Flying Alaska 2021 (Part 1) - Planning

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by wayneda40, Jul 12, 2021.

  1. wayneda40

    wayneda40 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    The three amigos -- Bill, Joe, Wayne -- are planning another flying adventure… to Alaska in August 2021. The first video in this series covers various aspects of our planning, including when to go, possible routes, locations to visit, trip calendar, and preparations. Should be great fun… welcome aboard! Wayne, GeezerGeek Pilot
     
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  2. kath

    kath Administrator Management Council Member

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    I'm confused about whether you're planning to stop in Canada or not, and how you're going to handle this if you do want to stop. The border was still closed to non-essential travel, the last time I checked. Did this change, and I missed the memo?

    How much time for the entire trip? You could spend weeks dorking around exploring any of these places with an airplane...

    Have you flown in Alaska before?

    I notice that Talkeetna didn't make the cut. It might be an easier jumping-off point for seeing The Mountain (depending on the weather). Plus, depending on where you stay there may be no need for a rental car, as beautiful downtown Talkeetna is within walking distance of the airport. Nice big runway with approaches. I think you're underestimating its "Scenic Beauty" rating too... Never been to Healy airport so I don't know how it compares.

    I also noticed (in a spreadsheet I think?) something about landing in Homer and then taking a water taxi to Seldovia. Why take a water taxi when you have a PLANE? Isn't that the point of having a plane? :) The town of Seldovia is also within walking distance of its airport. (Homer is not.)

    Girdwood is also walkable from the airport, and might make a neat stop. Is there a prohibition of gravel runways for this trip? If so, you're missing out on some neat places...

    If it were me, I would de-emphasize IFR approaches in my spreadsheet. If the goal is to see awesome scenic beauty, you're going to want to do that on a nice VFR day anyway, and flying IFR is not just about having approaches, it's also about the MEA's which can be stratospheric in some places. Places nestled in a valley or against a mountainside have some of the best Scenic Beauty ratings, but no approaches.

    I can see how approaches would be important from the perspective of the Canada transit, if you go with the coastal route. But I'll defer to experts on that. I'm not brave enough for the coastal route. Big fan of having at least a road beneath me.

    Keep us posted,
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2021
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  3. wayneda40

    wayneda40 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Katherine, awesome questions and great insight... many thanks!

    On COVID and Canada, as of 5-July there is (as we understand) an exemption for fully vaccinated travelers that should at least allow us to do a fuel stop in Canada (in our case CYKA). For that reason, our Plan 1A is to depart the Seattle area, top off fuel in Kamloops (CYKA), and continue to Ketchikan. If the weather outlook for that day is clear-and-a-million, then we might execute Plan 1B which is to go nonstop to Ketchikan.

    As you noticed, the video hits on our schedule (only 15 days total) and flying experience, but neither of us pilots has flown "to" Alaska, although we have each flown a few days "in" Alaska. In fact, I took a float flying lesson in 2019 with Alaska Floats and Skis out of Talkeetna. Healy was chosen for availability of lodging (things have been booking up very fast).

    I'm definitely hoping that weather will permit us to fly into Seldovia... and it's my personal target location for this trip. Again, we didn't have luck finding lodging in Seldovia.

    I also like your Girdwood suggestion... and Bill's C182 is very familiar with gravel from his 100++ trips to rural Mexico.

    You are totally correct about IFR... and the greater importance of MEAs, freezing levels, etc. I likely over-simplified that "accessibility" column in the scoring matrix and our focus on the approaches was mostly wrt our transiting the Southeast.. Our scoring also suffered from very limited personal experience with Alaska.

    And we'll see if the coastal weather cooperates or not... in concert with your road preference, we may very well end up going all the way to Plan B via the Trench/ALCAN (hoping that we can stay the night in Canada... that might be as iffy as the weather :)).

    Keep the good ideas coming!
    Sincere thanks,
    Wayne
     
  4. kath

    kath Administrator Management Council Member

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    My understanding is that:
    a) this exemption is only from the "testing and quarantine" procedures that were in effect for when you enter, but
    b) it doesn't change the rules about who can enter and who cannot.

    So if you were allowed to enter the country before (for instance, if you are a Canadian citizen or essential worker), the only difference is now if you're vax'ed you can forego some of the testing and quarantine when you get there.
    But if you were NOT allowed to enter the country before (for instance, if you are an American citizen who wants to visit your cousin or see Banff), then this exemption changes nothing for you.

