September 26, 2004
While in Alaska I picked up, Wager With the Wind, an interesting looking book about a famous Alaskan Bush Pilot, Don Sheldon. Shortly after purchasing the book I packed the book into my bag to read when I returned home. Days later, while taking a flight seeing tour, our bush pilot explained as we flew into the Don Sheldon Amphitheater that it was named after Alaska's most famous bush pilot who had built a house on the floor of the glacier in the amphitheater. The name sounded familiar but I did not make the connection between the book, that I had purchased, and my pilot's story. Sheldon had flown in all the equipment for the cabin by air. In some cases he broke many aviation regulations by attaching the wood needed for the cabin to the side of his plane.
A few days after returning from Alaska I started the book, mostly to help lessen the effects of my Alaska withdrawl! I was excited to learn the book was about the life of the very bush pilot I had learned about on my flight seeing tour. Additionally, as he was based out of Talkeetna, Alaska for most his life, I enjoyed reading about this town that I had so enjoyed visiting.
Even better than reading about Talkeetna were the amazing tales of Don's life as an Alaskan bush pilot. I had always thought the bush pilot's life was a dangerous and courageous one but had no idea what a risky endevour it really was until I read the book. The fact that Don had a full life of flying that was only interrupted early due to cancer is remarkable.
What I enjoyed most was that he so unselfishly offered his services to those in need. There are several accounts of him making an unheard of flight manuever in order to rescue climbers, ship wrecked boaters or lost hunters. Almost every effort to climb the mountain ranges around Talkeetna including Denali (Mt. McKinley) during the period of 1940 - 1970 likely involved this world renowned bush pilot. Sheldon was heralded for his amazing ability to land on the sides of mountains. Most of his career was spent flying people to some of the most remote locations in Alaska.
The book description states "Don Sheldon has been called 'Alaska's bush pilot among bush pilots'", but he was also just one man in a fragile airplane who, in the end, was solely responsible for each mission he flew, be it a high-risk landing to the rescue of others from certain death in the mountains of Alaska or the routine delivery of supplies to a lonely homesteader."
The Seattle Times wrote "We'll wager this is one book you won't be able to put down!" I can attest to that! I think every anyone would enjoy this book but it is an absolute must read for any pilot.
September 22, 2004
For the past few days the weather has been absolutely beautiful. I was just hoping the weather would stay nice for my flight time tonight. When I left work I knew I was in for a great flight. The winds were light and variable and the skies were clear.
When I arrived at the airport, I noticed the Cessna 152 I had scheduled was booked after my flight so I would be limited to a short flight. So I instead decided to take the Cessna 172 which was free for the remainder of the night and would give me valuable practice time in this aircraft I was not 100% comfortable landing yet.
The airport was hopping, it seemed the nice weather had a tractor beam effect that pulled the pilots away from their other passions to the airport. I decided my time in the 172 would be best spent working on my landings and with Blue Ash being so busy I departed to the north to Lebanon-Warren Country Airport.
As I approached Lebanon-Warren County I noticed a hot air balloon off in the distance. I remembered from my studies that the balloon had right of way over my more maneuverable plane so I steered clear. I lined up my first landing approach and made the best landing I have ever made in the Cessna 172. I followed it up with two more great landings. I believe my previous landing problems in the 172 were caused by having too much speed during final approach. Using a slightly reduced speed I can now touch down softly and smoothly.
I next returned to Blue Ash where the traffic was starting to wind down as it was just me and two other planes. I made a landing there and decided I was having to much fun to call it quits for the night and flew the pattern again. I was sad to make the final landing of the night but was excited to have had such a successful flight.
I think I am finally comfortable with my abilities with the 172 and now feel comfortable bringing passengers along in this plane. Anyone ready, Bueller, Bueller...
September 15, 2004
While in Alaska I came across the work of a talented and humorous artist named Sandy Jamieson. I was originally drawn to a painting of his because it included an airplane. But I was taken by the way he merged aviation, wildlife and an amusing wit to create a wonderful collection of paintings.
