Sundays are for skiing

Downhill and cross country skiing is great anytime of year. But spring skiing is groovy. The sun is packin some heat, daylight hours are longer, and folks are shedding the winter blues – all a bonus.

Sunday Mar 1, old snow trail, Eagle River

Sunday Mar 1, old snow trail, Eagle River

Sunday Mar 9, at the top of Ted's Express, Alyeska Resort

Sunday Mar 9, at the top of Ted’s Express, Alyeska Resort

Sunday Mar 16, Moose Meadows trail, Girdwood

Sunday Mar 16, Moose Meadows trail, Girdwood

Sunday Mar 23, on the lake, Eagle River

Sunday Mar 23, on the lake, Eagle River

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Talkeetna

All four of us enjoyed a sunny, relaxing, spring, family drive to Talkeetna today. It’s not often all of us get to unwind at once – and together.

Mt. McKinley fantasizing its a volcano

Mt. McKinley fantasizing its a volcano

Mt. Foraker on the left, Mt Hunter the middle child, McKinley on the right

Mt. Foraker on the left, Mt Hunter the middle child, McKinley on the right

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Saturday on the Knik

As weather is keeping the cub grounded this Saturday, I’ll relive last Saturday’s flight.

A friend and I took advantage of the calm sunny conditions up Knik Valley last Saturday. Adam counted 34 moose on the upriver leg. With quite a few calves from this year and last. We’re praying this mild winter combined with lotsa calves means good moose hunting seasons in the future.

We saw no animal tracks in the snow above Whiteout Glacier. And only a few sets of tracks between Colony Glacier and Whiteout.

Flyin up to Lake George glacier

Flyin up to Lake George glacier

Flyin down from Lake George to Knik Glacier

Flyin down from Lake George to Knik Glacier

Knik Glacier

Knik Glacier

Bombing thru the Gorge

Bombing thru the Gorge

No landings in the Gorge today

No landings in the Gorge today

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March on the Kenai

On the river today, March 14th, 37 F and blowing, with snow/rain/snow falling.

Winnie the Pooh calls these days "blustery"

Winnie the Pooh calls these days “blustery”

Fishin on the Kenai was fun today. Quantity of fish caught was average. Quality of fish caught was, well, subpar.

This is a Rainbow in the sense that it is multi-hued

This is a Rainbow in the sense that it is multi-hued

The fish were plentiful along the upper river. Unfortunately only Silver Salmon (Coho for Juneau’ites) were biting. I caught two near the bridge at the lake outlet. Not wanting to disturb zee salmon amour, I moved down river to locate some Rainbows, and instead caught two more Silvers. Moved further down river to get away from the Silvers, and caught two more. The Silvers must inhale the fly, as all hookups were just above the salmon’s throat. Instead of biting or crushing the fly, which hooks into the fish’s mouth or lips.

I had visions of catching monster Rainbows today, not spawning Silvers, so I returned home for a walk with God/dog.

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technology which gets me hyperventilating – flight planning

Foreflight is recent technology which has bettered my flight planning. Foreflight is a flight planning and in-flight tracking app for iPad or iPhone. This app has cut my trip preparation time by well over half when using its intuitive flight planning tools. And flight plans/routes I build can be saved to re-use repeatedly over-n-over. A few weeks ago I planned an expedition to King Salmon to check our property and equipment, and to see if the truck still runs. Winds prevented the trip during two of my available four days, but the planning was good practice. A few of the planning tools I use are shown below.

1) Foreflight showing an overall view of a saved route - home (Fire Lake) to Tok - 243 air miles. Info Feb 8, 2014

1) Foreflight showing an overall view of a saved route – home (Fire Lake) to Tok – 293 air miles, 3 hrs 35 min, 35 gals AvGas. Info Feb 8, 2014

I built and saved routes for flights, such as: to moose camp; to Tok to visit in-laws and our property; and to our King Salmon property for fishing. Once the route is built, I generally start planning a flight with an overall review of the complete route. Primarily looking for evil spirits which may impact my trip: high winds aloft; TFRs; altimeters settings; etc. I do my overall review on a scaled screen shown in pictures 1 & 2.

Flying to Tok consumes less stress and navigation brain cells, as the road is adjacent along the entire route. Once West of Willow on the way to King Salmon, there are no roads to use as a safety runway or as a navigation crutch. As everything is a trade-off, flying to King Salmon is funner because of the mind-blowing Rainbow and salmon fishing.

2) My chosen route from Fire Lake (D72) to King Salmon (PAKN) - 348 air miles. Info Feb 9, 2014

2) My chosen route from Fire Lake (D72) to King Salmon (PAKN) – 348 air miles, 3 hr 51 min, 38.5 gals AvGas. Info Feb 9, 2014

Reviewing the day’s winds along the King Salmon route, I did not make this trip – neither on the 8th nor 9th. Noting the winds at nearby reporting stations, appears the winds are funneling straight down the gullet of Lake Clark Pass. Practical application of the saying, “It’s better to be down here wishing you were up there, than to be up there wishing you were down here”.

3) The navigation log drop-down

3) The navigation log drop-down

The navigation log shown in screen shot 3) details the last four legs between checkpoints on the route near King Salmon (PAKN). Scrolling up and down in the app shows details of previous legs. Winds aloft from DUATS* are included in the estimated time enroute (ETE) and estimated speed. I have 85 mph entered as default cruise speed for the cub.

The navigation log is very handy reference. Foreflight’s log format is the same as the paper logs I learned on. I’ve printed this log for manual use with a sectional chart and watch. I need to practice the manual method more often to keep muh navigation skillz fresh…well…maybe stale, but usable.