    So, in order to not find myself asking nosy questions about your citizenship, I'll simply point this out for the benefit of anyone reading this thread: the border has not been "opened", even if you're fully vax'ed.

    The website you link to has a handy "Can I enter Canada?" interactive quiz wizard (https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/wizard-start)... but there isn't an option for transit by private aircraft. When I went through this process last summer, I had to call Border Services to get clarification about the rules. At the time, they basically told me that the rules for private aircraft would be like the rules for the road crossings, which is this:
    https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/answers/foreign-transit-land
    ... which says that you should bring proof of employment or residence in Alaska if going north on the roads... It also says you are "likely" to be let in. (Unhelpfully vague.)

    That being said, the general sense I got throughout the process is that whether Canada will let you in basically depends on the customs agent that you encounter. It's their call. I have an Anchorage permanent address, so I could make a very convincing case. :) There are probably others here who could chime in with their Canadian border stories.

    Edit: if I were a customs agent, and saw that a) you had a place to go in AK, and b) were going to exit Canada again on the next flight, after just picking up fuel, I would let you in!
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2021
  5. wayneda40

    wayneda40 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Katherine, as you did, I took that quiz (before, and again right now) and I agree there is some ambiguity... I answered:
    -- foreign national (we're all USA citizens)
    -- no symptoms
    -- only passing through Canada to reach another destination
    -- transiting on a "connecting flight" (well, that's true... even though it might not be their intent)

    ... and received (as I expect you did):
    "Based on your answers, you may be allowed to enter Canada.
    If you clear your health check, and have all necessary travel documents, you will likely be allowed to transit through Canada; however, the final determination will be made by a government official at the port of entry.
    You don’t require a negative COVID-19 test result to transit through Canada at this time."

    Of course, I plan to call CBSA/Kamloops to get their reading on this... with hopes that a fuel stop (i.e. not leaving the secure area of the airport) is doable. As you noted, this does seem to be a site-by-site thing... much like many US CBP locations not checking for negative COVID tests on arriving GA flights from Mexico (e.g. my trip back from the Baja in May 2021).

    Your heads-up on this is well-founded and much appreciated. I'll report back on how this plays out. Maybe we'll wake up the morning of Seattle departure, find blue skies and favorable winds to PAKT, and this will all be moot. Interesting and fun in any case.
    Thanks,
    Wayne
     
  6. kath

    kath Administrator Management Council Member

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    Yes! Sometimes there's no substitute for a human on the phone. :)
    While you've got the person on the phone, make sure your fuel airport option is open as an Airport of Entry (some ports closed when the border got restrictive) and what their hours are (some used to be 24hr but are now limited).
     
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  7. texasclouds

    texasclouds Pattern Altitude

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    I wanna go too!
     
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  8. iamtheari

    iamtheari Administrator Management Council Member

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    The fine print on the quiz is that you cannot "enter Canada" during your layover, so I think that you are right about the intent of the quiz being different than a literal reading of the option. I hope you'll take the time to post here when you've talked to them to find out more.

    I would very much like to visit Alaska with my own airplane. I have decision paralysis with Alaska: I want to see everything, can't choose one thing to see first, and thus never go. Having my own plane would give flexibility to cover more of Alaska in less time.
     
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  9. MajorTurbulence

    MajorTurbulence Pre-takeoff checklist

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    It’s not just the destinations to pick to visit by plane while there , but the adventure of the trip getting there and back.

    There were definitely more landing sites I could have picked on my trip. But with limited time, I had a great time landing at Merrill, flying around Denali, and renting a car to do the rest of exploring within 150-200 miles of Anchorage.YMMV. Given the dearth of rental cars and the crazy associated rental fees, if I were doing it this year, I would have figured out how to do the exploring with diverse landing sites that didn’t require a lot of ground transport. I’ve already cancelled a long planned trip visiting the lower 48 National Parks because of the rental car situation.

    PS: I did my trip while in possession of a 3rd Class Medical. Now, I’d be limited by Basic Med
     
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  10. wayneda40

    wayneda40 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Ari, I'll most definitely report back on what I hear from Canadian customs. I understand decision paralysis... I think Alaska is calling to you :).
     
