The weather was little poor this morning so we spent a little time checking out the local DC-6 carnage from years past. We’ve been tormenting South Western Alaska for the past 8 days. And I think it’s time to launch again.
The weather was little poor this morning so we spent a little time checking out the local DC-6 carnage from years past. We’ve been tormenting South Western Alaska for the past 8 days. And I think it’s time to launch again.
I spent the last 5 days on the West side of the Alaska Range. Alaska finally got a little bit of snow early last week which permitted us to actually get something done. The weather has now been clear and windy for the past 8 days. It only took me 3:35 to go from AK93 to Dillingham and just over 5:05 to return on the same track. That means the wind was out of the North East at about 30 knots.
I have never seen so little snow on the ground over such a wide spread area in late March. It’s amazing to see frozen brown tundra where there is normally 4 foot of compacted snow. Dillingham is going through break-up, and my cub got all muddy taxiing around on the ramp. I think that is about a month earlier than normal.
Ali and Mae’s pet horse Milo took this trip with me.
Snow capped peaks in the Alaska range
Crossing the mouth of the Wood River.
Milo and I getting ready to launch.
Kim and I posing for a photo in the sun.
Looking out towards the village of Manakotak.
It was -5F when we started the project last Wednesday and 25 above yesterday. Spring’s a comin’.
Mike Meekin loading up
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The Bushwheels need to do something while they wait for the wheel-skis to get done with winter. Ali uses them like a ladder to reach the hangar door button, while dad puts the engine cover on. I love this kid.
Very few views are finer than a mixture of granite and clouds. Ever since I was a little kid I remember being enamored by, “mountains that go all the way up to the clouds.” I have since come to a more full understanding of this phenomenon, but the intrigue is still written on my core. I was flying yesterday in the Chugach mountains for 8 solid hours. As the day progressed the winds increased. It was a blue bird day until the wind started to blow. Then I had the pleasure of watching clouds form out of thin air. Sometimes they are not even clouds, just a frozen haze of tiny ice particles glistening in the sun and reducing visibility. It’s like flying around in one never ending cloud. It always looks like the visibility is going to get really bad up ahead, but it never does. The ice crystals look like snow flakes, but the sun is shining, so it does not make sense. Ice crystals and sun are difficult to capture with a camera, which is why everybody should own a Super Cub and fly regularly in the mountains.
This photo was taken in September. Unfortunately I forgot my camera yesterday so I did not even get a chance to take photos of the sun, or the clouds, or the ice crystals. But, good Lord willing I’ll get another chance.
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This photo shows a great time of year. The air is crisp and cold from the near miss on snow cover. The leaves are falling off the trees and my Super Cub smells like the butchers shop. I love all of Alaska’s seasons, but when I stumble across a photo of early September in the middle of February I’ve just got to share it.
I took these photos while flying over the Chugach mountains earlier this year. It has been a slow start to the flying season because South Central Alaska has very little snow cover. I hope America is enjoying all our snow, because Alaska is getting a little bummed right now. We went through a long period of unusually warm temperatures in January. February has been windy, but I’m not complaining, It’ll eventually straighten itself out, and then we will get to work! I’m doing lots of maintenance on the planes and enjoying a semi-normal life this winter. I did not do a good job of selling calendars this year because I was so distracted with moving into the house and then traveling, so I ended up with 20 extras. I would love to get rid of them so I put them up on a 2 for one deal. Enjoy!
Just go here http://www.blueiceaviation.com/shop.php to get your calendars, hoodies, hats, and t-shirts.
I covered the Chugach and Talkeetna Mountains this past week. Unfortunately I forgot my camera on the desk for 3 of those 4 days … what an idiot. On the one day that I did have my Canon I managed to document a bit of the activity out there. The farther East I went in the Chugach the more unstable the conditions became. I saw some big cornice breaks on the North Faces, as well as some nasty slushy terrain traps on the Southern Exposures. It was a surprisingly mixed bag of snow conditions considering it was only the end of January. The warm temperatures really wreaked havoc on the snow pack. Much of what I saw would have been better suited for a mountain bike than a pair of skis, but the winter is young, and I am still hoping for the best. Of course the Broncos fans were thinking the same thing this evening during the second quarter … we all know how that turned out.
