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PANC to KPDK

Posted By:
Ron Dillard
32
Posts
5
#1 Posted: 5/10/2010 19:14:55

I am looking at a possible trip from Anchorage to Atlanta in a VFR airplane. I would appreciate any suggestions as to route, refueling, overnights and any other information.

 

Thanks,

 

Ron



Steven Boyette
9
Posts
0
#2 Posted: 5/10/2010 19:25:34

Route: Southeast, Refueling: More than likely, Overnights: Yeah, probably at least one.

Seriously, sounds like an adventure.
goggles



Dorothy Klapp
27
Posts
20
#3 Posted: 5/11/2010 22:45:04 Modified: 5/11/2010 22:46:42

 It'll really help if you can provide a few more critical details: type of plane (fuel range, est. cruise speed, floats/wheels, 100LL or JetA), time of year leaving (what month window, if nothing else), expected accommodation (camping or hotels?), and time window available.

See, if you're ferrying a KingAir with non-functional icing system, I'll give you a lot different advice than if you're in a supercub.

In general, get your passport now, if you don't already have it. If you can find an out-of-print book called the Alaska Airmen's Logbook, it's the best guide I've ever seen to routes within Alaska and down to the Lower 48. Look up customs info, and remember that customs info changes all the time, so anything I could say would probably be outdated by the time you get there. 

There are two major routes: the coast and the Alaskan-Canadian Highway, or Alcan for short. I do not recommend the coast for anyone who doesn't have speed, range, deicing, and IFR... or floats, long range and ferry tanks, and a lot of time on their hands. The Alcan is longer, but takes you on the right side of the Rockies for your eventual destination, and not only are there regular fuel stops, you have a long landmark and emergency landing strip underneath you.

There are several variations on the Alcan. We don't need to worry about Dease Lake, as you're not aiming toward the West Coast. Unless you have something with lots of range (or floats) and darned good weather, I won't recommend the Trench (a shortcut consisting of a long lake-filled trench between the mountains, with uncertain fuel availability, no weather reporting, and very few landing spots). As you look at the map of the highways, though, I will recommend leaving the Alcan proper before it winds down to Vancouver BC and Seattle WA, and heading on the highway over to Cut Bank or Billings, Montana. The latter two airports are used by many pilots to clear customs when heading north in the spring and south in the fall, so customs there is both used to GA and even, as much as customs can be, GA-friendly. Polite, at least.

A word on maps: if you know someone who's run the Alcan recently, their maps are probably still current. Canadian maps do not expire, like US ones - they supercede, with sucessive printings only being done when changes require it. This means you'll want to check your maps against the most current to make sure they're still good, but you can save a pretty penny this way (canadian VNCs - equivalent to American sectionals - are pricey). NavCanada, as of the last time I looked at the route last fall, had an official statement out that they were disconinuing their version of WAC's for the areas that included the Alcan. I don't know why. On the other hand, with the uncertain publishing date of the VNC's, this means it is much more critical for you to have their A/FD equivalent, which does expire every 56 days on the same schedule as USA ones. Northern Lights Avionics in Anchorage has all these in stock, and can mail them to you or you can pick 'em up at Merrill Field when you're up there before you go.

A word on weather: Weather reporting is spotty at best, and even if it is accurate for the area reported, there are no guarantees that the weather in a pass or on the other side of a pass are going to be the same. The Alaskan FSS and weather briefers are not contract, are local, and really know their stuff. Call them and talk to them, and they can give you much better advice than a computerized forecasted guess, or someone staring at a computer in California reading off the weather for a pilot halfway across the country. Once you get to Canada, flight plans are mandatory - but the Canadian weather briefers and NavCanada guys are used to Americans running the Alcan, and can give you plenty of useful advice and information if you ask politely.

Also, June is the best month in Anchorage - least rainy days. Plan on weather delays, and bring a book you've been wanting to read along. You may end up in a tiny town with nothing to do for a week (especially in winter), and it is BAD to let boredom push you into making decisions that are fundamentally risky. That said, you're more likely to have a straight shot down the Alcan with no delays than you are coming up, especially if you start down on the heels of a front, chasing it in the clear air behind it, instead of coming against the flow of the weather.

A word on internet: do not assume it's everywhere. In fact, I don't know of anywhere in Whitehorse you can get wireless to file the EFIS to cross the border - most guys I know file with a delay built in here in Anchorage or in Fairbanks, then take off in a heck of a hurry toward the border to try to make it in time.

That enough advice yet?