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  11. bflynn

    bflynn Final Approach

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    There's a couple of issues here that I haven't seen touched on

    1) tech stops are exempt. If you just stop to get fuel and can go on, you never enter the country, so you're good.
    2) Entry to Canada is restricted to "funnelling" airport. Vancouver is the only one on the west coast. If a tech stop becomes an overnight due to weather, you could be stuck because Kamloops is not authorized to grant entry. I don't know what they'd do here, but I suspect "just let them sit in the airplane all night" is the only option the government policies permit. Even in normal times, you have to call and get entry clearance from Customs before you put your feet on the ground.
    3) I'm not convinced that path through the wizard is the right one. They're thinking about a person walking from one gate to another gate in a major airport, someone who has no need to leave the airport. GA really isn't on their minds.

    An encouraging story - several years ago we took a cruise to Alaska, late in the season. In Skagway, there was a sight seeing train that went out White Pass, Canada, turned around and came back. The morning we were there, there was a landslide across the tracks near the border and at least one train got stuck on the Canada side of the landslide. The passengers had no passports, but the train could no longer get back to the US. It only took US and Canada customs about 4 hours to figure out how to move the train to another station, put the passengers on busses and get them across the border to the cruise ship in Skagway.

    I'm definitely interested in what they have to say. The published policies don't cover what to do if a tech stop requires an overnight for weather or mechanical issues.
     
  12. sourdough44

    sourdough44 Pattern Altitude

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    Have a backup plan. I see you’re in CA. If need be, take the ‘northern route’ & go try some fresh Maine lobsters.

    The last I skimmed through, Canada was still closed. There is some talk about opening, but can’t be counting on it.
     
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  13. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Hey. You can get The Monkey from @kath. Then start planning your over the pond flight to Hawaii.
     
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  14. wayneda40

    wayneda40 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Brian, we're definitely in sync on these points... although, no offense, I'm keen to get Kamloops customs' confirmation on the tech stop exemption. Wouldn't be the end of the world if we had to spend the night in the aircraft (several nights would get old quickly :cool:). I also agree that the designer of the wizard quiz likely has no clue about GA.

    Love the White Pass story! Pragmatism wins out.
    I'll update POA as this plays out.
    Many thanks for taking the time to provide such good insight.
    Wayne
     
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  15. sourdough44

    sourdough44 Pattern Altitude

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    Sometimes you can snag a tailwind from WA to Ketchikan, but it’s not common.

    151843E4-FCF8-4471-83FF-039A22016D0A.png
     
  16. wayneda40

    wayneda40 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Wow, wouldn't that be nice... but unexpected and largely unplanned for. Thx!
     
  17. kath

    kath Administrator Management Council Member

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  18. Ghery

    Ghery Touchdown! Greaser!

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    We rode that train 15 years ago. It is a great ride. I'm glad to hear that the authorities came up with a pragmatic solution when that slide blocked the train's return.
     
  19. Ed Haywood

    Ed Haywood Line Up and Wait

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    Following with interest. After my Oshkosh and Midwest tour this month, I will start planning a big Florida-to-Alaska tour for next summer. Goal is all 50 states before I turn 60 in 3 years.

    Hopefully COVID will be a non-issue by then. Between recent double vaccination and having gotten COVID in January, I am a walking antibody factory.
     
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  20. kath

    kath Administrator Management Council Member

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  21. John Collins

    John Collins En-Route

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  22. wayneda40

    wayneda40 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Katherine and John, thanks for the links. Canada looking better for our August trip.
    Cool!
    Wayne
     
  23. iamtheari

    iamtheari Administrator Management Council Member

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    Well, they found someone who knows what a NOTAM is to help write this one, but it still needs clarification.

    The preceding paragraph says "Transport Canada is expanding the scope of the existing Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) that currently directs scheduled international commercial passenger flights into four Canadian airports..." But the following paragraph says that "These airports, in cooperation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and Transport Canada, are working to implement the measures necessary to safely welcome international passengers as soon as possible after August 9, as conditions dictate."

    So the GA options are still vague to me.
     
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  24. John Collins

    John Collins En-Route

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  25. wayneda40

    wayneda40 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Wow, flying GA into Canada is looking "interesting". Our current plan for 7-Aug is to fly 0S9 (Port Townsend) to CYKA (Kamloops), refuel, and then immediately continue on to PAKT (Ketchikan). Phone calls yesterday with Canada Border Services Agency indicated that this "in-transit" tech/fuel stop "should work fine". I'll report back. :rolleyes:
    Wayne