4) Clicking on the feather symbol brings up wind details

4) Clicking on the feather symbol brings up wind details

Winds are a potential hazard I like to know before even putting on my flying scarf. Winds near my route at Palmer airport had winds of 36 to 47 mph. Flight Service Station at King Salmon (see pic 5) reported winds of 18-25 – winds at that speed are safe, but unpleasant. When you see winds of 23 – 31 at Iliamna airport (near Lake Clark Pass), turbulence comes to mind and is the deciding factor to wait for a calmer day. Clicking on the feather symbol brings up the METAR providing cloud levels, altimeter setting, dew point, and additional info on other tabs.

5) The feather symbol is an easily understood graphic depiction of wind speed and direction

5) The feather symbol is an easily understood graphic depiction of wind speed and direction

6) Lake Clark Pass segment of the King Salmon route

6) Lake Clark Pass segment of the King Salmon route

Isolating, or breaking out, interesting segments of a route is an easy feature to use with saved routes. Isolating a particular segment can give exact time estimates. For instance if I arrive at the East end of Lake Clark Pass and discover its clogged with fog – but clearing –  then I know how long I can loiter before landing somewhere and fuel up from the fuel bags in the cargo pod. Plus as Iliamna is 1.2 hrs (and 120 air miles, 12.8 gals AvGas) from the East mouth of the pass, the time estimate determines how much fuel I have to loiter while waiting for weather to clear and fly to Iliamna (or Port Alsworth along the way), or fly to Kenai for more fuel. I carry ten gallons of AvGas in the bags, so I can fly one additional hour past my 42 gallons of usable fuel.

First move is to save the route under another name, then isolate the segment desired by deleting checkpoints. For instance, I saved the King Salmon route with the new name “Lake Clark Pass”, and deleted all but Lake Clark Pass checkpoints. That gives me a nav log and data from the East end of the pass at Big River Lakes to the West end where Tlikakila River dumps into Lake Clark. Now should a passenger ask (or I need to know) how long thru the pass, I can proclaim the segment should take bout 46 minutes with an average 6 mph tailwind, burn a splash over seven and a half gallons of avgas, and the total distance is 70 miles. My default distance units are statute miles, not nautical miles (1 sm = .87 nm, those suffering dyslexia would see 1 nm = 1.15 sm). In Foreflight, our cub’s default planning speed is 85 mph.

The Lake Clark Pass segment 6) is graphically shown, with the nav log detailing legs between checkpoints. Only the last four legs are displayed above. Scrolling up or down in the app shows remaining legs.

7) The red circle depicts a TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) near Fairbanks

7) The red circle depicts a TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) near Fairbanks

TFRs are restricted zones that I don’t want to mess with. Pilot license threatening juju for the fella who flies into one a these. Almost all TFRs are in place for legitimate (in my view) reasons, such as the president’s trips thru Alaska, military exercises, forest fires, or search and rescue areas. The TFR shown near Fairbanks on Feb 8 is for a rocket launch. TFR knowledge is important in other ways, as a TFR may close one pass, which will detour that traffic through adjacent passes. So if you’re flying an adjacent pass, anticipate more frequent traffic than normal. Clicking on the individual TFRs provides additional details.

East entrance to Lake Clark Pass, Mark Anderson’s photo de la Google Earth

East entrance to Lake Clark Pass, Mark Anderson’s photo de la Google Earth

Middle of Lake Clark Pass, Phil Logan’s photo de la Google Earth

Middle of Lake Clark Pass, Phil Logan’s photo de la Google Earth

These same routes are loaded in my GPS in case weather drops too low and I need to land on a gravel bar to wait it out – quickly notifying muh ex-girlfriend via sat phone of course. For these two routes, and most I fly, I don’t need Foreflight or a GPS for in-flight navigation because I’ve flown em previously. I do follow the GPS when flying outside my AO (cool lingo for Area of Operations). But the GPS is a handy method to keep track of time flown thus far for fuel purposes. We derive a conservative fuel estimate by inputting the time estimates along with our cub’s 10 gph fuel burn into elementary school math equations. 10 gph is the planning burn for our cub, actual burn is 9 to 9 ½ gph when leaned. Included in that estimated total fuel usage, is fuel used during the compulsory and fun circling around sumptin cool to watch or photograph. Although I do not use Foreflight for in-flight use, I do keep flight routes loaded on my iPhone’s Foreflight app just in case my GPS spews satanic symbols mid-flight.

*Foreflight uses my DUATS account to access winds for flight time estimating. DUATS and DUAT are two contractor run flight services overseen by the FAA. The service is the same, just run by two different contractors using two different methods to deliver weather briefings, plan flights, and file flight plans. Being a federal government service, DUATS/DUAT are useful and appreciated, but very cumbersome and unsociable in that government way, so not used by me anymore. Professionals, such as airline dispatchers, possibly still use DUATS/DUAT.

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thoughts on final

On final for landing at the lake, I had one of those random thoughts which shouldn’t be acted upon.

The roof of Fred Meyer store is placed directly on my final approach to land at home. I dreamt I landed on the roof. Central to my random thought is that I was welcomed as a late Santa Claus and be allowed to continue on to the lake.

My second thought was to lay ski tracks across the roof and continue on.

My thoughts remained just thoughts.

Fred's on final for the lake

Fred’s on final for the lake

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stereotypes

Another of my generalities with a stake driven thru its heart.

We witnessed a pro Pebble Mine’r drivin a Subaru. Never in all my days have I had nightmares of seeing this combination in Alaska.

My daughters asked me to not draw a diagonal line across the sticker. A line woulda made it better.

My daughters asked me to not draw a diagonal line across the sticker. A line woulda made it better.

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