By: joealaska , 8:09 AM GMT on November 07, 2012

Lots happening the last few days.

Supposed to be back in Dutch Thursday. Wrong PB. My flight out was cancelled..

Weather in Dutch. Then it was re-scheduled for the next day at 2 PM.

Then another re-schedule... in TWO days at 6:45 AM. I HATE early AM flights, but that is what I usually get. So I switched hotels to Courtyard at Marriot, just to compare.

Phone was dead (they soon fixed it), then the cable TV went bad during college football. GCI. We have troubles with that company in Dutch. Small world! Won’t be going back there.

Saturday night I was at The Millennium Hotel. Headquarters for The Iditarod. I assume there are a bunch of dog kennels there. I liked the place. A couple of nice restaurants. But then I called GNU from the hotel phone in my room, and talked for about a half hour. $106 KA CHING.

Will not be going back. I vote The COMFORT INN. I even heard some other guest complimenting them as they were leaving. Nice place.

OK, I finally took off Sunday. Above the clouds, there was a beautiful sunrise to watch. But when we got near Dutch, we went below the clouds. Now the adventure began. It was not that turbulent until we got below the clouds, maybe a thousand feet above the water. I noticed several vessels heading out, big boats. I could see that they were fighting the waves.

We came in along Summer Bay Road and banked right to the runway. The plane was at the mercy of the wind, and the wind was winning. We were suddenly jumping up and down, left and right, violently. Having flown a plane for a couple years, I knew they were doing everything they could to point the nose at the runway. Not so easy. The movements were sudden and severe, and I was wondering how even a great pilot could react. All I know was we were coming in low, and it was still crazy. I do not care when a plane is bouncing around at altitude, but it gets interesting on final approach. Just when we were at the head of the runway it got wild, where we were landing with the plane at a 45 degree angle to the runway. OH, and the up and down bouncing... Somehow the pilot got the wheels on the ground. Still a problem, as we were heading into the side of ballyhoo.

He jerked the plane off the ground and went for a go around. It was the right move.

I looked around at the passengers, and everyone was looking outside with a funny look on their face.
Someone else on that plane is now blogging about the expression they saw on MY face.

Normally I take comfort in this situation that the pilot is good and will do the right thing. But I repeat, the wind was so crazy I think even Chuck Yeager may have ended up as a stain on the runway.

We went around the long way, then a low pass over the runway. Then one more time around. Third
time the charm.

We made a third approach, and I noticed a change. As we banked to final approach, they gunned the engines. They took charge, instead of the typical power down approach. It was like they were saying, OK, TAKE THIS! There is a peninsula we pass over on approach, and I was concerned we may just hit it and be done. But we got by. It is indescribable at this point. We are hurling forward, but every other point of reference is wildly changing. I emphasize the WILD. I am thinking NO WAY. Already considering the 3 hour trip back, then three hours back to Dutch next day again.

The noise was loud, and I am peering out the window as was everyone else. Even as we were just above the runway I was figuring NO SIR. But they jammed it down on the ground and instantaneously slammed the brakes.

Flying Alaska.

I admit I was approaching petrification and was shaken even after we were on the ground.

The passengers broke to spontaneous applause and cheers, and when we stopped to deplane the Captain appeared. Everyone shook his hand. He was awesome, but I wonder if he pushed the limit.
His reaction was NO BIG DEAL. ALASKA.

Maybe in Alaska borderline is OK.

I tell you, I will never forget that landing.

Alaskan Pilots have my respects!

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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18. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
7:37 AM GMT on November 10, 2012
joealaska has created a new entry.
17. DHaupt
2:29 AM GMT on November 10, 2012
It is pretty amazing. I know that I couldn't have touched that bird even with a set of chopsticks. They have to be pretty well armored. I never picked up a wren or thrasher, but I know that a crow's outer feathers are quite hard and stiff, nothing soft and fluffy about them -- they descended from dinosaurs, after all.
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16. cholla
1:54 AM GMT on November 10, 2012
Arizona's state bird, the Cactus Wren, nests in chollas. Usually in Teddy-Bear Chollas or "Jumping Chollas." You gotta wonder how they keep from being stuck on those sharp needles.
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15. DHaupt
1:31 AM GMT on November 10, 2012
Those are definitely chollas! They are so soft and furry looking. Another interesting thing about chollas is that some birds, especially thrashers nest in them. I would be walking through patches of them and would hear this very soft, complex twittering nearby but could see no bird.

