Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gumption Needed Flying through Togiak Pass

By Scott Joseph Garrett

The late Father James Kelly died flying the mountain pass between Dillingham and Togiak March 23, 2002. That is the first thing I thought about when I flew that exact same mountain pass yesterday, for the first time, January 26, 2010. I have avoided learning the complex route through the mountains from Dillingham to Togiak for that very reason. I will admit, I am a little afraid and a bit hesitant when I think about that perilous route.

Entrance to the Togiak mountain pass 12 miles West of Dillingham.

NKMOHILLs – 14.5 Nautical Miles (NM) West from Dillingham, Alaska
N 59°03.198’
W 158°58.458’

I have flown to Togiak several times but I always either flew over the top of the mountains or around them. After giving Robert, a Native Alaskan pilot from Penair in Dillingham, my Garmin GPS 550 to mark all of the waypoints along the twisty pass, I decided it was time to fly it myself.

I took off on a perfect day. The sun was not yet on the horizon at 9:30 AM. The sky was as clear as a bell. The white snowy mountains stood out majestically against the lightening sky. I flew toward the first waypoint Robert plotted on my GPS and leveled out at 1000 feet.

I chose a nice day to fly the pass because my mission was to test the waypoints Robert entered into my Garmin so that I can rely on them 100%. If I ever get stuck in bad weather flying through those mountains I want to know where these waypoints take me. As doubting Thomas would say, "I need to see and touch the nail holes."

Flying west through the mountain pass I approach the CHUTE. Robert marked both the East entrance (seen below) and the West entrance for me.

ECHUTE – 33.7 NM From Dillingham
N 59°01.213’

WCHUTE – 39.1 NM From Dillingham
N 58°58.273’
W 159°45.412’

West bound I arrive at Horseshoe and start to make the turn which will bring me to the last leg of the flight before I reach Togiak.

EHSHOE – 43.1 NM From Dillingham
N 58°57.401’
W 159°52.945’

HSHOE – 46.3 NM From Dillingham
N 58°59.095’
W 159°59.569’

Runway 03 in Togiak looms in the distance.

On final for runway 03 in Togiak, Alaska, I took one last picture before flying the pass again back to Dillingham. To reach Togiak the total flight took about 35 minutes or 60 miles.

Flying East bound toward Dillingham I took a shot of Summit, the highest point in the pass. It takes about 700-800 feet to clear Summit.

SUMMIT - 27.4 NM From Dillingham
N 59°00.581’

Fly safe out there!


Anonymous said...

You could not have picked a better person to mark your GPS points than Robert.
He is a well accomplished pilot!
Being a little scared happens all the time to GOOD pilots :-)
Stay safe as you visit all of us.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I trust Robert with my life. Fr. Scott