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Leg 26: Unalakleet (PAUN) - Anchorage (PANC)

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A seventeen-year-old walks out of Sleep Inn in Unalakleet, AL, clutching a large and firmly padlocked briefcase. I've been out here for a month now, perfecting landings and picking my route, and now with the sacred baton in my hands I feel nervous for the first time.

There's not many options of aircraft that I can fly, but the DC3 I've been practising in is free, so I'm taking dog sled parts from Unalakleet to a little town down the Yukon River.

Graylings (KGX) is a piddly airport serving 196 people, but it features as an important checkpoint on the Itidarod Dog Sled Race, and one of the competitor's sleds has fallen down a crevasse. I must replace his with a faster, sleeker-looking one.

Unalakleet has a lovely long runway, so I'm taking maximum fuel in case I'm stuck in a holding pattern, but for now at least the dawn is precipitation-free.




Take off!


Gears up.


A cluster of wind-turbines in my 1 o'clock, but I'm turning hard round to the east, hopefully avoiding them!


A glimmer of sun, creeping over the horizon.


Saying goodbye to my home for the last month.


I reach FL100, all going well.


Stretching out ahead is the Yukon River, a mighty torrent of water that gives the region its name. I'm planning to follow this and descend soon, since Grayling is along here somewhere.


Some vicious-looking cliffs!


I now come back on dry land over the cliffs, readying myself for the twenty-degree turn to the left onto the runway.




In my practices I've found that if I don't bounce the aircraft, that is, do a perfect three-point landing, then I'll stop in time. I'm going slow enough, max flaps, so I feel confident enough that I'll survive this touchdown!


An application of brakes, and I stop (slightly wonky) in time. Phew!



I carry the dog sled out the rear, and a large Dodge Ram with snowchains approaches. Hopping on the back, we tow the sled to the checkpoint. While I'm gone from the aircraft, a pilot waiting patiently for me to arrive will start the DC3 up and take her back to Unalakleet to ferry the crab-fishers around. Sharon is due to arrive in my next aircraft, the lovely Hawker-Siddeley HS748. Hopefully she didn't get lost - it has no GPS.

Take-off from this 2300ft runway is tight, but manageable. I rocket up quickly to avoid trees and cliffs, before leveling out, picking up speed, and ascending to the east. FL140 is my target - that should keep me above any weather that decides to turn up. I'm not just carrying Sharon though - onboard I have three miners on their way to Nixon Fort Mine (AK40). This mine straddles a 2000km-long band of high-quality gold, and by the end of 2014 this place will be producing 50,000oz of gold, per year! The 4000ft runway is normally used by Hercules planes, but today Sharon is going to fly the HS748 out once we've landed, minus me and the miners, and plus a lot of gold. If she doesn't appear for a month or two, she's probably nicked the lot and gone to the Bahamas (I wouldn't blame her, it's freezing here!).






A desolate wilderness, and not just the moon I'm talking about here.


Now the sun's up, and she's quite bright.


Hope these clouds don't give me trouble.


Just my luck, it's pelting down with snow, and the throttle response is waning.


The landing's fine though, although in her excitement Sharon forgot to take any pictures of the actual grounding of the plane.



Now, about a month ago, a DeHavilland Vampire, no less, got a little 'lost' on the way to Elmendorf-Richardson airbase (PAED) just outside Anchorage, which hosts Arctic Thunder, the rip-roaring airshow of the north, every year. I'm at the wrong time of year for buzzing the crowds, but I'll see what I can do. Anyway, this Vampire ran out of fuel, and eventually touched down here. The landing was shoddy and a tire burst on the gravel. I've got a repair kit and the orders to get it back to PAED, which I am most happy to oblige!

The Vampire was a British invention, the first jet-aircraft in service. It was a direct contemporary of the Meteor and the German rocket planes, but alas it came a few years too late for WWII. It served until the mid-50's very faithfully, and it is a pleasure to fly, so I'm told.

Wheels up, and a hard turn.



I'm now above the sleet and clouds, and heading for Denali, or Mt. McKinley. I thought - how often do you get to overfly an FSX Mission, and North America's largest mountain? The North Peak is just over FL200, but the Vampire can handle that easily. I'm hoping to follow a glacier down, then take Highway 3 to Anchorage.




Having fun upside down as usual!


Trying to recreate some of my own Arctic thunder, steaming past Anchorage's docked whaling ships and the runways of PAED. I fly up and over in a parabolic curve, mock-strafing an E3-D on my way past. In the tight turn ensuing, I drop my gear and settle nicely onto the runway.










For the final hop across the city, I've chosen the Sea King supplied by Microsoft and the US Navy.


Once the engines are started I takeoff.





Buzzing the cruiseships around here.


Floating down onto the aprons around Stevens Anchorage (PANC), finishing aptly next to a Polar Air Cargo jumbo. I can say one thing - it is blummin' freezing here!




I hope you've had a fun time reading about my journey, it's been a pleasure to do this, and I hope it's the first of many. Any constructive feedback warmly welcomed, and I apologise about the number of pictures :P

- George.

PS, the baton's attached to the left-hand engine of the Polar Air jumbo - they leave for Frankfurt on Friday, so pick it up before then!

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Great story and pictures. The shots in the 'Vampire' were so immersive, I started to get dizzy looking at them. :wacko2:

What AI add-on are you using?



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All was freeware - it'll take a bit of time to find the exact link, but the planes came from fs-freeware.com, and the scenery for Unalakleet was from here: http://www.freewarescenery.com/fsx.html, and click on Alaska. The Vampire and HS748 are probably the best freeware planes I've come across.

Thanks for the comments!

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Welcome to the ATWC George! That was a truly entertaining read with some nice pictures to boot!

Great that you got to fly all those different planes in one multi-legged sortie. From jet to helicopter - I applaud your skill. :clapping:

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Great PIREP George, a job well done on your first ATWC flight :thum:

Great shots, entertaining story and a great selection of aircrafts.. what more can we ask for....

Looking forward to seeing more from you later on!

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I was thinking that myself, Joe - it took three hours to upload all that onto Photobucket!

Thanks for the kind words, I look forward to my next one... hopefully somewhere warmer!

@Andrew - sorry, just re-read your reply - it's Traffic X by Justflight. It's very good although some of the planes are of lower quality than default MS ones. Plus, the parking is atrocious! Found three jumbos with intersecting wings :P

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Hi all the site you're talking about is www.fs-freeware.net not com as com is a different site that's just some rubbish sending you all over the net for fun! Ps ATW is awesome I love reading these stories keep it up guys

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