Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hoppers and Small Flight

Flying the Pass

Sun over the Wing
Caldera on Kodiak 

Isolated, by water or woods from population centers, rural Alaskan villages are often close knit loving communities with people that are more than neighbors. After 8 years of talking and another 5 of hard searching it was an easy choice for my family when we found our Alaska dream home in a village on Kodiak island. Our small community has a population under170 people, many of whom have lived there since the village was built after the great earthquake of 1964. To those ‘Outside’-  anywhere that is not within Alaska is ‘Outside’- the use of boats and aircraft to get necessities is unfathomable. In an average year I fly numerous small aircraft charters to get staples. 

I hate leaving my village but I need things Amazon won’t ship. I have to fly to town.  For people living in a rural village that involves chartering a flight, which most of America never will have the need to do, it’s not glamourous.  It’s just a phone call and a credit card to secure my seat.  If I’m lucky I can split a flight with someone else that wants to go to town.  Maybe they want to go to the doctor, to the movies, or they are stir crazy and want some Sushi, hey it happens.  Sometimes there’s a fabric emergency and the only thing for it is a trip to the quilt shop or maybe the yarn store for a fix, sometimes there is the emergency trip to the marine supply, to each their own.  We get to town to do our business, whatever it might be. 

You get to know your pilots and Alaska pilots are characters, they have to be.  Some play music and some narrate their flights, while others telegraph what they are doing. I’ve flown with some that love speed, they hug the mountains delivering their ‘cargo’ as fast as they can.  Other pilots watch the beauty as they monitor their gauges. They point out the peaks and talk trail hikes, they love the land and the animals they point out from behind the controls. The talk great fishing spots and what run is on and what is coming next.

These taxi men of the skies fly in some of the most difficult conditions for flight in the world.  I hear pilots outside complain about light wind, I raise my eyebrows, look at my husband and say, “They need to go fly with the pilots on Kodiak and learn a thing or two.”  Granted, on Kodiak when it’s blowing a 40+ nobody’s flying, everybody is hunkering down-but that’s cool.  We don’t want anyone flying in really bad weather, because we also all know someone that has crashed.  

There is a saying in Alaska, “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots; but there are no old bold pilots.” We all still fly though, we make our choices judicially, we love the views of our island from above and we are thankful for our safe landings and the pilots who make sure those landing happen. 

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