 

 



Janet Davidson
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerAirVenture Volunteer
131
Posts
54
#4 Posted: 5/11/2010 22:50:56

Sounds like a fabulous trip!  A friend & I brought his Maule from Palmer, Alaska to Nut Tree airport in Vacaville, CA a few years ago in March.  It was a great adventure.  Not quite as far as your trip, but maybe you will find something useful in here...

 

We found lots of helpful info on the Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association as they did an annual Alaska trip.  We carried a satellite phone, rented for 2 weeks, and never went out of reach of a highway.  Mind you, there wasn't much in the way of traffic on the highways.  We also had a Garmin 296 (or 496 - I can't remember now), with weather.  The scenery was stunning and we were fortunate enough to have extraordinary weather that week, clear blue VFR all the way up to Klamath Falls, OR.  Our intial stop was North Way, Alaska, followed by Whitehorse in the Yukon, for the coldest St Patrick's night since records began.  Then overnight in Prince George, BC via Watson Lake.  Fantastic Sunday lunch in Omak, WA with a Nanchang friend,  and on to Klamath Falls, OR for 36 hrs thanks to weather.  The final leg to Vacaville only took a few hours once the weather cooperated. 



Ron Dillard
32
Posts
5
#5 Posted: 5/12/2010 14:18:50

Thanks Dorothy and Janet,

 

Good information.



Ralph Gutowski
9
Posts
0
#6 Posted: 5/14/2010 12:03:12 Modified: 5/14/2010 12:21:59

Ron:

I made the trip from Ohio to Anchorage and back in 2001 in a 1957 Tri-Pacer.  It was awesome and the flying adventure of a lifetime (other than a carrier landing and catapult shot).  In addtion to all the good adivce you have received thus far, I would add that the now discontinued Garmin 295 was a great GPS to use because the aviation mode and highway mode are integrated, so the route up/down the Alaskan Highway could be programmed in using towns and landmarks as well as airports.  This meant I got more realistic distances, ETEs, and ETAs between waypoints, than if I had to use the "direct" airport-to-airport (nav aid-to-nav aid) legs afforded by the latest GPS's.  It made it easier to identify passes you have to fly through, as well. 

The route I flew southeast from Dawson Creek (southern end of the Alaskan Highway) was via White Court, AB, Grand Prairie (AB), Wetaskawin (AB) - a good overnight stop, No. Battlefield, SK (AVOID LUSELAND, SK AT ALL COSTS!), Regina Int'l or Moose Jaw, and International Peace Garden.  IPG is an excellent place to clear customs because the agents are on duty 24 x 7, but there is no fuel there.   We fueled and overnighted in Rolla, ND.  In the US the route overflew Grand Forks, ND, Alexandria, MN, Redwing, MN (or La Cross, WI), then around the west side of Chicago (ie., Aurora or Morris, IL), then on to Ohio.  All good terrain with plenty of airporrts and optons.

FYI, along the Alaskan Highway you should not have to fly higher than 5,500 MSL feet to get over the passes.  VOR's are pretty much useless, but ADF beacons are strong and reliable, as was GPS (carried two of them).  Some waypoints have very similar names but are hundreds of miles apart in the wrong direction - make sure you get your GPS programmed correctly: "Dawson Creek" not just plain "Dawson", and "Haines Junction" not "Haines" - else you coud end up in real trouble. 

On the leg between Watson Lake and Ft. Nelson south of Liard Hot Springs the highway takes a jagged route through the mountains where there is no weather reporting.  We decided to not fly the highway between Liard Hot Springs and Watson Lake but rather flew the direct "airway" route for this segment - it is shorter, lower altitude, less prone to uncertain weather, but it is totally desolate of any and all civilization for 115 miles.  We flew over Devil's Canyon and Rapids of the Dammed with nothing beneath us but 100 ft tall spruce, moose, and bears.  It was SPECTACULAR!   You get the picture. 

Take a tool kit with some spare parts you might need, like a generator belt, inner tube, fuses, safety wire, tiewraps, Adle clamps, gaskets, assorted NBW, etc., etc.   A handheld aviation radio for backup is strongly advised.  The AOPA web site has some excellent resources for flying the Alaskan Highway, crossing borders, and clearing customs.  My final advice if you are flying a small, single engine pleasure aircraft is don't push yourself or be on a tight schedule.  Fly only what the weather allows you, and don't look at it as having to cover 4,000 miles - take each segment or day's flying as it's own enjoyable cross-country hop.  Remember, it's the JOURNEY, not just a destination!

RRG   

 

 

 



Ron Dillard
32
Posts
5
#7 Posted: 5/14/2010 16:16:03

Thanks Ralph,

 

It sounds like you had a good time.

 

Ron