One day, I did a very careful listen and a look and discovered this Bendire's thrasher about two feet from my face, chortling away quite unperturbed in the deepest part of the plant. He was eyeing me very sharply as I leaned closer for a better look. But, he made no sign of fleeing nor altered the complexity of his song. It knew absolutely that I was not going to reach in and grab it.

I probably spent five minutes just inches from it. It was a fascinating experience.
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14. Arbie
11:20 PM GMT on November 09, 2012
TucsonDoug had some great pictures of chollas. :) Please don't tell me I'm wrong--these are cholla cactus, right?

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13. hanfyh
9:15 PM GMT on November 09, 2012
Hi all,
I saw that Ididiotrod post and I wondered about the accuracy of it.
Every year we get a package on TV of the race. I wouldn’t want to do it but I do like watching it. Its a tough sport but as to people mistreating and belting the hell out of their dogs, I find that unusual because a dog with broken ribs and stuff wouldn’t be much good in the race. Its a team sport and if every dog isnt happily working together your chances of winning wouldn’t be good. Also I would imagine the Alaskan animal protection people wouldn’t let cruelty happen.
I dont actually know but once their racing career is over life could be tough for them. We have greyhound dog racing here. Some people claim thats cruel and they would like to get it banned. The lifespan after greyhounds finish racing can be short, but what animal sport isnt.
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12. dotmom
12:00 PM GMT on November 09, 2012
I'm with you Dave. If this is a problem, this page is not where you jump on your soapbox to try to make a difference. Go to the problem directly. Thanks Joe for taking care of #9!
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11. DHaupt
7:28 AM GMT on November 09, 2012
Way to go Joe, I think we all got robobombed with #9 just because you used the word Ididiotrod in your post. I didn't find the evidence all that convincing either. Something like that, if true, would raise a much bigger hue-and-cry. No one in the legitimate press or media would have any need or desire to suppress it. Quite the contrary, It would be a major scandal, right up there with Watergate or baseball doping. The first cracking of the lid would send the entire pot contents all over the kitchen.
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10. cybersuze
12:08 AM GMT on November 09, 2012
Flight landings can be scarey! Glad you made it home safe Joe. Did you celebrate your birthday? Or just go back and forth between hotels and airport?

nice pics
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8. preacherskidd
11:55 PM GMT on November 07, 2012
sounds like something Don Sheldon would have done. some of the exploits in WAGER WITH THE WIND were pretty amazing. but then about all the bush pilots have stories, I'm sure. When we stayed in Soldotna, we got a free glacier tour, and we were told the young pilot was considered overly cautious by some ministers as he wouldn't fly in marginal weather.
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7. hanfyh
6:47 PM GMT on November 07, 2012
Awhile ago a guy and his wife from near here crashed their plane and died in Alaska. I can see that happening when Joe talks about landings like this. Welcome home and back to work Jo.
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6. ladyhomer
5:00 PM GMT on November 07, 2012
I can relate to Joes airplane ride , as we travel on small planes into Homer & I had a wild ride on an era plane out of Anchorage into Homer once we were up we was all socked in could not see a thing, very bumpy ride then when we got to Homer we had to circle around a couple times until we could find a hole to get down into to land the wind was really blowing when we landed on a very nasty icey runway but we came to a skidding stop , whew we were all ready o puke on that very bumpy ride --hope I never have a wild flight like that again.

