Archive for April, 2009


Its been a while since my last post.  The days of snow covered ground have dicipated into the soggy soil below.  As the ice melts away from the shore we’ve scurted along the the mirror smooth water in our aluminum canoe.  The ice moves around in the wind and can cut you off if you are out for too long.  The aluminum canoe allows us to be mini ice breaking boats if we do get a little trapped.


With all this rain coming down and some milder temperatures I am getting more and more anxious to be finished with school.  I have 24 more days with kids and 25 more days of work.  Not like I’m counting.  I really can’t wait for our trip to Austrailia.  It will be nice for Erin and I to get out and about again.  We had a balst over in Ireland, and I think three weeks in a little camper will be a perfect way to start our summer break.  We will be in Southern Australia, so it won’t be a tropical vacation being their winter and all, but watching the penguins run up on shore and checking out the occasional winery will be very relaxing.

We went down to Baxter yesterday for Axton’s second birthday party.  He sure is getting big.  It was nice to catch up with the Svirs.  They have another little one on the way, so they will be busy for sure when the new one comes along.  Wonder what Axton will think of having a younger sibling.

On a sad note, my little dell mini bit the dust today.  I had it set up taking a time lapse for the last 5 days.  It was taking a picture every 5 minutes and when it did it would make a little beeping noise.  I woke up this morning and didn’t notice the beep at all through out the day, so I went over to check on it.  The screen was black and usually it would have the screen saver going, so I tried to move the mouse and no go.  I did some further checking and after a little chat with Dell support Im sending it back in sometime this week.  So for my first Dell purchase this doesn’t boad so well.  Im thinking its just the power board in the laptop that went bad preventing it from powering up the battery or running the computer.  So it shouldn’t be too difficult to fix.  It’ll be interesting to see if the time lapse was saved at all.  We’ll see I guess.  The support guy said that the turnaround time would be about 7 – 10 days, so we should have it back in time for our trip to Australia.  I’ll update you when I find out more.

Well time to get to my school work done.  Have a great week.

Vermilion Falls

Stacy and Dylan drove out to the house this morning to join April, Jesse, Jim, Erin, and I out to Vermilion Falls.  We hopped in the car and took off towards Crane Lake.  Its a bit of a drive, and since we took the back gravel roads which are pretty sloppy with all the snow melting it was even a bit longer.  We got to the road heading towards the falls only to find it hadn’t been plowed yet.  We put the vehicles in 4-wheel drive and continued down the 4 mile road.  When we got to the “drive way” into the parking area it was even more covered in snow and was heading up a hil, so we parked the cars and began our hike there.

We were hoping to catch the ice breaking up and being forced through the narrow gorge, but when we got to the river we found it already open.  It still is a fun place to visit.  There is a ton of water rushing through there.  We took some pictures and had lunch on a picnic table.



All throughout our day in at the falls we were having mini snowball fights.  The snow was the perfect consistency for making snowballs.  Dylan was a fierce competitor and was always ready for a battle.  After we finished eating Jim had the idea of making a snowman.  It didn’t take too long and we had a very respectable snowman to greet any visitors in the next couple of days.  I don’t know how long he’ll last, but as long as the skies continue to be covered with clouds and the temps stay in the 30’s it could be some time before he withers away.


We then headed back to the cars and drove to Orr where we filled our car with gas and our tummies with A&W root-beer floats.  They sure are tasty, but make it quite difficult to drive and work the spoons filled with the bubbly ice cream to your mouth.  We headed back to the house where we relaxed and had some dinner.

It sure was a nice way to spend a Saturday.

Safe and Sound

It was a pretty stressful Wednesday night wondering what circumstances my dad was in having “crashed” in a Cessna 208 Caravan II flying between Scammon Bay and Bethel, Alaska.  I’ll try to give you a play by play on what happened to the best of my knowledge.  I haven’t had a chance to directly talk to my dad yet, but this is what I’ve gleaned from conversations with my mom and a message left by my dad on my cell phone.

On their way back to Bethel from Scammon Bay my dad and fellow pilot Brian were flying at about 7,400 feet elevation when the engine failed.  My dad said he was very impressed with how the caravan handled, and that it had a high enough glide ratio to give them time to pick out a suitable place to land.  They ended up putting the plane down on a lake roughly 94 miles from Bethel.  Within 15 minutes of setting the plane down one of the companies other planes flew over checking on them.



The landing couldn’t have been better.  Brian did just a phenomenal job of setting the ski less plane down on the snow covered lake.  During the landing the front landing gears shock was depressed and would not release.  This is the only damage the plane encountered in the emergency landing. They are very lucky the landing gear didn’t buckle.  If it had, the plane would have sustained a substantial amount of damage.


