Trip to Montana, Part III: Anatomy of a Scary Flight
It wasn’t too scary for me, but in retrospect, I can see how it was frightening for the passengers, and it was.
We had planned an early flight out to Schafer Meadows US Forest Service airstrip in the Great Bear / Bob Marshall Wilderness area, but a big storm had rolled through the previous day and that morning there were still a lot of clouds around.
So we walked around Whitefish, then as the clouds lifted we went to the Kalispell City airport to sort gear. My plan was to have only a backpack each (we were going backpacking) and also have adequate fuel for the trip but far less than the 90 gallons the 210 carries. This would lighten up the load considerably and help at least the takeoff on the grass strip.
We took off around 1:00 pm in light winds and I headed for a dip in the first of two ridges we had to get across. There wasn’t a lot of wind, but what wind there was naturally funneled through that dip in the ridge, and that created turbluence as the wind swirled across the terrain. It wasn’t severe turbulence, but it was moderate, and the combination of the turbulence and the fact we were probably 1,500 feet above the ridge and 1,000 feet below the clouds really didn’t sit well with Betsy. She felt like the clouds could descend and trap us (She knew we could fly out the river valleys by staying low, but that didn’t help).
It was light turbulence with some up and down drafts all the way in to land, and although that didn’t scare me, it made me nervous about getting too close to the terrain, and at this particular airport with a downhill approach you have to be right above the trees on final or you will be too high to land (There are smaller planes that would have no trouble here but I’m in a larger plane not really built for the bush). I was too high the first time around and had to try again, which also didn’t exactly make Betsy feel comfortable.
You can watch the best parts on video too with a narration of events, below. Part IV and the final blog entry on Montana will be backpacking in the Great Bear / Bob Marshall Wilderness.