Yes Joe we did have some nasty windy weather here while you was basking in the sunshine but glad to hear you are back
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5. osdianna
4:34 PM GMT on November 07, 2012
Whew...I'm surprised everyone didn't head for the bathrooms to change their fouled pants and wash up! I have spoken to many who take the idea of early death philosophically, but I maintain they just don't understand! So glad you made it...hope THAT doesn't happen again.

All of my flight experiences were unremarkable, with the exception of a small, private plane ride I took with a FORMER friend out over Santa Monica Bay...who thought it would be fun to cut the engine and free fall a bit...without warning me. He was very apologetic when he saw my face and my body language as we hurtled straight down at the water.

I was unforgiving, but got my revenge when he and his new girlfriend came to my wedding and stayed overnight with the whole wedding party at 10,000+ ft altitude in the High Sierra's on a June 1st...snow all around us...and all they had was a couple of flannel-lined sleeping bags! I believe they left around 3:30am, never to be seen by me again.

Welcome home, Joe. Payson is looking real good, isn't it?

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4. insideuk
1:54 PM GMT on November 07, 2012
I've never piloted a plane in my life, nor have I ever been entirely happy to hand over this privileged front seat driving position. The wearing of a fancy hat and gold epaulette's on ones shirtage doesn't automatically qualify anyone to chauffeur me around the clouds, at least not to the extent that a fully prepared 186 page career/ service history questionnaire might.

Assuming I'd be given an opportunity to question all the ground staff and plane maintenance crew too. I'm nervous of handing over control.

Frankly there have been times when I'd wished I was not only in charge of the plane but also in charge of the passengers and all the on board facilities. A particularly bumpy flight back from France was enough to have scared me to the point that I refused FREE CHOCOLATE.

I was that scared that I completely forgot I could pocket said free chocolate bar and eat it later. I was simply convinced that later wasn't going to happen. This doom laden idea was exacerbated by myself and other members of my family, who were taking up the last row of seats, noticing with some alarm that there was a great deal of liquid now flowing down the gangway. That really put the squits up the trolley dolly – she freaked out, as did the next flight attendant, and the next...

That put me so much more at ease, you can't imagine.

That pilot got a round of applause after we landed too. Not from me. I was still performing the role of human WING BOLT. If I'd have let go of the arms my seat for even a nanosecond we'd all have been dead.

Or so I thought at the time. With the benefit of hindsight I now believe only the trolley dolly was ever in real danger, since she was the one who kept hold of MY chocolate.

Still, I'm glad you made it safely down to earth. I watched a TV show a few weeks back where some (crazy bastard) scientist types set out to deliberately crash a Boeing 727 to closely study the effects on plane and passengers.

They used crash test dummies for passengers, but they couldn't find one crazy enough to operate as the pilot so they used a human one. He parachuted out at 2000ft, as planned (though he looked disappointed), then he watched as the plane nose dived into the Mexican desert ahead of him.

The cockpit section quickly came undone having been sliced off by the sheared landing gear, leaving the would be pilots and a handful of dummies who paid for first class sucking in sand as they folded backwards underneath the left hand wing. They would not have survived impact. Ho hum.

Out back, in the still intact body of the plane, one dummy was belted up and put into the (hands behind head, lean forward) brace position. Another was belted, but sat stubbornly upright, ignoring all pre-recorded and frequently repeated requests urging him to take the brace position. The last dummy was free to take it all just as he found it, no belt, no brace, no nothing.

I didn't mention any of this stuff prior to your vacation Joe, because it struck me as tempting fate. Now I think about it, my last message to you before you flew back into Dutch was something about it being better to be stuck in a hotel than flying into a mountainside in a storm...

So now I will tell you the results of the plane crash experiment on the basis that I'm not in charge of any consequence of doing so. I am merely the conduit that carries the misinformation.

The dummy that was left free to roam did just that, he shot forwards across a few rows of seats and suffered enough injuries to render him unable to work as a crash test dummy ever again. Very sad.

