October 6, 2004
According to AVWeb.com, interstate travelers in Alaska are going to be seeing a cool new method of travel. Pacific Seaflight has announced plans to offer passenger service between Southeastern Alaskan cities including Juneau, Skagway, and Haines on board a Wing in Ground effect vehicle (WIG). They are in the process of building their own such craft, expected to be similar to the FS8 (right) built by Singapore-based Flightship.
The WIG craft is designed to fly only within ground effect, cruising on a self made cushion of air above the water at a height equivalent to about 50% of its wingspan. The Pacific Sea Flight site has some great information about WIG technology.
It is expected that the craft will be able to bypass FAA requlations and instead only need to meet less stringent laws for marine vessels similar to the hovercraft.
Pilot Getaways Magazine quoted Pacific Seaflight President Linus Romey as saying, "The idea is to produce a vessel that will result in a ticket price some 30 percent less than a comparable airplace ticket."
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 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.
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 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.
September 7, 2004
Sorry for the lack of posts in the past two weeks. I went to Alaska for what was probably the best vacation I have ever experienced. I had a great time visiting Denali, kayaking in Prince William Sound and interacting with wildlife. Additionally, I had the opportunity to take a flightseeing trip, visited Merrill Field, the busiest general aviation airport in Alaska, located in Anchorage. I also got to check out more float plane airports than I had ever seen before.
I plan to write more about each of the experiences this week. For now I am off to get a good night's sleep. I have my first flight in over two weeks scheduled for tomorrow. My instructor and I are going to fly the Cessna 172 to get me signed off for that plane.
August 26, 2004
I am about a week from being completing my first month of being a Private Pilot. I did not expect to be concerned with how long it has been since I earned my license. Today, I came across an article on AOPA.com that made me think about it: FAA experiences delay in issuing airman certificates.
I earned my license on August 1, 2004. I was then handed my Temporary Airman Certificate which is valid through September 30, 2004. According the article, "The FAA is experiencing a delay in issuing airman certificates, and in some cases, it is taking the full 120 days for pilots to receive their permanent certificate." It explains that you can contact the FAA Airman Certification Branch at 866-878-2498 in order to check on the status of a license. If it is, in fact, late in being processed, new pilots can file for an extension through the local flight standards district office (FSDO) at no extra charge.
I will let you know when my license arrives.
August 22, 2004
This weekend I came across some of the most amazing aerial photography I have ever seen. It is all from a visionary photographer named Yann Arthus-Bertrand who has compiled his aerial photographs into a book and a collection called Earth from the Air. Yann spent 10 years taking photographs over more than 75 countries and consuming more than 3,000 hours in a helicopter.
His overall collection has more than 100,000 photographs. Many of which can be seen his book Earth from the Air or at his current exhibit in Birmingham City, England. Additionally, you can explore his photos on his website: www.yannarthusbertrand.com. The photo to the right is from his collection that can be found on his website. It is titled "Agricultural Landscape Near Cognac - Charente, France"
Yann's work can be found on a few other sites of interest. The first is the website for Altitude Agency, founded by Yann in 1990. His agency specializes in aerial photography from around the world.
Lastly you can visit www.yannarthusbertrand2.org to view not only aerial photographs but also photos of horse, cattle and, my favorite, French people.
August 18, 2004
I went flying for the first time in over a week tonight. Actually, I have flown four times in the past week but all commercally. I still love to fly commercially but, am learning that to really enjoy flying, you need to be in a smaller plane. Tonight I flew around Cincinnati with the windows open enjoying the breeze and the beautiful view from above.
I am currently reading A Gift of Wings by Richard Bach, which was a gift from my wife. It was this book that inspired me to open the windows and enjoy flying with the wind in my hair. His book of short stories include tales of his days barnstorming across America in an open cockpit of his bi-plane, adventures in his Piper Cub, and a few stories from his military days. He often writes that the point of flying is to live. He writes when he is flying, "I am living".
While at a wedding this weekend, I shared some of my tales of learning to fly. I was often asked the question why I wanted to fly. Was it to save money? To get somewhere? Why? The more I have thought about it the reason I learned to fly is not all that different than most pilots or Richard Bach's. I do it to live. To enjoy the most of life. Flying is a new and great challenge that I enjoy immensly. I am sure it will take me to places I would not have gone and it may even allow me to travel more efficiently at times but in the end it will be for pure satisfaction of flying.