Leg 7

Dawson City  ->  Palmer Alaska

Setting Foot in Alaska


Joan and Ueli are ready for Alaska 

The day to leave Canada had arrived. Morning fog slowed our departure. It was clear that we would get as far as the Port of Entry, Northway (PAOR). But how would it be across the mountains in the Anchorage area? The original plan to fly to Fairbanks had to be scratched. There was too much smoke from the many forest and bog fires in the Fairbanks area. Some of the fires were so remote that it was not possible to fight them. The winter storms with snow and colder weather would take care of that. 

The Yukon River has become largerOne aircraft of our group decided to check the weather from the inside and took IFR direct to Anchorage. Preparing for take off, another of the aircraft was faced with an electrical problem. Luckily in our group there was an aircraft mechanic who was able to give some assistance. By this time in the journey we had learned each others pace of flying and formed loose groups to help each other get through difficult passages. This taught the two of us to enjoy the slow flying capabilities of our N85S. Where we would normally fly with speed of 160 kts and burning around 16 -17 gal/hour, now we throttled back to 120 - 130 kts using only about 11 gal/hour. Even filling only the main wing tanks we could look for the longest time at a six hour endurance on the fuel totalizer, amazing! 

Airport of Northway AlaskaAgain, following the Yukon River in a southerly direction towards Beaver Creek the fog disappeared fast and allowed to take short cuts across the hills that force the river to twist. An hour later one aircraft after the other could be seen at the fuel pump in Northway and a friendly team of US customs officers checked papers while a narcotics dog sniffed for drugs. As we had been warned, the officers wanted to make sure that prescription drugs or vitamins, etc. were in their original package and not in one of those dispensing, portioning boxes. The little restaurant at Northway got high marks for the friendly service and especially, the quality of the hamburgers and fries. 


Northway, however, is not a place to stay over night. Welcome sign at NorthwayA road stop on the Alaska Highway Some aircraft take a little longerand a nice airstrip is all there is. Getting the weather update for our leg to Palmer (east of Anchorage) encouraged us to move on. First the Alaska Range had to be crossed to Gulkana and then the Tahneta Pass with the prominent Sheep Mountain marking the entry gate to the valley leading to Anchorage.


First large glacier (Tazlina G.) appearing at the horizon Matanuska GlacierWow! First from the distance then closer and closer were countless glaciers. Passing the Matanuska Glacier we could nor resist flying a few holding patterns over the northern end while the top end of the frozen stream of ice disappeared in the far distance. Bands of gravel divided the glacier into ribbons. 

Lake on the cracked surface of Matanuska Glacier .. a piece of art    

The top snow cover having melted under the summer sun revealed a hostile surface of cracks. Some depressions collected the melting water standing out with it's opal color. 

 Approach across Palmer to the airport

Descending into Palmer (PAAQ) everybody was excited to see the natural wonders of Alaska that we had a glimpse of on the way in. True to the unwritten program, the forecast -RA (light rain) commenced soon after our landing. The FBO gave us excellent assistance. We could even use the "Courtesy Car" which took all of us (less the one with an electrical problem stuck in Northway), struggling and grinding at a slow pace to the motel in town. 



Flying in Alaska poses not only weather problems, but a much graver difficulty. Courtesy Car at Palmer The non flying bureaucrats of the government had decided some time ago that flying was too easy. Each airport has a designator, a sequence of letters to make reporting easy. In older times only three letters were used for the larger airports. Then came the globalization and the territory of Alaska got a prefix. Of course a simple system would not stand, it had to be complex. So ANC turned into PANC (Anchorage). Got the idea? Then what about PAQ that became PAAQ (Palmer), got the twist? Then Northway - ORT, turned into PAOR !! Well, where is the problem? You look it up, OK! But then, try to punch it into your GPS while en route. Only too often it does not work as the software is using all sorts of variations for the same system. Since occasionally there are not too many airports around, pressing NEAREST helps to bring up the airport, but not always. Well, the FAA forgot to request upon entry into that part of the world that the GPS has to be Alaska certified! Good Luck. 


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This page was serviced last on  12. July 2008