Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wasilla via Lake Clark Pass: Retiring Our Cherokee

By Father Scott Joseph Garrett
Pastor Holy Rosary Parish, Saint Theresa Mission, and Saint Paul Mission

Here is a picture of the West entrance to Lake Clark Pass as our Cherokee Warrior II was completing its Mission in Bristol Bay. The plane is now parked in Space A5 at the Wasilla airport.

July 5, 2011 I finally got an opening in the weather to retire our Cherokee Warrior II 160 horsepower aircraft to Wasilla, my new assignment. The aircraft has served Bristol Bay from November of 2005 to July of 2011. It is now parked in Space A-5 at the Wasilla Airport.

The weather was not as great as I had expected. There was cirrus clouds from Dillingham to Illiamna and then from the East side of Lake Clark pass to Anchorage.

From Dillingham to Illiamna I had to make a decision. I was down to 600 feet with poor visibility. I was either going to turn around or climb through the clouds. Since Illiamna airport was reported as clear below 10, 000 feet, I climbed up through about 500 feet of cloud cover. This is something a VFR pilot does not like to do because once above the clouds if one loses and engine, you can’t set up an emergency landing because you can’t see the ground.

Once in Illiamna the clouds cleared out enough to where I could get back underneath of them at about 1200 feet. I flew over Lake Clark and pointed toward the West entrance to the pass.

West End of Lake Clark Pass, July 5th, 2011. I had to decide at the last minute if the weather was good enough to enter the narrow and some time dangerous pass.

You can also view the video if you CLICK HERE.

Just after I entered the West end of Lake Clark Pass. The view was simply breath taking.

You can also view the video if you CLICK HERE.

Here is where the communication gets to be confusing. I was listening to an aircraft asking about the weather in Lake Clark Pass on frequency 122.2. There are two other frequencies when traveling Lake Clark Pass, 121.1 and 121.2. One is suppose to be used for the West end and another for the East. I have never been really sure when to change frequencies or which one to use, i.e. is it used flying East and West or do you use one frequency at the West end and as you near the East end change frequencies. To make it even more confusing, the general aviation frequency in the bush is 122.9.

So, the bottom line, there are four frequencies that a person could be on when flying through the narrow and dangerous Lake Clark Pass. The problem is one never knows if there is any traffic in the pass because everyone is monitoring a different frequency. This is an accident waiting to happen.

Example: I made another decision to fly through the Pass. The ceiling was variable between 1000 and 1500 at the West end. The aircraft that was behind me caught up to me and I saw him about 500 feet directly below me. I could not get him on the radio. I tried a couple of frequencies and gave up. I prayed he did not decide to climb up and hit me because I do not think he saw me.

Here I am talking about the aircraft below me:

You can also view the video if you CLICK HERE,

I finally made it to Wasilla after scud running across Big River Lakes and Beluga. The weather started to clear around Big Lake.

I flew Back to Dillingham on Penair and am awaiting my final departure back to Wasilla July 31.

Fly safe out there!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoy reading your blog Father. It is interesting to see the differences in our parishes, it's like a whole other world up there!
-Allison from Spring TX