Sunday, March 14, 2010

Flying to Ekwok, Alaska

By Father Scott Joseph Garrett
Pastor of Holy Rosary Mission

After having my Cherokee Warrior II plugged in all night, and after shoveling snow for an hour, I was ready to take off wing covers, do a thorough preflight inspection, and climb into the cockpit. I was airborne by 9:30 AM on this winter morning on Friday March 12, 2010.

Here is a picture of our airplane just before I took off for Ekwok.

The morning I decided to fly to Ekwok, Alaska the weather was clear but cold. It was 17 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, not including the chill factor. The wind was blowing at least 10 knots. One of my rules is not to fly if the temperature is colder than 20 degrees below zero (not counting the chill factor).

While doing my engine run-up before lifting off, my GPS said that Ekwok (airport identifier KEK) was about 37 miles Northeast from Dillingham (airport identifier PADL). For more information about the Yupik village of Ekwok, CLICK HERE.

Winter flying is both rewarding and costly. It is rewarding because cold temperatures make the air great on climb-outs. In no time at all I was up to 1000 feet. In warmer weather it takes forever to reach 1000. It is costly because in sub-zero temperatures things tend to break, or put another way, I tend to break things.

This particular morning I broke my sunglasses, which I had cherished for over 20 years. Like an old friend, these sun glasses were a part of me. When I opened them up to put on they just snapped. Bummer for me. In extreme cold temperatures I have cracked my fuselage by trying to tap off the ice, accidentally nudged my compass with my elbow and shattered the mount, broke the Plexiglas over my fuel gages, and basically pushed the plug-in for my engine through the mounting bracket. Breaking things out in the bush does not come cheap, either.


Approaching Ekwok from the South, I got my first glimpse of the Ekwok airport, which is located next to the Nushagak River. I am lined up with runway 020.

A few miles out I snapped another picture.

The small village of Ekwok is located on the left side of the runway near the South end of runway 02.

Quaint, quiete, cold, and beautiful. Some of the houses in the village can be seen here.

Taking off from runway 02, I took a picture of runway 200 after turning back to the Southwest toward Clarks Point. I planned to stop at Clarks Point for a couple of hours to eat lunch at the school and give communion to some of the Catholics, before returning to Dillingham.

Here is one final shot of a few houses in the village of Ekwok.

Safe flying out there!


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your pictures of Ekwok,

My Mother was born and grew up in Ekwok.She was the daughter of Paul and Dora Romie. She met my Father in Anchorage on the 70's and when I was born we moved to Ekwok. In 1977 my parents were killed in the village by a drunk 15 year old boy with a gun and knife. The village has seen so much tragedy and it is nice to know people care enough to reach out to them with the love of God. I live in Indiana now with my own family but would love to visit Ekwok someday again.
Thank you for your pictures again and I wouls like to see some of the people there if you get a chance,

Charles Sawyer,
Howe Indiana

Anonymous said...

By the way, I would love to talk to you sometime..if you want to maybe you could e-mail me at