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See attached MS word trip log for 26 days of flying from SC to AK to CA and back in my CH801. The link to version 1 of the video created by my friend who accompanied me covering the flight portions from Calgary to AK to CA and ending in SD. An improved version of this after some photo editing work and a second video coving the missing portions is underway. I hope you enjoy it and find some of the information useful. I will be glad to share information and answer questions.
The link to the video covering Calgary to SD is: https://www.dropbox.com/s/mj218597xdse8xt/StairwayToAlaska.mp4?dl=0.
This link shows in low res, but the originals can be downloaded from the same link, having Dropbox is not required. This links can be shared with anyone. It is also embedded at the end of the attached trip log.
Thank you for a great video. I’ve been all over these United States on my Harley including to Alaska and none
of my pictures compare to the sights from your airplane!
That was a heck of a trip... I hope you guys enjoy Alaska...
Wow! Now that is a trip! Great Video, thanks for sharing.
That was amazing! Thanks for sharing.
Great write-up and video.
I've thought about making this trip many times, but frankly, it scares the beejeezus out of me.
It's great that you have the ability and confidence to make such a trip so the weanies like me can enjoy it vicariously!
Thanks for the adventure!
Weanies?! Whoa pardner, them's fightin' words!
If a pilot ever had the good sense to stay on the ground when they should, or delay a start or return of a trip when things were iffy, or turn around and land somewhere when things weren't right, then that makes me a weanie too - and proud of (and still alive because of) it. I shared this because I though it might help someone else plan and make a similar trip. I shared it so that all of my friends and family could enjoy some of the profound beauty I did, since I couldn't fit everyone in the plane with me to experience it first hand. Hundreds of people like you and me make this trip every year. YOU CAN DO THIS TOO. Remember that it is not one huge long trip. It is a bunch of 1 day trips linked up end to end. You take them one at a time as they come at you.
If you want to make a similar trip here is my advice for what it is worth.
1) You have to have a plane that has reasonable fuel range because of fuel availability and unknown headwinds. I had a still air 400 mile range with a solid hour of reserve Lot's of planes can do that. And the ones that can't (plenty of those Cubs can't nor can all of the CH750's) carry an extra can or bladder of fuel in the back. Or they wait for conditions where the chance of headwind is extremely low. I never take credit for a tailwind in my fuel calculations and always allow for a nit of extra headwind.
2) The plane should be able to land on a reasonably well kept gravel or sod strip. Most of this trip was off of pavement, but no sense making a good precautionary landing on one of the many available private and emergency strips, just to tear up a prop or undercarriage. But you don't have to have a SuperCub with 22" tundra tires. I saw plenty of C172's with the wheel pants off along the way. A C-182 with the long range tanks would be perfect. But I also saw some Tripacers (who must have had gas cans in the back). You don't have to be able to land on a rocky sand bar in the middle of a river to make this trip. Those guys with the "Big Wheels" planes do it as an option.
3) You don't need to be IFR rated. That means that you might have to wait something out along the way to or from AK. But once you reach the mountains, unless you have a turbocharger and Oxygen, and possibly known icing capability, forget going up the AlCan or down the trench, or much of Alaska IFR in most GA planes. You can't make the MEAs and if you do, you will probably be in ice. That said you need to have your basic VFR skills for inadvertent entry into IFR up to snuff - just in case. Either way, IFR or not, plan to have to wait it out. Because sooner or later you are going to be stuck somewhere for a while along the way. Get yourself comfortable but not complacent in dealing with MVFR. Remember that there is no ADS-B in weather and no radar service and darn little weather reporting stations along the way.
4) Get good practice on short /narrow field and power off landings in the AC you will be flying. This is not required if all goes as planned, but I consider this skill a good life insurance policy - the kind of policy that pays off instead of you dying. You just might need it. If you aren't confident in your skills beforehand, do what I did: spend time working your way up to it by taking on increasingly more difficult strips in your area. Take along someone with experience to help you acquire the skills as you develop them.
