10/22/2008

And so it begins

Today I arrived in Bethel, Alaska. Normally that would be enough information for you to know how my day is going. And you would be right.

But first, the story of how I got here...

It started yesterday evening on Alaska Airlines flight 67 from Juneau to Anchorage, a boring enough flight, and especially so since this was to be done under cover of darkness.
However, what transpired was a rare treat, it was in fact, a rather pleasant airliner ride. To start, the cabin crew were exceptionally friendly, probably given they were all on their way home to Anchorage for the last flight of the day... And the flight crew actually took pride in their work, something that all too often seems lacking these days. I knew these guys were different than the norm when we taxied into position and hold on Juneau's runway 8, the Captain actually turned towards the END as in the very end of the runway before lining up on the center line rather than just pulling out. That gave us at least another 50 feet of usable runway, not that we needed it or anything, but it was nice to see I was not the only one taught to use ALL available runway. I used to do the same thing when I flew the Brasilia and my FO would always give me that look. You know the one, "I think your insane, this is not your bush-plane toy and we don't do things like that here, but if it so amuses you to indulge in this act of mischief then so be it, you're the Captain, but I still think your strange..." kind of look. Anyway, the takeoff was what we call the "Lemon Crick" (that's creek for you normal people) Departure, it involves a relatively steep climbing right 180 off of runway 8 to avoid rising terrain up to 4000 feet within a couple miles of the airport. Did I mention this was at night, and it was overcast and raining? Of course one could not see the mass of granite just beyond the airport, hiding in the darkness like an evil trap set for the unwary aviator, waiting to snare anyone who dare trespass into their domain. all was uneventful the rest of the flight, despite 130kt winds aloft blowing over the Fairweather Mountains beneath us. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you that our crew thoughtfully gave us passengers in the back a friendly and honest heads-up on both the unusual departure (dictated by the winds) and on the potential turbulence aloft. All was smooth, though, as we sailed through the night at FL360, a mere twinkling aberration in the darkness, the muffled, hollow drone of our engines the only hint of our presence to anyone unfortunate enough to be somewhere in that seemingly bottomless night. The Passengers were unusually pleasant as well, with no screaming kids, no noise really at all... The elderly lady sitting across from me even shared some of her snacks with me. I tell you, those crackers with almond butter and strawberry jam really hit the spot... Finally I dozed off a bit, only to awake just as we were crossing the threshold of runway 7R in Anchorage, and again I was impressed with the crews willingness to FLY the plane and not just drive it. I heard the engines spool up ever so slightly as he held it off the runway, finally rolling it on in what I believe was the smoothest landing I have ever been treated to in an airliner. It was "Cessna 207-with-an-aft-CG-landing-in-an-inch-of-powder-snow-on-top-of-smooth-gravel-with-no-wind" smooth... Amazing. As it turns out an old friend of mine that I used to instruct was also on board and he kindly gave me a ride to my hotel, where after wandering around trying to find dinner at 11:00pm I finally went to sleep.

This morning I awoke early to catch a company flight to Bethel, but being a non-rev I was bumped. Needing to get to work today I finally ended up getting a ticket (thanks Mom!) on a competing airline who was the only one to have a seat open the rest of the day.

What followed was not as enjoyable as yesterday.

First, it was on a Beech 1900, with the only space for a carry-on bag being where my feet belong. This after having to stuff my laptop bag into one of my checked bags to combine them in an effort to avoid a $75 fee for excess baggage. Don't get me wrong, normally I love smaller planes, the smaller the better, and from a Brasilia Captains point of view, a Beech 1900 has a little bit of a toy airplane feel to it. None the less, this flight sucked. First, it was cold. Really cold. PT-6's have bleed air you know guys, turn it on please... And I don't mind at all if you want to hand-fly the whole way, but at least learn to fly first, okay? And just when I thought there was hope for airline pilots these days too... Oh well.

And now I am here, I am tired now and will tell of what followed later in the day, but it was nothing particularly interesting, just a ride to a village north of here and some book work...

I'll post more later...

4 comments:

Cherokee Dad said...

I'm glad you arrived safely in Bethel and all is well. I thoroughly enjoyed your story of your experiences on the way there. I think you should consider writing a book of your experiences. Of the many talents you have been blessed with, writing is one you have definately excelled in. Keep up the great work and I look forward to reading more from you.

Vgerdeb said...

I love the way you told the story - you should do more writing! A talent both you and your sister got from.....? Don't fault me for stupidity, but what is FL360? And you're welcome! :)

GeronimoDriver said...

Flight Level 360. 36,000 feet on altimeter at 29.92in Hg

lonestar818 said...

Sounds like quite a trip, I'm glad you made it there safely. :)