Thursday, November 19, 2009

Winter Practice: New Stuyahok and Koliganek

By Father Scott Joseph Garrett
Pastor Holy Rosary Mission

Where is New Stuyahok (New Stu) and Koliganek? They are located near Bristol Bay on the Nushagak River. See map below. (Click on each picture to make larger)

I had not flown the Cherokee Warrior II for seven days because I have had two funerals the past two Fridays. It had snowed and I was too tired to dig my plane out last weekend. So I cancelled one mass in Clarks Point and took Penair to King Salmon.

During the winter I do not like to let my plane sit for more than a week without flying it because moisture builds up in the engine, which causes rust. Normally I am in the air three to four times a week so the moisture build up is not an issue.

Many times I plan a trip into the bush, but the weather is too bad to fly, i.e. below three miles visibility and ceiling under 500 feet, so I end up canceling or postponing. So, when there is a good flying day, even if it is my day off (a priest does get one day off a week) or I do not have a flight planned, I try to get in the air.

Yesterday (Nov 18, 2009) I needed to fly the plane to keep it flyable. For example the battery may run down in extreme cold whether if a plane sits too long. Also, airplanes need to be flown on a regular basis to keep the moisture out of the engine and out of the inside of the cockpit. I have a cockpit heater to help thaw the thick build-up of ice on the inside of the windows and to get rid of any moistuire build up on the instruments.

It was about zero degrees Fahrenheit when I went out to my Warrior II and the wind was howling so the chill factor was much worse. I was afraid to know what the temprature actually was! I plugged the engine in at 4:30 AM, stripped of the wing covers and engine coiling blanked, heated up the cockpit, did a complete pre-flight, checked the weather (wind shear at 2000 feet and turbulence below 4000, but clear), and was airborne by 10:07 AM.

I wanted to practice the GPS approaches into New Stuyahok and Koliganek. So, after flying south toward Clarks Point I turned north and headed to New Stu on the GPS runway 32 approach. The wind was at least 35 knots because my ground speed was 65 MPH. The warrior cruises at 110 MPH. I did a touch and go then headed up the Nushagak river to Koliganek.

I was coming in a little low and the wind was wipping me around so taking a picture was risky. There looms the New Stu runway.

The actual village of New Stu is a couple of miles to the right of the runway. This newer runway replace the old runway last year.

Koliganek, Alaska is 54 air miles north of Dillingham. I followed the GPS runway 27 approach right into the colorful little village. It was a beautiful day, the mountains majestic in the background. (CLICK on pictures to make larger).

The village of Koliganek is visible from this picture along with the beautiful mountain range in the background.

After departing the runway I took a picture out my side window looking back over my shoulder.

I made great time flying back. The strong tail wind propelled me to 150 MPH plus. I took about 30 minutes to re-fuel and button up the airplane for my next trip on Friday to Clarks Point for Mass. Safe flying out there!

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