If you do get out on the steeps to play, try to be a little careful.
It’s a beautiful day out there! 25 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Dead calm at 6000′ msl.
This is a video of my trip to the Philippines to visit my brother and his family.
A short video of some of the fun we had in the Philippines.
For more info on what my brother is doing in the Philippines, go here.
After moving into the house on December 22, and having Christmas with the family, I headed to the Philippines to spend a couple weeks visiting my brother, and his family. If you read my post from November 27th you know that my brother flies a helicopter on Northern Luzon, but he headed South towards ground zero to help out after the Super Typhoon devastated portions of the central Philippines in mid November. Zach returned with the helicopter to Northern Luzon in mid-December to resume his normal flight schedule to the surrounding tribes. I arrived in Manila on New Year’s eve to meet up with my brother and enjoyed the craziest fire works display of my life. The entire city was engulfed in haze so thick that jetliners are often diverted due to reduced visibility in smoke. Explosions can be heard through out the day, but after dark, on the 31st, there is a constant thump of explosions. By 1130pm the sky was lit by fireworks in a 360 degree display from the guesthouse roof top. I’ve never experienced anything like it, it was almost scary, and sounded like a war zone.
We flew to Tuguegarao city on the morning of Jan 1st to join up with Zach’s family and experience his flight operations. I spent nearly two weeks hanging out with them and got to fly out to three different tribes. It was one of the highlights of my life, and I thoroughly enjoyed each day. Zach and I also put several hundred miles on the dirt bikes as we explored the surrounding roads and mountains. Zach had heard a rumor of a mountain hot spring and one afternoon we explored with the bikes until we found it. This involved crossing a river … in a wooden canoe, pushed along by a dude with really good balance and a bamboo stick. Zach and I balanced on our dirt bikes with our feet braced on the sides, pretty stressful for this Alaska boy, but it was awesome. We also visited Santa Ana on the North Shore of Luzon. I guess this was where Survivor was recently filmed. The beach was perfect and it took a bangka boat to access it, totally amazing. I think we saw 4 other people on this mile long beach, and we were there all day!
It was a perfect trip. I love the country, the people, and the winter temperature. I look forward to another visit. But since words cannot begin to describe another country, and it’s culture, here is a photo dump of a few of the highlights.
The Chikaloon river on September 14th from 6500′. The colors are ridiculous. If this picture were a painting I would say the artist got “a little carried away” with all the color. Much of Alaska falls in the category of “a little carried away”. It may be 5 degrees and blowing outside right now, but it’s worth every second just to see the views. I wish I could remember where I was going or what I was doing on this flight, but I have no idea.
This picture was taken three minutes from the Palmer Municipal airport. The river below me is the Matanuska, and I think I was shuttling sheep hunters up the Knik Drainage on this flight. I used this picture for the month of February in the 2014 Blue Ice Aviation Calendar.
Part of our family celebrating Christmas last night.
May 1, 2009 we started clearing the lot for the house.
We’ve spent the past 4 years, 7 months, 24 days constructing it.
Samantha, a very, very, very, very patient and awesome wife, we moved in on December 22nd, 2013
Ali and I dragging home a tree on Christmas eve.
I wanted a tall one.
Tall trees are difficult to stand up … especially with ceiling fans.
The ibeams, already coming in handy :o)
Christmas eve to remember.
More of our family helping us “break in” the house.
