Flying to Alaska, Day Two, Flying the Inland Passage

LeConte Bay

It is over 600 miles up the coast to today’s destination, Valdez, and not many airplanes fly this route without two engines or floats as there are few beaches, few airports plus notoriously bad weather.  There is some added risk, and one reason I wanted to do this trip alone was so I could enjoy the trip without worrying about anyone but myself.  The forecasted good weather did hold out, and when the glaciers, mountains or inland bays beckoned for me to come and take a closer look, I did.

I didn’t fly wearing a lifejacket because the one I had would be very uncomfortable, but I did have it handy on the seat next to me.

Mountains (Large)
Somewhere near Glacier Bay / Mt. Fairweather

The forecasted weather at Valdez was supposed to be 3,000 overcast, which can still mean an exciting approach – one that ends at a waypoint in the bay, not at the airport next to a mountain.  Once you reach the waypoint (1,900 feet above the bay if I remember) then you can visually continue on to the airport and land if it is visual conditions, otherwise to missed.  I had enough fuel to get to Valdez, but with sightseeing and the fact there isn’t much near Valdez as an alternative, I stopped at Petersburg anyway for fuel so that I had about 40 gallons landing at Valdez.

mtn (Large)

The weather at Valdez ended up being clear so doing an approach or worrying about an alternative was a non-issue. In fact instead of flying the long way up the Prince William Sound I took a shortcut through some mountain passes, passing a float plane along the way.

It was one of the most memorable flights I’ve ever had.  Fantastic.


glacier (Large)

Striped glacier 2 (Large)
Not really a glacier you want to land on.
Unloading kayaking gear at Valdez

Next: Alaska, Day Three

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