Friday, March 7, 2008

Sea Planes are so cool!! But don't fly in bad weather...

     Now, don't get me wrong, a seaplane is very safe. In fact the locals have a convincing argument that flying lower and slower is more safe than being in a jet. I'm not convinced either way yet; what I am convinced of is that I do not want ANY plane I am on to fall out of the sky.

     But seriously the flying lower and slower has a major major benefit as well: sight-seeing! I'll never forget the first time I flew in one, I was in Juneau in early August moving to Pelican. It was a warm sunny day and it was just my dog and I. We had just finished a burger and some garlic bread (yes interesting combo, but tasty) and walked back to the airport. They said the wind had died down enough to make it out so I got in the van that drove over to "the pond." We loaded my gear into the back of the plane (which by the way the interior of this plane is about the same size as my van, except skinnier). I climbed onto the pontoon and then in the plane and they lifted Koira up to me. The pilot handed me a pair of ear plugs and yelled that the life vests were above my head and the doors were easy to open "just in case." Then the engine blared very loudly and we started moving forward. We started moving faster, but not like a jet, I mean we might have been doing 50 or 60 but nothing to throw you back into your seat. At this point I notice that the throttle is open we are slowly accelerating and rapidly running out of pond, I wondered if maybe a turkey sandwich would have been better than the burger... or better yet a salad With the dressing on the side.

     Sure enough the pilot pulls back on the stick (which is just right there!!) and we gradually lift off. It is a good thing that the pond doesn't have any tall trees at that end. But at that point any kind of apprehension melts away as the amazing view hits me. Southeast Alaska has a series of large islands with hundreds of smaller ones all interspersed between them. I could see the water and the trees and the hills and the muskeg, and the mountains, and the snow (wait snow in August?! those mountains aren't that big!) and it all came together in one incredible experience. The more I type the more I realize this is one of those must experience experiences. It was so cool that I knew I wanted to stay in Alaska by the time that plane landed.

     Of course that was the best trip I have had. Since then I have been throw around quite a bit. In fact in one plane ride we jerked hard enough for my head to hit the ceiling, not hard, but still that is a bit unnerving. The worst weather I was in we lost 100 ft. of altitude in less than 3 seconds!! Which is down right terrifying when you realize that you went from 900 ft. to 800 ft. So flying high up in the air definitely has it's benefits as well.

     I also flew in a plane where there was a co-pilot stick. Well I was in the co-pilot's chair and it was a bumpy ride. I was really afraid that my knee would fly up and smack "the stick" and put us into an uncontrollable dive.

     Despite the spooky times I do feel very safe in the seaplanes. I just wish they could fly in all weather. This has been a bad winter for planes the locals say. We have not had regular reliable flights since November and it is tough to go without mail. Fortunately we do get a monthly ferry that has brought anything that didn't make it by plane.

     So if ever you find yourself in Southeast Alaska don't balk at the price of a seaplane flight-seeing trip. In my opinion it is well worth the experience.