It has been a long road to get into this house, and we are far from finished, but I really don’t care. It was a memorable Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed by all, even poor Samantha who spent the day puking. We have been married for more than eleven years and we have lived in 400-600 square foot cabins, condos, and a fifth wheel trailer for most of those years. We have been building for nearly 5 years and during that time our family size has doubled. So, with the help of many friends and family members we spent our first night in the house on December 22nd, 2013. It was utterly amazing to sit and relax by the fire that evening in our very own house! And yet, this stupid house is literally nothing in comparison to the gift God gave when he sent his Son Jesus to earth. I should be way more thankful for that because this house is gonna rot and fall down some day, but He will not. This stuff is so hard to keep in perspective, pretty much impossible actually. I know how thankful I am for my incredible family, amazing friends, good health, God help me to be way more thankful for your Son, the savior of the universe, Jesus Christ, the one whom nearly the whole world stopped to celebrate his birth today. Whether the meaning of Christmas is simply, tradition, culture, or truth for you, I hope you take a minute to contemplate who Jesus really was. If you’ve got questions, find a bible and read the gospel of John, and hear what Jesus said, you may be surprised. Hopefully you at least got the day off of work for his birthday celebration :o) Merry Christmas.
To see many more photos of the house construction go to old blog posts here .
To buy a calendar before the new year creeps up on you go here.
The forecast yesterday morning was awesome, high overcast and light winds, my favorite sort of day. I’m not a big fan of the blazing sunshine. It burns my retinas and makes things on the ground difficult to see as animals are hidden in the shadows of trees, rocks, and ridges. We departed at first light and headed South down the coast under an 8000′ ceiling. We were going to be working near Kalgin Island in the Cook Inlet. The flight was beautiful as we watched the sun rise on this short December day. No sooner had we reached our working area than a couple of teeny tiny rain droplets hit my windscreen. The sort of rain that is so light you would not even notice it in June or July, just itty-bitty little droplets of water. But with 6 tiny rain drops on my windscreen I immediately checked the outside air temperature … 28 degrees, bummer.
The rain began to increase slightly and each droplet would slide up the windscreen about 4″ and then freeze tight. With each following rain drop a bridge begins to build at the freezing point where the defroster can no longer keep up. The “stay and linger” vs. “tuck tail and run” decision is really a no brainer in Decemeber on the coast at 28 degrees. We departed the premises accomplishing nearly nothing. We only counted 37 moose in our short survey. As we left the area it was obvious the rain was moving in, as it took us nearly 20 minutes to fly out of it. Today, the schools in South Central Alaska were closed because of freezing rain. It’s some nasty stuff and it’s always surprising how quickly it builds on all surfaces of an aircraft. I’m glad we went home and ate nachos….but the sunrise sure was nice.
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I did not know what cyber monday was until 2012, but now I am a sucker like all the rest. So I put together some combos in hopes of saving you a few bucks on both the product and the shipping. You all know I love Alaska … but our shipping prices are the pits … Sorry about that.
My wonderful big sister took some new photos of all my merchandise this year, and I’ve posted them below. The photos show the 4 different package combos, as well as updated pictures of the popular Blue Ice Aviation hoodies, t-shirts, calendars, hats, and post cards (new this year!) Calendars and hoodies continue to be our best selling items over the years. In the past week we have mailed calendars and postcards to both Germany and the Czech Republic! So as you enjoy your cyber monday remember that money blown on Blue Ice Aviation Swagger is money well spent indeed! :o)
I think sales are directly related to the number of exclamation marks used. So I put a whole bunch of them in the text to let you know I’m real excited!
Post Cards! High quality, color front and back, with never before seen photos, from a unique view!
Calendars come with a back page for notes and phone numbers (new feature this year!)
High Quality DriftCreek hats! Same as last year!
The old faithful Blue Ice Aviation Hoodie or T-shirt!
For those of you that have been following the blog for a number of years you may remember that my brother is a missionary in the Philippines. He and his wife and kids have been living in the Philippines for several years. Zach and I grew up in Alaska and have shared a love of aviation together our whole life. We both went to school to be missionary pilot/mechanics. I am still here in Alaska, but Zach ended up overseas. If you have a TV or a computer you are probably aware that earlier this month the Philippine islands were hit with the worst tropical storm to ever make landfall in recorded history. My brother and his family were on the outskirts of the storm and only experience moderate winds and rain. My brother Zach is a helicopter pilot. His day to day job is supporting missionary families and native Filipinos in remote villages in the Northern Philippines with an R44 helicopter. After the hurricane devastated central and southern Philippines my brother flew 600 miles south to aid in relief efforts with the R44. To fly a helicopter across a country with very little avgas or aviation infrastructure is an adventure in itself, not to mention his destination was a total disaster area. The trip went mostly flawless with one unplanned overnight due to weather. Eventually he met up with a few of my college buddies from Moody Aviation who are also currently flying for the same mission in Cessna 185’s in the Philippines. They are using two Cessna 185s and one R44 to aid the islands.
