Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Alaska to Jackson Hole (by Jack)

After almost a month of flying outside the US, today’s (July 12) flight allows us to return to more familiar domestic flying.  While the plane does not care what country it is flying in, for the pilots it is nice to be back to familiar procedures and easy to understand air traffic controllers.

The flight for the day was from Unalaska, Alaska to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with a fuel stop in Ketchikan, Alaska.  It was nice to not have any customs or immigration worries for a change.  It is the first flight in nearly a month that we did not have the assistance of "handlers” at either the departure or arrival airports.

The route from Unalaska/Dutch Harbor to Ketchikan…




Winds were calm when we departed Dutch Harbor and the visibility and ceiling were well above the minimums. We departed runway 31 (heading northeast) and were climbing-out on course within just a couple of minutes.

This is the view down runway 31 with typical weather....





Like the prior flight, once reaching cruising altitude (27,000 feet), it was almost a solid undercast the whole way to Ketchikan which was disappointing.  Our route had us flying along the Aleutian archipelago to Kodiak before cutting across the Gulf of Alaska to Ketchikan.  The scenery along the Aleutians would have been spectacular, but this was all we saw…





The cruise portion of the flight to Ketchikan was smooth and in clear skies.  Like Dutch Harbor, the weather in Ketchikan was cloudy, but well above the minimums we needed to land.

About to land on runway 11 at Ketchikan...





Despite the low clouds, the airport area was a bee-hive of activity with dozens of floatplanes operating visually under the cloud deck. The number of airplanes (nearly all floatplanes) around the airport as shown on the traffic display below was dense…



Steady stream of floatplanes overhead the airport…



I suppose the three huge cruise ships in the harbor provide plenty of business for scenic flights...



The air traffic control folks at Ketchikan had a well-established flow pattern for the floatplanes to separate them from the traffic arriving and departing from the runway. We never felt uncomfortably close to the other traffic despite the density.

The parking ramp at Ketchikan is unusual in that it is about 50 feet lower than the runway.  Thus, the taxiways have considerable slope.  We used lots of braking taxiing in from the runway and a fair amount of power to taxi “up” to the runway for departure.

It was wet and cool in Ketchikan, but it was nice to have access to a real US style general aviation facility for a change. On the ramp at Ketchikan...


After a quick and efficient refueling and quick break, we blasted-off for Jackson Hole.  It was an uneventful flight with smooth air and clear skies after the climb-out from Ketchikan. I was a little sad because I knew this was, for practical purposes, the last leg of this big adventure.

This was the final route…



It was clear skies and smooth air in cruise all the way to Jackson Hole.

While Josh and Jerry manned the flight deck, I got about 45 minutes of power napping done...



After crossing a bit of Canadian airspace, we crossed into US airspace. The weather for our arrival into Jackson Hole was forecast to almost perfect.

We had seen a lot of spectacular scenery on this voyage, but the views approaching Jackson Hole never fails to awe...



We were cleared for a visual approach about 30 miles out which allowed us to maneuver for a gentle approach with great views for the "first class" seats on the right side of the airplane.

Jackson Hole is our second home base (behind Austin, TX) and the final approach to this runway is familiar. But, it still takes my breath away…I have to really be careful to not get distracted from critical flying tasks...



Final approach to runway 19 (southerly) at Jackson Hole…



The RTW crew (sans Giuseppe and his wonderful bride) on the ground at Jackson Hole...


Our bird seems to like Jackson Hole...I think it reminds her of her birthplace in the mountains of Switzerland...



The Boss and her first mate celebrating at the house we are renting in Jackson for a few weeks....


While I kid a lot about my spouse, none of this trip would have happened without her constant support. There are times in a relationship when you really know how deep the love extends...this trip was one of them.

This is the end of the trip for most of the crew, but Josh and I will continue on to Austin tomorrow (July 13) to officially complete the 360 degree circle.