At the time I bought just a postcard-size print of one of his painting called Predator Control (right). But I have a feeling I will likely purchase a full size painting in the future. Predator Control portrays two wolves hunting from the skies while flying a Piper Super Cub. Although hunting from an aircraft is illegal in Alaska, Jamieson writes that it still goes on from time to time. He says "I like to imagine there are wolves who dream of taking to the air in their own version of predator control."
I also really enjoy a painting called "Security Checkpoint" which portrays Santa's Sleigh being forced to go through a security check before take-off.
According to his website Sandy Jamieson is a working guide and pilot for most of the year in the wildest parts of Northern Alaska and during the dark winter, he retreats to his log studio to work as an artist and illustrator. He is the pilot of a Cessna 170 floatplane.
I encourage you to visit Sandy Jamieson's website.
Tonight, as I would be flying alone, I decided to take a flight in the Cessna 152 which I had not flown in the past few weeks. I really enjoy this plane. I think it is an ideal aircraft if one is flying alone and not worried about traveling long distances; perfect for a night like tonight.
I took off from Blue Ash with a nice crosswind. I had not flown a take-off or landing in a crosswind in a while so it was nice to get a few take-offs and landings in these conditions under the belt. I then flew to Lebanon-Warren County Airport, a small airport about 15 miles north of my home base. It is a nice airport because they have some pretty land surrounding it, a nice long runway, and very little traffic. I performed two really nice landings there before returning to Blue Ash.
I logged 1.1 hours tonight and enjoyed every minute of it. I had been having troubles with my landings in the 172 as of late. It was nice to see I still had the touch in the 152.
September 13, 2004
In August, shortly after earning my private pilot's license, my wife and I flew to Oxford, Ohio. While flying over their airport we took a photograph of the airport and I subsequently sent it to AirNav.com. AirNav.com is one of the most comprehensive websites for airport information. However they were missing a photo of the Miami University Airport in Oxford.
AirNav.com has recently added my photo to their page dedicated to the Miami Unversity Airport. I encourage all pilots to use AirNav.com and assist in submitting photos for any airports that are missing information.
September 12, 2004
This weekend the Cincinnati Air Show was held at Lunken Airport which is where I began my flight training. I was not able to stay for much of the performances. But I did enjoy viewing the aircraft on display and visiting the exhibits.
Retired General Paul W. Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay, was in attendance and signing copies of his book and photos. The Enola Gay, which was named after Tibbets' mother was the airplane that dropped the atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. I was intrigued by Gen. Tibbets so I visited the The official website of Gen. Paul W. Tibbets after the airshow and am thinking about purchasing his book. Sounds like he has lived an amazing life.
I also visited an exhibit for TIGHAR (The International Group for Historical Aircraft Recovery), a non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting reponsible aviation archeology and historic preservation. They had some interesting photos of recovery efforts of WWII aircraft.
I posted six photos from the Lunken airshow.
September 11, 2004
Thanks to those who wrote and CAPblog for posting some suggestions for transitioning from the Cessna 152 to the Cessna 172. I went back out today to fly the Cessna 172 solo for the first time.
Today I was flying N162HB which is not the 172 I flew in my two previous flights. So, I took a few minutes to familiarize myself with the subtle difference between this 172 and N193JS. After getting comfortable in the cockpit and pre-flighting the airplane, I departed. My goal today was to stay in the pattern and continue to practice my landings.
The other day I was finding the plane to be heavy on landing and requiring more back pressure on the yoke during the flare than I was used to. Today, I felt like the plane wanted to float a bit. My first few landings were not up to my standards. I did a complete stop landing and taxied around. I then took a deep breath and thought about how I could improve my next and final landing for the day. I decided I had been flying the pattern too fast in my first few landings. So, I went back up and flew my best pattern of the day. When I turned final, I was on a perfect glide slope. I slowed the airplane down a bit and came in and made my best landing of the day.