I normally talk to my brother 2-3 times per week, but I have pretty much lost any contact with him since he headed South on the 12th of November. I know he is safe, and happy, and he is flying a lot. I did manage to get a 2 minute phone call with him last week and he said, “it is pretty amazing to be the last link in the chain of relief efforts”. He said, “I’m the guy that actually gets to unload the helicopter full of rice to hundreds of people that did not know I was coming, and are very hungry”. Hearing him say that made me so happy, I know he is in element, he loves helping people, and he is one gifted individual. As I am typing this my computer is bleeping at me letting me know that Zach has just lifted off on another flight, to another island, my screen looks something like this …
They have put more than 160 hours on their aircraft and have moved more than 44,000 lbs of supplies to the surrounding islands. I am sitting at my computer right now watching him on flight tracker as he flies from island to island. The islands are so remote and un-land-able that they read tide charts to determine when they can land on beaches to deliver supplies. I am headed over to see him at the end of December, and I can hardly wait, I wish I could leave right now. Zach was also in Haiti shortly after the earthquake in 2010. He does not go looking for these disasters, but twice he has been in the right place at the right time with a helicopter and a unique skill set.
My wonderful sister-in-law Jane spends her days keeping an eye on Zach with this flight tracker program. Without her support I know my brother could never be there helping like he is. Jane is an amazing support, and is still in the Northern Philippines at their home base taking care of the home front with the kiddos.
So as you enjoy Thanksgiving this season, it may not hurt to remember how blessed we are. Dave Forney, another Moody graduate that is there helping with my brother said it so well on his blog post here.
Phew … he made it!
We love you guys and are praying for you all daily. You make us proud.
I had the privilege of spending a day flying around the greater Cordova area on a job this past August. Things were too busy to stop and post pictures of the trip at the time, but now that the sun is setting at 3:45 in the afternoon, I find myself with a bit more time in the evenings. I wish I had more time to make these blog posts immediately after taking the photos, but the truth is I have 10’s of thousands of images and not enough time to share them all. All the above photos were taken in one day.
For those of you familiar with Alaska, Mike and I left our house at Sheep Mountain and landed in Cordova just 1:15 minutes later. I found it to be a surprisingly short trip, I had never made this flight, and while I knew it was just over the hills, I had not realized just how close it was. The weather needs to be pretty awesome before this trip is even possible, but the day we chose was utterly cloudless. We climbed from our house elevation of 3000′ straight to 9500′ and went right over the top of the Chugach Mountains. Cordova is a stunningly beautiful costal town. It also receives some of the most horrific weather one can imagine.
An interesting piece of Alaskan history is found not far from Cordova. It’s called the million dollar bridge. It was built in 1909 and cost more than a million dollars. The bridge was used to help transport about $200 million dollars of copper ore from Kennicott. I remember it was damaged in an earthquake, but I believe it is still usable if the road getting to the bridge is not washed out. Most of you are probably not impressed by a bridge built in 1909 because it’s only been a 100 years. For us Alaskans, local history like this is relatively rare. Houses built in the 1980’s are considered history … ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. Alaska did not even become a state until 1959!
Oh ya’ and the last picture is of Mike and I hanging out at Baja Taco for lunch. This was a good time. And yes, if you ever end up in Cordova, Alaska and don’t stop at the Baja Taco bus for lunch … you really screwed up.
One of those pictures up there, I think it’s the first one, is October’s picture in this years Blue Ice Aviation calendar.
On a lake in the Talkeetna Moutains.
Morning Sun hitting the top of Denali.
