Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Alaska Adventure

With proper planning, a dream trip to the northernmost state is easier than you think

Barrow has a large reserve of 100LL, and they were selling it at the bargain price of $4.99 per gallon, with a $75 call-out fee. When that fuel is gone, it will be the end of avgas on the North Slope.

Barrow is an outpost with a population of around 4,000. The only pavement we saw was on the airport. The roads are dirt watered into mud to control the dust. The larger buildings are on piers that are refrigerated to freeze them into the tundra to prevent them from sinking. The homes are small and simple. Everything comes to Barrow by ship, in the few months of open water in the summer, or by plane.

Seaplanes at Lake Hood's shoreline.
The Flight Instructor Handbook says that, "Learning is a change of behavior as a result of experience." Standing on the frozen ice pack of the Arctic Ocean at 1 a.m., watching the sun miss the horizon, is an experience. Had Columbus seen the sun at due north at midnight and due south at high noon, he would have known for certain that the world was round.

Another goal on our short list was a stop in Unalakleet, home of the Tweto family and the television series Flying Wild Alaska. Again, just because. We stopped for fuel and food in Kotzebue. Sadly, the weather wasn't cooperating at Unalakleet, and we flew overhead looking down at the clouds that obscured the airport. Little did we know we would later learn more about Flying Wild Alaska.

We crossed the southwest corner of the state with a stop in Aniak, a night in Dillingham and over to Homer where we went fishing, hauled up some halibut and hung a dollar bill on the wall in the Salty Dawg Saloon.

The group's dollar bill at the Salty Dawg in Homer.
Next Stop, Anchorage
Anchorage isn't the capital of Alaska, but it's the gateway to the state. There are two major civil airports, Ted Stevens Anchorage International and Merrill Field, as well as Elmendorf Air Force Base. Airplanes are everywhere! Merrill is the GA-reliever airport, and across town at Stevens, you'll see two things: float planes and 747s. Adjacent to the terminal building is Lake Hood with its shoreline covered with seaplanes. The Millennium Alaskan Hotel Anchorage has a deck perfectly located to watch a stream of floatplanes land and depart. Lunch on the deck with a cool glass of Alaska's own Alaskan Amber Beer was another goal checked off our list.

The People You Meet
What wasn't on our list was meeting celebrities. Yet, sitting at the next table were Ariel and Ayla Tweto of Flying Wild Alaska. We asked if we might take a picture. They joined us, and we talked about flying and Alaska! They were as pleasant and polite in person as they are on their show. We agreed to meet them later at another goal on our list: fish and chips at F Street Station.


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