The braced dummy passenger survived, though showed little reaction to his good fortune. His ankles were snapped on his foot rest as the full force of the impact was sent down through his body. This protected his head enough to ensure he remained conscious, and could most likely hobble away from danger of fire. Aided by adrenaline as a temporary but very effective painkiller for that fractured ankle, possibly – or possibly not. He'd have been most likely to have survived to write a blog about his experience. Though his Iditarod days were over.

The dummy that ignored the calls to brace would likely have survived impact too. But he would have sustained severe head injuries from nutting the back of the seat in front, plus more injuries from sitting up in the face of flying debris. There was a lot of debris, most of it comprised of aircraft parts being ripped from their internal housings. A massive amount of electrical cables will impede your exit in any direction. Not a single overhead locker burst open though. Every carry on bag survived intact.

The unscientific conclusion I took from all this?

Next time you fly, see if you can fit in an overhead locker towards the rear of the plane and take wire cutters.

Definitely don't be the pilot. Not even a successful one.

Your hero of the day will probably be brought down a week from now by a nasty bug caught from having shook all those sweaty hands...
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3. bearpaints
12:19 PM GMT on November 07, 2012
I'm not a flyer. If I was a drinking person I would the whole time, white knuckle flyer here. Reason I don't travel besides lack of animal sitter or money. After the first time I would say: "No really I can jump don't worry!"
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2. cholla
10:24 AM GMT on November 07, 2012
Like you, Joe- in my younger years I wanted to be a pilot. Just before my solo flight, in a strong crosswind I bounced off the runway, gunned it and did another go-round. I decided then and there that flying wasn't for me. Our flights back from Chile (on American Airlines) were all on time and not at all hair-raising. I'll PM you a couple photos soon.

Both Maggie and I were glad to have you at our house! Payson isn't exactly next door to Oro Valley- but we might touch base with you again.....
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1. DHaupt
9:31 AM GMT on November 07, 2012
OMG! Really glad that you are with us still. I could never get on a plane fully sober or long remain so.

My worst ever flight was out of the airport (Desert Rock Airstrip) at Mercury, NV at the Nevada test sight. The day had been hot and extremely windy with a barometric pressure approaching hurricane levels. About 60 of us from Livermore Lab, all tired, sweaty and smelly from living rough for three days were jammed like sardines into this Fairchild F27, around 4PM.

We couldn't take off right away because the pilot and co-pilot determined that with our passenger load and fuel we'd never get off the ground. You see, the wind was out of the northwest and the runway has an uphill climb of probably 150 feet headed that way. So, we waited and waited because the barometer was expected to rise and the temperature to drop and the wind to abate towards sundown.

Then, along about 5:30 a strange thing happened. We started slowly taxiing to the upper end of the runway. The crew had done more calculations and determined that we could achieve takeoff airspeed if we took off down hill, down wind. And, that is just what we did!

We lifted off (if that is what raising the landing gear means) about 100 feet from the end of the runway doing probably 200 knots ground speed and then slowly rose above the sagebrush and fence posts as the valley fell away beneath us faster than we were actually climbing. We flew a couple of wide spirals until we got enough altitude to clear the low pass to the west. US95, the Veteran's Memorial Highway was not far below us. We all thought it might get renamed in our honor. I was told that there were a few bits sage brush in the landing gear when we made it to Livermore.

I only went to Mercury on rare occasions. Grizzled old timers in nuclear test said, after we could all breath again, that was the worst flight out of Mercury that they had ever experienced. Not many months later, the lab got out of the airline business and everyone flew commercial out of Las Vegas. That flight was contributory to the decision. Had we gone down, it would have wiped out a major block of this nation's nuclear test expertise.

Those pilots: I think they are, as a class, a bunch of crazy bastards. Sane people wouldn't, couldn't, shouldn't do it.

I am drained from watching hours of election results pour in on the telly and Mac. I won't go on about it other than to say that I am happy -- especially because we finally have gotten rid of Pete Stark as our congressman. He was elected the year I moved to California and had hardly been seen since. But did he ever have an organization on the ground in Oakland that kept him on the public dole for over half a lifetime.

I repeat, glad you made it in one piece. We really enjoyed your visit and your trip photos.
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