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Andrew Godden

Leg 25: Bethel (PABE) to Unalakleet (PAUN)

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There are two things about Alaska, firstly the weather, and secondly, air travel isn't easy or simple. With so many small communities to service, getting from point A to point B can often be via a rather long and circuitous route. Such is the case for the flight, or I should say flights from Bethel to Unalakleet. A mere 189 nm, "as the crow flies", but a journey which will take in four additional airports, some 925 nm, and three scheduled services on Era Alaska's route network.

Having had a few days off in Bethel, and then some, because the weather closed in, the schedulers at Era Alaska operations were adding as many extra services as they could to clear the backlog. Jim Tweto had flown his trusty Cessna 185 'Skywagon' to Aniak with Ariel and then sent her down to pick me up and to run a supplementary Flt 3415 service back to Aniak, with a stop at Kalskag on the way. Ariel (now a qualified ATP and Second Officer with Era Alaska) and I were then rostered to crew Flt 862, a Dash 8 service, from Aniak to Anchorage and then the Flt 818 service up to Unalakleet – finally. Unfortunately for us, Flt 862 goes via St Mary's and adds an additional 216 nm and 1 hr 20 min to the flying time (notwithstanding the ground time at St Mary's). Oh well, Ariel will be operating as the PIC in the Dash 8, so hopefully I can relax a little.

After a night of warming ourselves by the fire with a few drinks (and boy, can that girl throw them down), we are greeted with relatively good weather. Forecast is: winds – 185 at 9; visibility – 50; sky conditions – ceiling 3,000 scattered; temperature – 17; dewpoint – 17; altimeter – 30.12. For the flight, we have one pax and some cargo for Kalskag, and a pax at Kalskag for Aniak. The 185 is at MTOW and with pre-flight checks complete, Bethel Ground provide IFR clearance and then clear us to taxi to and hold at RWY 18. After a short hold for inbound traffic, Bethel Tower finally provide take-off clearance.

The Cessna 185 is a real piece of aviation pedigree.

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Cleared to taxi to and hold at RWY 18.

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If this weather holds, at least until Aniak, I'll be happy.

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Yes.....spoke too soon. Now to find Kalskag in this muck.

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As luck would have it, it cleared as we descended and after a quick stop, we were soon lining up on the approach at Aniak and finally parked.

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Running behind schedule due to some unexpected winds en route, Ariel and I make haste to pre-flight the Dash 8 for the Flt 862 service and not before long, we are cleared to taxi. With a change in the wind direction in the short time on the ground, we are cleared for RWY 28 which gives us a straight out departure. Again, we are delayed by inbound traffic and are number three for departure.

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Backtracking for RWY 28 and a straight out departure, we are quickly climbing to our cruise altitude of 10,000 ft and are clear of the cloud - well, at least for now.

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But as we begin the descent into St Mary's, the weather starts to close in again. Oh, how fickle this Alaskan weather can be!!!

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After some minor handling issues out of Aniak, Ariel has really settled into the Dash 8 and is making life for me very easy. As we depart for Anchorage, I know that home is now not too far away.

"V2"....."rotate"....."positive rate"....."gear up".

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Cleared ILS 06L and on the glideslope into Anchorage.....hell, this girl is looking good.

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Landing roll out, taxiing, parked and disembarking and unloading. It won't be long before we are finally on the last leg of what has been a big day.....maybe it is the big night last night that I am getting confused with.

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Again, how quickly the weather has changed and closed in. With a lot of luck though, we should get out of here. Pushback and cleared to taxi to and hold at RWY 06L.

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What a picture! At least we have climbed out of it and are hopefully leaving it behind.

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And when all is said and done.....how could you not love Alaska. Perfect one day, indifferent the next, but beautiful all the time.

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On descent into home, sweet home, but a dark foreboding is brewing in the skies.

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But with the runway in sight and Ariel acing it all the way in, I will finally sleep well tonight.

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A final short taxi to parking, engines shut down and just about ready to disembark the passengers.

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"This is you Captain speaking, welcome to Unalakleet and on behalf your Pilot In Command today, Ariel Tweto, thank you for flying with us and we look forward to having you fly with Era Alaska again soon."

Damn, now where did I put that baton!!!!!

Cheers
Andrew

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Bravo Captain!

These Alaskan fights have certainly proved to be a challenge.

I think the baton is in your pocket! That, or you had a very good flight ...

Super PIREP Andrew, a joy to read :D

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If I'd have deadlegged with you, I could've got off at Anchorage! Still, I've hopefully got a cracking flight ahead of me. I'll meet you at the Sleep Inn's restaurant on Tuesday morning, Andrew, if you can hang around a few days?

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Lovely flight and an entertaining story Andrew.

Some really stunning shots in there, especially those from the last leg...

If only we could do something about the weather Alaska might be a nice spot to live in ;)

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Nice adventure flying some ERA flights with Ariel. I just hope Sharon won't be too jealous when she hears about it!

You have taken some good shots along the way to. I bet you keep the ones of Ariel at the controls for yourself sexy-woman-waving-bye-smiley-emoticon.gif

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Nice adventure flying some ERA flights with Ariel. I just hope Sharon won't be too jealous when she hears about it!

You have taken some good shots along the way to. I bet you keep the ones of Ariel at the controls for yourself sexy-woman-waving-bye-smiley-emoticon.gif

Ah, yes Kasper, "What happens on tour, stays on tour.". :whis:

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