5) Ditto for high density altitude operations. If you don't know what it feels and looks like to take off at 6000 foot density altitude at gross or near gross weight, find out before you go. It is not the same. You can practice in the low lands by taking off with the power set at no more than 60-65%, and by doing slow flight at or near your ceiling on a hot day.
6) If you haven't been in strong gusty winds before and aren't used to getting bounced around, go get used to it. Sooner or later you are going to be in air that will kick your butt around. If you aren't confident of your handling of your AC in light to occasionally moderate turbulence or strong crosswinds, you need to learn that if you keep your head, it is most likely that your stomach will be the weak point, not the wing spars. Just going across the prairie on a hot afternoon can be trying, especially at higher density altitudes where there isn't more power to be had and controls can be a bit mushy.. And as I did in Elko, if you are tired of getting kicked around, just park it and call it a day.
7) Learn all you can up front about the routes, weather, and other need to know by talking to or getting written advice, reading articles, etc. There is a wealth of information out there. Just by asking around I met 5 different people who had each made the trip multiple times. I was virtually flooded with help when I asked. AOPA has a video on flying the different routes.
8) There is plenty of good info out there on the required survival gear. Some of this applies if you are flying in remote areas in the lower 48 too. You may never need it (I didn't) but if you do, you better have it. There are some long lonely stretches of rugged real estate out there and no / poor radio communication. But the same goes for many parts of the lower 48 as well. Part of my survival gear was a new 406 Mhz ELT with GPS a Sportys 400 hand held NAV/COM, and I carried a SPOT on me. Study and take along a good survival manual. My survival vest was on for every flight. I recommend one for flying in the lower 48 as well any time you are not in urban areas.
9) They do things a bit differently in Canada, so if you get a chance take a vacation, hop over the border, find a local FBO, and take a 1 hour site seeing / check ride in Canadian airspace. It will improve your ability and confidence when you cross the border. Don't let the slight differences in RT lingo or procedures scare you off. They are used to guys like us coming north and blundering about in their airspace. They are quite understanding and helpful. It appears that the "Kinder and Friendlier FAA" people that disappeared (along with good flight briefers) in the 1990's must have all moved to Canada.
10) Likewise make sure that you are fully up to speed on the USCBP EAPIS system. Crossing the US border and dealing with the EAPIS system from Hell is the most difficult thing on the trip and the thing most likely to get you in trouble if you screw it up. If you can go somewhere along the border (north or south) and make a short cross border flight to learn the system, it will ease the pain. The USCBP people are nice, but their system truly sucks. Not everywhere in the world has internet and cell service.
11) Take someone along with you who is capable of at least the basic outdoor skills. A second set of hands when you need them in an emergency on the ground can be a lifesaver. Something as simple as holding the wing in a strong wind until you get a tie down on can be of immense help. And it would otherwise be a pretty lonely flight. The beauty of flying was meant to be shared, not hoarded.
12) Plan, plan, plan. Then be prepared to adapt when winds and weather or fuel supply don't cooperate.
13) Read a book or take a course or watch a video on the basics of mountain flying. It help when you can anticipate what it is going to be like when you go through a mountain pass and it is breezy.
14) Above all be a Weanie! Build in a lot of extra time in your schedule, and don't make arrangements such that you JUST HAVE to be somewhere on a certain date or else. Pressure to complete the flight when conditions are not good or turn unexpectedly bad is the leading cause of not completing the flight - permanently! They don't give out any awards for attempting to complete a flight when it is well beyond your skills or capability of your aircraft, except maybe that little write up you get in the obituary column. I allowed up to 2 extra weeks on my trip schedule. We used to say in the CAP that we always had great weather the next day to find the wreckage.
That's about all I can thing of at the moment. Airplanes are meant to set you free. So go enjoy the freedom! Everyone starts out at the same place in their flying career.