Smiling for the camera at -25F.
Arguably the best part of the day.
I spent the last 5 nights in Talkeetna. We bunked and ate at Latitude 62, with a couple of outings to the Twister Creek Restaurant. Both establishments are excellent. I put a few hours on the Super Cub, and we had great weather. It got a bit breezy on the last day, but we all made it home before the freezing rain. Each morning it was -10F to -15F, but we never saw colder than -25F. There are probably funner things to do than fly around at those temperatures, but it makes you tough, and if you dress right, it’s really not bad. Plus, it’s almost always warmer at altitude than it is on the ground, so you learn quick to make the pee breaks very short. We ended up spending pretty much every daylight minute airborne.
South Central Alaska has had an interesting start to the winter season. It was mild and calm well into November, but then we got slammed with a freezing drizzle snow storm that buried the higher elevations with snow, then the temperature plummeted. Because of this, the overflow will be exceptionally bad this winter. The lakes and ponds had just barely gotten a few inches of ice when they got covered with 2 foot of insulating snow. I landed on one airstrip that had nearly 18 inches of powdery snow, I landed on a lake with 4 inches of snow and good black ice underneath, and I landed on another lake that was a slushy slog of overflow, and all three spots were within 15 miles of each other. Its the typical hodge-podge of conditions out there, and it makes finding a place to land a bit challenging. Yesterday it was 15 degrees and my neighbor showed a gust of 80.5mph on his wind station, this morning it was 22F degrees and raining. I love Alaska.
The fall picture was taken on September 20th, The snowy picture was taken November 6th. The snow has been teasing us for months, but the ground outside is finally solid white at sea level. Welcome winter 2013.
I just returned from a trip that I will not soon forget. I left Palmer in the Cessna 185 on October 22nd and returned 8 days later. I covered about 4,700 miles and at my furthest point I was 817 miles SouthWest of home (Palmer area). We spent a few days in Dillingham, and landed to dump in cans of gas at Port Alsworth, Nyac, Lime Village, Nondalton, Igiugig, Koliganek, King Salmon, Jensens Strip, Port Heiden, Port Moller, Black Hills, Cold Bay, and Cape Sarichef. We spent 2 days on the ground for bad weather, but other than that it was actually quite nice. We saw bears, wolves, thousands of caribou, walruses, moose, eagles, volcanoes, wrecked airplanes, snow, rain, sleet, fog, and 45 mph winds, and we did not even scratch the surface of what is available! Alaska never ceases to blow my mind. So sit back, relax, and scroll through a tiny fraction of South West Alaska. My camera battery was blinking red the whole trip, which was nearly disastrous, but I was cautious with my shots and got a couple of good ones.
The Narrows in Lake Clark Pass.
Everets Air Cargo C-46 Exiting the Pass.
Mountains in Little Lake Clark Pass.
Refueling in Nyac.
Weird helicopter pilot lunches.
9800′ over the TikChik lakes.
A Self Portrait.
The edge of Lake Iliamna in rain showers.
Fueling in Port Heiden.
A Super Cub dug into the ramp to diminish the angle of attack. The wind blew 55mph here the day before we arrived.
Refueling in Port Moller.
Crossing at Port Moller.
Refueling at Black Hills.
Flying off the iPad Sectional.
Mike Meekin in the 185, with Shishalden Volcano in the background.
Crossing from the main land to Unimak Island at False Pass.
The Water in False Pass.
The South Coast of Unimak Island.
Southwest shore of Unimak Island.
The next island down the chain, my GPS said it’s Akun.
Refueling at Cape Sarichef … just awesome.
I think that is Pavlof sister and Pavlof volcano but I am not sure.
A couple of walruses.
The coast line south of Port Heiden.
Mike and I proudly standing by the Cold Bay sign.
Almost back to Port Alsworth.
Well, that is my tiny snap shot of South West Alaska. That was one awesome trip, but I am happy to be home with my girls. Now I am just hanging out wrenching on airplanes, working on the house, and waiting to mail you a calendar! www.blueiceaviation.com/shop.php