Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Bittersweet Week of Flying In Bristol Bay

By Father Scott Joseph Garrett
Pastor Holy Rosary Mission

From the last week in September to the first week in October, 2010, my flying activity went from out-and-out cancelations, to maybe, and to finally, the green light.

I reserve Saturdays for flying to King Salmon, I overnight there, and then fly back to Dillingham on Sundays. These past two Saturdays poor visibility, low ceilings, and atrocious winds motivated me to seek out the ever dependable Penair, who will fly IFR in their Caravan when the weather goes below VFR minimums. It was an easy decision for me not to fly.

Over the past few months I have been stranded in King Salmon at least two Sundays out of every month waiting for the weather to clear so I could take-off. My Mass schedule is tight and I only have two hours and thirty minutes to fly from Mass at Saint Theresa in King Salmon to Mass in Dillingham at Holy Rosary. It is about 64 air miles between the two villages. Several times these last few months I have had to cancel Mass at Holy Rosary in Dillingham.

On Wednesday, September 29th, I was prepared to fly to Igiugig but ended up winterizing my airplane instead. Wednesday turned out to be a 35/35 day (the wind was blowing 35 MPH and the temperature was 35 degrees.

When in the air, this cold weather oil plate covers the oil cooler and helps the engine oil warm up in sub-zero temperatures.

Cold weather oil plate kit, engine heater, electrical harness, 100 foot electrical cord, cockpit heater, survival bag, wing covers, and engine blanked are just a few of the necessities when flying in sub-zero Alaskan weather.

Here is a short video describing some preparations for winter flying.

On Friday, October 1st, I had to cancel going to Clarks Point, which is only 12 miles from Dillingham. The Cherokee Warrior II was fueled, packed, and ready but the wind was gusting to 30 mph, the ceiling down to 1200, and the visibility to three miles. Flying in this weather was tempting but a definite “maybe” for me.

These are the tough judgment calls for me to make. One has to take into account flying experience (my meager 600 hours), the terrain, a whole plethora of weather data, and then determine if it is safe to fly the 12 miles and back. I opted for not flying, which REALLY bothers me sometimes. I then called people in Clarks Point, canceled Mass, and told them I would see them next week!

Monday, October 4th, I finally made it to Igiugig. I waited for fog to lift over the Nushagak River and was off the ground by 10:30 AM. It was a green light for me after I talked with the Dillingham Flight Service Station and got the weather trends. The weather was suppose to improve throughout the day!!

Just before taking-off from Dillingham I took a picture of my Garmin 550.

Here is a videos while in route to Igiugig, Wednesday, October 4th, 2010.

Landing at the Igiugig dirt strip, Wednesday, October 4th, 2010, Runway 05.

Fly safe out there!

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