So now they are stranded in the middle of a frozen lake surrounded by miles and miles of bare tundra.  They were able to radio headquarters that they had landed and that neither of them had been injured.  The national guard dispatched a helicopter out to pick them up.  The helicopter got really close to them but there was a pretty bad blizzard that made an air rescue impossible.  Upon hearing the National Guard had scratched their attempted rescue Hageland sent a plane back out to the scene where they dropped some survival gear out the side of the plane for the guys.  They retrieved this gear and headed back to the plane where they were able to get out of the wind and cook up some dinner.  I heard rumors of some humorous talk of the movie “Alive” as they sat in the plane with the wind howling outside.

Meanwhile 45 miles to the west in Chevak a search and rescue team was being mobilized.  A couple of people headed out on snowmachines only to have one of their machines break down so they had to return to Chevak.  Around 1:00 AM a group of 4 riders took off to pick up the two pilots.  While they were on their two hour ride to the crash site, Dad and Brian were catching some zzzz’s in the caravan.  I guess at one point the wind was blowing hard enough to jostle the plane around.  There was some concern that the plane might tip over from the wind gusts.  Usually when a plane is parked the wings are tied down to keep them from being pushed around or over by the wind.  Since they were on a lake the guys were unable to tie the plane down and were at the mercy of the wind.

The search and rescue team from Chevak arrived at the plane around 3:00 in the morning.  My dad was fast asleep and I’m sure snoring like a log (poor Brian).  They had to knock on the side of the plane to wake them up.  The guys hopped on with the search and rescue team and headed back to Chevak arriving just after 6:00 in the morning.

Dad was very impressed with the search and rescue team.  Their command center had a map up with their crash site marked out and a full plan on how they were going to get them rescued.  He said it was a very well run operation.

At some point that morning (Thursday) the guys flew back to Bethel and were back to work.  For a plane “crash” it really couldn’t have gone any better.

Im not 100% positive about their plans to retrieve the airplane, but here is what I think will happen.  Hageland will fly out a mechanic to get the engine working and fix the front landing gear.  They may jack up the plane and put skies on it, or bring in a small bulldozer to clear out a runway for the plane on the ice.  They will then have a pilot with a ferry permit (a permit that allows the plane to be flown dirctly to a shop where it can be completely checked over) fly the plane off the lake back to Bethel or Palmer to have it fixed up and put back into circulation.

UPDATE:  Hageland ended up flying out a replacement engine and changing it out on the frozen lake.  They fixed the minor issues with the front landing gear and were ready to bring it home.  Here’s where it gets fun and a little taste of Alaska.  To get the plane to take off on the snow covered lake the crew cut three sleds (the kind your kids use to slide down hills) in half, put the back end in the front end bolted 2×4’s around as a frame and placed them under each wheel on the plane.  When the plane took off it used them as ski’s.  When they were off the ground the sleds stayed on the ground since they weren’t attached to the plane at all.  The Cessna 207 they used to bring the engine out picked up the sleds as to not leave any trash behind and they both flew back to Bethel.

Dad still has to do his check ride with the company before he can start flying for them.  I hope he is successful in that endevor.  If he is then he’ll finish out the two week shift and then head back to Valdez for a couple weeks off before doing it all over again.  Hopefully the next shift will not include any landings that aren’t on an approved runway. 🙂

Engine Failure

I ended my last post with this line….

“Anyway I wish him the best of luck.  We always say its better to be lucky than good.”

I guess that speaks volumes now because my dad was very lucky.  On April 1st, 2009 at approximately 1:30 PM Alaska time,  my dad was flying from Scammon Bay Alaska to Bethel Alaska when the engine on his Cessna Caravan II failed.  Being a single engine airplane he and the other pilot were without power and had to make an emergency landing.  When an engine goes out on an airplane like that you have very few options on where you are going to land.  Without power they fall out of the sky petty quickly.  They were able to bring the plane down on a frozen lake in the middle of the tundra roughly 90 miles from Bethel.  Luckliy neither of them were injured in the crash.  A national guard helicopter was dispatched from Bethel to rescue them but had to turn around due to bad weather.  The Alaska State Troopers have begun putting together a ground based search party out of Chevak Alaska which was the closest village to the crash site roughly 50 miles away.  There is a pretty bad blizzard working its way through the area so plans were made to drop supplies to help them weather out the storm holed up in the airplane.  I’ll post again when I know more.


My dad has been a pilot since the late 70’s and is a very competent pilot.  This was his second day on the job with Hageland Aviation which has been in service since 1981.  I have flown many a flight with them during my tenure in rural Alaska.  They are a very safe company and I would fly with them any time.  The Cessna Caravan II uses a turboprop engine which usually is very reliable, so it will be interesting to see what caused it to fail.