Trip to Alaska
I am starting to plan a trip to Alaska in my 182 for next year. I plan to fly from Virginia up through Canada, and then to Alaska. I would like to hear about "must see places" along the way, and routes that will keep me out of the O2 levels. I don't have a turbo or O2, (hey, I'm from the east cost). I'd also like to hear about the best times of the year to go. I keep my 182 on a 1,200' strip, so I don't mind short and grass, and I like camping with my plane. I don't have long range tanks, so 4 hours are about as long as I can go, and still have some reserve fuel. Look forward to hearing from some been there done that people.
A few years ago I helped a friend bring a t/w Maule from Palmer, AK to Vacaville, CA - in March! It was an amazing trip, hard work due to the cold, with the challenges those sort of temps bring, but something I would do again in a heartbeat. I wouldn't necessarily recommend March as a good time to try that trip, it just happened to be when we were available to move the plane.
We found the COPA had some really good information about flying to/from AK, routes to follow, what to take, etc, etc & we used that as a reference. I'm not sure whereabouts it is on the website, but I think it dates from the days when Cirrus organised flights up to Alaska, and possibly to Russia - if my memory serves me right.....
As for suggestions of places to stop en route? Wow - where to start.... Gatineau, ON has the Vintage Wings of Canada collection & is a 10 min flight to Rockford, the downtown Ottawa airport where you can go to the Canadian Aviation & Space museum - both well worth a visit. Heading west, consider stopping in Anoka, MN & set up a visit to Greg Herrick's Golden Wings Museum. You will need to call ahead to arrange a visit, but you won't be disappointed. As you head northwest, you might be able to visit the home of Joe McBryan's Buffalo Airways aka "Ice Pilots", the TV show. One of the places we stopped on the way south was Whitehorse in the Yukon. That night it was the coldest St Patrick's night since records began, apparently, but I definitely would like to go back again - it looked like an interesting town to spend some time. Watson Lake & that area were really pretty. We followed the main highway most of the way, and carried a satellite phone with us which had been rented for two weeks.
If I think of other suggestions, I'll add them too. I'm sure plenty other people will have lots of good ideas.
Another must see along your route should be The Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre in Sault Ste. Marie in northwestern Ontario, a tribute to the history and importance of the pilots, planes and companies that opened the great Canadian north from the 1920's till today.
It's been a few years since I brought my plane to Alaska. A friend and I flew from Washington state to Fairbanks with a few stops to follow my fathers route from 1959. For sure Watson Lake and Whitehorse were places to see. In a plane with pretty much the same performance as the 182, we took 12 hours, rarely got to 8500 feet, and only had to stop once for weather in June.
Who is going to Alaska?
To keep your motivation up, here's a breathtaking series of pictures from an extended Alaska trip. Sadly, the pilot didn't survive the trip but fortunately the pictures did:
I made the trip from Northern Michigan, Y65, departing May 8th and returning May 28th of 2008.
All my info is therefore rather dated.
I flew my Rans S-6-S with a Rotax 912s on amphib floats. The plane cruised at 88
smph and burned 4.5-5 GPH. I had 18 gallons usable on board and carried 4 gallopns
in two small containers that I added on some occasions when the distance between
fuel stops was farther than I could comfortabley fly.
I must clarify that I only flew to Juneau, Ak to visit my Daughter and her family. It was
6400 miles round trip and I landed 36 times. Spent all nights in motels. I carried full survival
gear and a shotgun. I flew solo and did not travel with another plane. I turned around five times
due to weather, includes turbulence. I landed early on four travel days due to weather ahead
on my route. I spent six rainy days in Juneau and headed home when the sun finally came
out. I hope some day to head that way again and see more of AK. We drove my route in 2010 in
August and did got to the "rest" of AK.
I entered Canada from cental North Dakota and checked in at Regina. I cleared US customs
in Juneau. It took three tries in one day to get through the Coast mountains and into Juneau.
It has rather nasty weather and lots of mountains. I reentered Canada in Whitehorse.
I spent three days in Watson Lake on my way home waiting for weather to clear over the highway.
Finally I gave up and returned via the Cassier. Needed my spare gas on this section. Stunning
and I would go that route in one direction or the other for sure. I came through the rockies
at Mt Robson, highest peak in the Canadian rockies at just under 13,000. I flew by Jasper
and onto Edmonto and Vegreville for the night. I flew as high as 10,200 on the Cassier to get out of
the bumps, but mostly I flew at 6500 to 7500 feet. My plane has a 34 foot wingspan and weighs
820lbs empty on the amphibs. It is a tad sensitive to bumps. Afternoon flights were often not
Everyone I met was very friendly. Several things changed between 2008 and 2010, we
did stop at most of the airports where I landed. We also stopped at the airports I did not
see north of Whitehorse. Fuel is less available now, but with your range should be no problem.
I'd avoid the Trench route since you don't seem to have long range tanks.
I live 90 miles from the bush plane museum in Sault Ste Marie, Ont. It is worth seeing,
but that will put you in the land of more expensive fuel for a large portion of the trip.
It is not located at an airport. Float planes can land on the river and tie up.
You could land at Sault Ste Marie, Mi. Sanderson field and cross the border by car for
the visit. Only about a 20 minute drive. Ive been to Golden Wings in Anoka and it is super.
Lots of very rare 20s and 30s planes. Call ahead and request a tour. They are not open to the public,
but I'm sure they will welcome you. Craig was in charge when I visited in 2010. Nice airport.
I've done Eapis. It is a pain the first time.
Canadian flight plans are easy. They keep you in their syatem so you only need all the details
I'm done typing for this year. Call me at 231-838-7070 if you'd like to chat.
I have a short DVD slide show of the trip I'm always willing to share.
When I go to Ak, by air I depart Puget Sound and Do the Can-Pass thing going in. and go direct Port Hardy for fuel. (that's the northwest end of Vancouver Is.) from there I must decide what the weather will allow me to do. If the weather on the coast is good I normally go Ketchikan, Juneau, Whitehorse, Northway, Tok, Fairbanks. If the weather is bad on the coast, I do some thing else.
The 2 of us flew up in 1992, Cherokee 140(150hp) & we started from MS. It was a GREAT trip. Many airports along the way are camping friendly. It would cut down some on those $140 hotel rooms & save a little $$ for the fill-ups. Some FBO's along the AL-Can have showers available, did then anyways. One can't look at it as comparing costs to flying up commercial, getting there is much of the fun.
I'd try to stay in the Northern USA until you have to cross, cheaper fuel & maybe fewer Canadian fees. We got customs in Medicine Hat & angled up to the AL-Can from there. There is plenty of fuel/airport options along the way. Altitude isn't that big of a factor along the Al-Can HWY. I'd always keep a divert airport in your back pocket & use it when conditions dictate. I'd like to do the flight again sometime.
Thanks for all of the replys, and Andy, I'll be in touch with you. If anyone has any airports along the Al-Can Hiway that have food, fuel (I can burn eth free auto gas), and don't discourage camping, that would be great. My wife is now on board thanks to the link with all of the pictures of that young man's trip. Truely inspiring photo's.