I realize I still need more practice in the 172 but I am starting to feel much more confident in the plane. I spoke with one of the instructors after the flight and mentioned that the two 172s actually have different landing characteristics and that HB tends to want to float during landings while JS tends to want to land. I was glad to hear that the reason I had noticed such difference was not because I was flying inconsistently. I will now know in the future how to handle each of these planes and look forward to flying them again.
September 9, 2004
My trip to Alaska kept me from flying for about two weeks. I returned to the air this evening. I scheduled a flight with my instructor knowing that I would be rusty, and also so I could finally get signed off in the Cessna 172.
I did all of my training for my license in the Cessna 152 and had flown the 172 just once prior to tonight's flight. Some people say there is little difference, I disagree. The 172 has much more power and feels much heavier than the smaller 152. My problem last flight and for the first part of tonight's flight was making good landings. I figured out midway through the lesson that I was flaring to early and the heavy plane was dropping a few feet for a rougher than preferable landing. By the end of the flight, I was making better landings but they still need practice.
Either way my instructor felt I was flying safely and has signed me off in the 172. So I now have two planes I am cleared to fly at Co-Op Aviation. I look forward to getting in some practice time in the 172 soon.
September 8, 2004
Mike a great friend of mine that joined me on the Alaskan Adventure has posted a recap of the trip on his blog. Check it out he maintains an interesting blog.
As I mentioned in a previous post I have just returned from an awesome vacation to Alaska. I have included some of my photos in this post & also created a photo page that has scenery and wildlife shots.
My wife and I flew to Alaska on Saturday, August 28. We selected optimal seats on the Northwest 757 using SeatGuru.com. Much of the view was obstructed by clouds but as we neared the Alaskan Border we saw the peaks of St. Elias Mountains (see photo) which contain the highest peaks in Canada. Seeing this got me excited for the adventure ahead.
When we arrived, our friend Nikki met us at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport then drove us to her house in the suburbs. On our way there, I was stunned by the number of float planes I saw flying in the area. It was obvious that Alaska was a general aviation friendly state. I snapped a photo (right) of some float planes docked at Lake Hood Seaplane Base, not far from Anchorage International.
We were travelling with a few other friends so our host dropped us off to make a return trip to the airport for the next arrivals. Meanwhile our friend Tom, Nikki's husband, took us on a search for moose. Tom is a C-130 pilot based at Elmendorf Air Force Base. I enjoyed seeing the variety of planes sitting on the tarmac including C-130s, F-15s and a few transient C-5's, which are the Air Force's largest plane. Our quest was succesfull when we found a female moose on the side of the road.
After all our friends arrived we packed an RV (see photo) and departed for Denali National Park the next morning. The drive takes almost five hours but was enjoyable due to the scenery. The fall colors were beautiful. Though many mountain peaks were obscured by a layer of smoke, the result of Alaska's largest forest fire in recorded history. It is estimated that an area the size of Massachusetts has been burned thus far.
Denali is a neat park that there is only one access road. Most people can only ride this road on a National Park Tour Bus. But they do allow those who are camping within the park to also drive down this road. We took this road as far as our campsite - Teklanika. We stayed at Teklanika for two days while enjoying its beautiful scenery (See photos) and wildlife (see photos) from the bus and our hikes.
As we were driving out of the park on Tuesday we saw a moose and pulled over to take some pictures. He decided to cross the road right in front of me and I captured the picture to the right. Seeing the bears, moose and caribou of Denali have generated fantastic memories I will never forget.
Whittier - Sea Kayaking
After that adventure we drove south to a tiny town called Whittier. To get to Whittier you have to got through a two mile tunnel that is one way. They have toll gates that change traffic directions every half hour. When you make it through the tunnel you see a small fishing village in which 150 or so of the locals live in one apartment building. I have never seen anything like it. From there we loaded our sea kayaks, rented from Alaskan Sea Kayakers, onto a water taxi and took a 40 minute boat ride to a secluded island in Prince William Sound. We were dropped of there and told we would be picked up the next day. We quickly set up camp then launched our kayaks. We were surrounded by magnificent glaciers on all sides. Many of which were calving and making spectacular thunderous roars in the process.
