jeudi 8 juin 2017

Going from Adventurers to Tour Guides!

Our stop in Anchorage also meant to visit around a little bit. Sure our plans got screwed and we were already back at the FBO the next morning, having had only very few moment to place a call with my tender love. Marie, if you read me, please forgive me. I know, out of sight and lost in the Pacific Ocean for 3 days and the only call we did was in the hotel lobby, full of people around. Though life!

The good thing about meeting civilization again is that we also were able to get a couple passengers with us! First of all we met Greg again who was joining us from Europe in order to make his  video shootings and also Céline, Francisco's girlfriend. Alex, an aviation passionate, enthusiast and sim fan who also helps for the DC-3 operation joined us. Our star du jour is nevertheless Peter H. Peter being tied to aviation for ever, having climbed up the ladder to his actual position as CEO of TAAG Angola! He is the one who started it all at Emirates. A truly great Gentleman who knows so much about the aviation World and who can manage an airline. Wow! 
So there we are, standing again at PANC in the early morning hours  glued to our iPhones and iPads checking weather and routing possibilities for our flight to Juneau (PAJN). 
Juneau is the capital city of Alaska since 1906, located in the Gastineau Channel at the bottom of the Mendenhall Glacier which is, by the way and by every mean very sad, retreating. To get there you have very few options. The first is by boat and the second, well, by air! No roads link this state Capital to any road system, and this makes it for a very particular city.
The airport of Juneau is also a particular one, ask every Alaskan pilot and they will tell you how many hours they've spent waiting in the lounge for better weather, both to get in and out of this place! The approach itself is a crooked one that lingers through fjords and meander up to the Decision Point where you either go around or continue your descent to land. Look at this approach chart and for those of you who can read IFR charts you'll get the idea. It is also pretty self explanatory for the others who have no aviation clue, but what would you read this blog then? Haha!

So this is for the runway 08 approach that passes over a hill on finals. The other side is a circling approach that is flown by visual means all the way and Paul Bazeley who was the PF for this leg did a beautiful job. More of this later as now you probably want to see all these incredibles pictures from our PANC-PAJN flight. 
We departed Anchorage towards Homer and Port Graham at the very end of the Cook Inlet, exactly the routing we flew the day before. Some low clouds were floating below us and from Port Graham we even had some rain showers on the way. To avoid most of them we made our way closer towards the coast and its gigantic glaciers! There are some amazing pictures.

Homer airport near Port Graham

Getting closer to the glaciers

These Glaciers come down to the sea

As we were flying towards the south, we could feel the heat getting up inside the aircraft, also our performances were clearly less than before. As pictures speak better than words, here are a few more.

Only a few houses along the way, with a grass runway!

Not getting low on ice today

paul being really concentrated

Finally flying higher ;-)

Floating ice on a huge wash out bassin from nearby glaciers

Trying to get up
Once approaching Juneau, Paul made his briefing for the arrival. We carefully checked the weather for the Gastineau Inlet once still on the ground in Anchorage so it should be fine for the whole day. Surely it was. Look at this 

Glacier Bay National Park, north of Juneau

Entering Gastineau Channel

Once we landed I felt what the real Alaskan Aviation was like. Planes on floats! At Juneau, there isn't only one runway, the water runway is adjacent to the main concrete runway however they purposely dig a channel like water runway! How cool is this? 

This totally reminded me of Eric Auxier's famous novel, "The Last Bush Pilots". Eric is an American Airline Captain who is a famous blog writer and who published many books also. You probably have heard or even read the books "There I Wuz" (many many volumes!)  and I'll keep a surprise for the future blog stories because, oh, well, I shut up otherwise you'll know everything! If you want to check Eric's blog, please follow this link Cap'n Aux and you'll find many interesting stories and articles about Aviation. A must for every serious pilot out there!
A big part of Eric experience was made just about here in Juneau and in the whole area as he was himself a Bush Pilot for many years, gaining valuable experience in these places that have weather that changes every 5 minutes! You could be going on a clear day out 50 miles and be not able to come back as when the wind changes, the cold air from nearby glaciers can make the air condensate rapidly and fog then reduces the visibility drastically. You deserve to be a real cheechacko!
As we were anyway facing a cold front overnight, it was time for a good rest before heading downtown Juneau for a well deserved dinner! And where did we go? To the Red Dog Saloon of course!! If you ever read the book "The Last Bush Pilots" you'll know why we went there!

The interior is fitted with what seems like bush style pole and tables, there is even a fake man (is he really fake?) climbing a tree followed by a bear!

The surroundings of Juneau small city center is very nice actually, so as the next day was spent recovering from the previous exhausting days, we went for some beers and walk through it. As you can see it wasn't a day for flying VFR through the fjords anyway.

Too soon it was time to pack again and fly to our next destination, Seattle, the Boeing City, the Mecca of every Aviation fan. 

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