. Our host, who was one of those larger than life Americans, asked if anyone wanted some black bear that he had just cooked. Apparently, some one he knew had shot a black bear, and as was the custom, it got cooked. Somehow, I didn’t fancy trying it…. the bear ranks to highly on the cuteness factor for me to be tempted to eat one. Some of the guys headed down into town and the rest of us just sat, in the quietness, except for the odd float plane passing by at 600 feet, that is, watching the sun set.
The sun was shining again this morning when we got up. Most of us assembled for breakfast in the hotel restaurant within a few minutes of each other, so caused a bit of a backlog in the orders. The hotel had a little shuttle bus that would take us to the ferry for the short trip across to the airport. The seaplanes were already working, taking holiday makers on fishing trips to some of the more remote areas, where they would land on a lake, the tourists, could go fishing for the morning, then come back to where the sea plane was moored for a picnic lunch, do a bit more fishing, then have a senic flight back to Ketchikan, in time to watch the sun setting behind the hills.
A couple of the fishing boats moored in front of the hotel
We had not looked at the route for flight planning, as in the US, its so easy to file. You have a look at the chart, check the airways, then ring 1-800 wxbrief to file your flight plan. You talk to a real person, who knows the routes and can give you a full weather briefing for the route. They might suggest changes and are usually really helpful in finding the route you want. So we waited until we got to the airport to file. Bill had decided to go VFR for the whole 700 or so miles, we, like the rest, decided to go IFR at 10,000 feet. This would give us the best of both worlds, easy flying and in the weather conditions, fantastic views of Alaska and Canada.
We filed for a 10:00 local departure, but because of the traffic, b the time we had contacted clearence delivery over the radio,
The view from the hotel car park looking up the inlet towards the ferry terminal and airport
we ended up being delayed b about 20 minuites. Finally our IFR clearence came through. It was my leg to fly, so I started up and taxied out. We were asked to hold for landing traffic… a stinson, who in the 25 knot gusty conditions landed about 20 feet to our left and stopped 20 feet to our right. As the plane taxied past, it was a young girl flying, and you could tell from the landing, she had a lot of hours flying in that stinson.
The flight was a nice smooth easy flight. The crossing into Canadian airspace was only noticed by the slight change in the terminology used in the radio transmissions, and for the most part, we both sat looking out the windows, taking photos and pointing things out to each other. For at least a couple of hours, the only things we saw were logging camps and logging trails. There were huge areas of forrst that had been harvested for the timber, and next to them were previous seasons logging sites, now sprouting new trees, replanted to replenish the timber stocks for future generations. Quite how they managed to get the timber out from some of these remote areas is still an unsolved puzzle. We had been asked to climb to 11,000 feet for traffic spacing, and remained at this altitude for an hour or so.
About 100 miles north west of Seattle, we were asked to descend, and dropped down to 7000 feet, we were now entering civalisation, marked by two things, one, the fact there were roads leading through the trees to unseen communities, and the second, more poignant, was a layer of pollution. At around 11,000 feet we could see clearly, but as we ventured further south, a dirty yellow band started to appear. It was an inversion layer, a layer in the atmosphere that there is an inverted temperature gradient, so all the pollution rose to this level then became trapped, building up into a band 2 or 3 thousand feet thick. Clear air on top, dirty air below. It was the first time since leaving Istanbul that I had noticed the pollution. Welcome to civalisation.
Canadian ATC descended us further to 5000 feet and eventually handed us over to Seattle Centre. Even though it was 10 miles plus visibility, I elected for an ILS approach for runway 31L into Boeing field. Practice makes perfect, so taking any chance to shoot a precision approach is always welcome. I was expecting the JAWBN ONE Arrival, but, ATC had other ideas. The controller gave staccato bursts of information over the radio, this was a busy sector, and headings were being given to various aircraft and various altitudes. We had a small jet pass in front below us by about 1000 feet below, and a couple of others off to one side. The standard approach takes you to the west and south for a left hand intercept for the localiser, we were being vectored north of the field and east for a right hand intercept. Eventually the staccato burst came on the radio and passed us over to Boeing Field Approach, where a female controller, calmly issued instructions to several aircraft inbound to the field. we were cleared for the approach maintaining altitude for 31L and asked to all localiser established. As the needles swung in line, I called localiser established and we were cleared to land, but keep our speed up…. we had 8 miles to run. At 4 miles, we were handed over to tower, who immediately asked if we could take 31R…. a shorter runway. I accepted and going visual, banked right slightly to line up with 31R. The threshold of 31R is about half way down the length of 31L so it ment I was low for the approach, so holding altitude for about 4000 feet, should put me about right. I had a little excess speed, as I was expecting 10,000 feet of tarmac to land on, meant I could hold altitude without adding power and slow down at the same time to land on the 3700 foot long 31R.
Touching down just after the LDZ markers allowed me to slow down for the A4 turnoff, about mid way down the runway and we changed to ground to get directions to Galvin Flying Services, the FBO we had booked in with.
We had a room arranged at the Museum of Flight, courtesy of Beverly Fogal, an IFFR member here in Seattle, and Galvin Flying Services arranged for one of their shuttle buses to take us over tot he other side of the field to the Museum. While we were waiting in the offices of Galvin, there was a phone call for me, it was Bruce Warren, the guy I worked with 10 years ago, when he was with Boeing, based at BAE Systems, in Warton, Lancashire.
Blue Angels taxi in after us..!
One of the last things I said to Bruce was “One day. I’ll fly into Boeing Field and land right in front of your office”…. it has taken me 10 years, 11,000 miles to do it…. but I have done what I promised, such a long time ago.
I suppose I should also mention that just as we parked up on the apron, the famous Blue Angels display team did a fly-by and landed….. could it be coincidence…. or did some one arrange it?
The rest of the evening, is for another time.
Tomorrow, we are off to Everett, so see the Boeing production line in the worlds largest enclosed space…. and the new 787 Dreamliner.
Resume own navigation and watch for traffic.