The best part of kayaking was interacting with harbor seals and sea otters. They were both very curious and would swim up to the kayaks then swim under and pop-up on the other side. The photo to the right was taken by my friend Tom who organized this trip. He is a great photographer as this photo demonstrates. You can view his work at Rock36Photography.com, I hope you like the site - I built it.
The camping on Williard Island was fun although wet and cold due to a day of light then heavy rain. But, I enjoyed camping miles from people or cities. It was an amazing experience and I look forward to kayaking again.
Seward - Whale Watching
On Friday we visited Seward a port town on the Kenai Peninsula. From there we took a successful whale watching tour. Just an hour into the trip we stopped the boat in a sound that had a humpback whale. Within a few minutes there were four of them in view from the deck of the boat. They were amazing creatures. That would have been enough to quench my whale watching thirst but we were lucky enough to come across a pod of killer whales during the return trip. They swam right for the boat and a few went right under the boat. They were playing with each other as a few kept swimming over the top of one another. I had no idea how cool it would be to see these animals.
Flying in Alaska
On Friday afternoon my wife and I drove by Merrill Field, the busiest general aviation airport in Alaska. There are just under 1,000 aircraft based there. This is amazing especially since less than a mile away is Lake Hood Seaplane Base which has over 700 aircraft based there and Lake Hood Strip Airport with almost 250 land based planes. It is an amazing number of general aviation aircraft but after spending a week in the state it is obvious that aircraft are a primary mode of transportation for some and a secondary mode for many.
A trip to Alaska would not be complete without a flight seeing tour. So my wife and I drove to Talkeetna, which is the town Northern Exposure was based on. The tour was through Talkeetna Air Taxi flying out of the Talkeetna Airport. We flew in a De Havilland Beaver which had ski's and wheels for landing. I heard the Beaver referred to as the workhorse of Alaska aviation several times and I can understand why. It was a great plane. I mentioned to the pilot that I was a new pilot and he invited me to sit in the co-pilot seat which was a thrill. Our flight took us north into the mountains surrounding Denali (Mt. McKinley) which continued to be elusive. This day, it was obscured by clouds. So we flew through the Ruth Gorge which is the deepest in the world including a 4,000 foot thick river of ice. Next, we entered the Don Sheldon Amphitheater which is an area surrounded by enormous mountains on each side but along the floor is a small cabin that was build by Don Sheldon. Mr. Sheldon was a famous bush pilot, and according to legend, flew in all the materials needed to build this secluded shelter.
Next we made a glacier landing in these mountains. In order to land on a mountain side glacier the plane lands uphill. That way the plane can turn around and depart by sliding down the glacier. The landing is smooth which I guess you can expect since there was a few inches of snow on top of the ice. We got out and took in the spectacular view. We even yelled once or twice to hear the echos that called back from each direction. Then we got the engine started, to everyone's relief, and started the slide down the mountain. Sure enough the Beaver powered off the glacier and we were back in the air at about 7,000 feet just after take-off. On our return to Talkeetna we flew through some tight gaps in the the mountain range (right). During the flight back we flew over a few moose that were oblivious to our existence. The landing was smooth and the ride was memorable. I would recommend Talkeetna Air Taxi to anyone looking for a great flightseeing trip in Alaska.
Sadly, this was the last real adventure in Alaska. From there we returned to Anchorage to prepare for our return trip to Ohio. No post I could write, story I can tell, or photo I share can ever fairly explain the beauty, uniqueness, or wonder of Alaska justly. But, it sure is fun thinking about it and trying my best to share the journey!
View some of my photos from Alaska.