Flying in Alaska: Seldovia Halibut

After the McCarthy adventure we headed for Wasilla (Betsy driving and me flying, yep, low, to stay under an overcast) to stay with good friends Jeff and Jan who graciously let us recharge at their place. Jeff keeps a 25 foot aluminum fishing boat in Seldovia for the summer so after a few days of laundry, showers, etc. we packed up and headed south.

Flying low of course. In fact it turns out you can fly from Wasilla / Palmer area, past Anchorage, all the way to the Homer area and beyond to Seldovia and not have to go up but maybe 1,000 feet. I didn’t fly that low, but you could.

Alaska is amazing. You see a plane, take a photo, and it looks great.

I’ve been anticipating (and basically worrying) about landing at Seldovia for many years. Betsy and I had visited there years ago by ferry boat and planned on going back. But here’s the thing. The gravel runway at Seldovia is 1,845 feet long, which is just plain short for a Cessna 210. Doable per the flight manual, but not a lot of room for error.

Every landing for the previous month has been a short field landing, which means I plunk the plane down ungraciously near the start of the runway at a slow speed. So I did feel prepared. I carefully filled the plane with only 2/3 of a fuel load (60 gallons) and took out the bikes, rafts, climbing gear, etc.

As we approached Seldovia we could clearly see the runway so I just set up and flew straight in, taking care to be uncomfortably close to the treetops. I knew that if I was comfortable away from the trees I would be too high to land.

I nailed it which felt good. I had plenty of room to slow down and stop and didn’t leave skid marks up to the slough at the end of the runway that I feared I might. I did note the hills past the end of the runway. Wouldn’t want to take off in that direction!

In the Seldovia Slough. No, I didn’t take this from my plane.

We had a fine time for a few days halibut fishing and enjoying the village and its restaurants. However the wind picked up in the wrong direction. It meant I had to take off towards the hills, not out over the water. Geesh, no relaxing for me.

A local pilot said taking off that way really isn’t a problem because you take a hard right hand turn at the end of the runway and follow the slough through the trees and then pop out over the Seldovia Harbor. Sure enough a Cessna 205 from a local air charter operation took off before me. He stayed close to the runway all the way to end, then with a wing wobble he turned right and climbed up only about 20-30 feet before disappearing into the slough between the trees. It looked terrifying to me – that guy was obviously overloaded. Plus there is a 15 foot bridge you need to clear in the slough. I know his passengers got a very good look at that bridge.

But it did make me feel better. I was nowhere near gross weight and I knew once in the air my plane was going to climb much better than that 205.

The takeoff is a little scary because you are staring straight ahead at a hill and trees that the plane is obviously not going to clear. But once in the right turn over the slough it was fun to follow it (at plenty of height) and out over the harbor.

After all those years thinking and worrying about landing at Seldovia it was nice to have it behind me!

Seldovia. 210s are rare in Alaska. One guy asked me, “Is that retractable 206?” Kinda.

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