Mike and Sally, Bonnie and Bruce Tifft and Fred Keller had planned a trip to Anchorage, Alaska for the period after Oshkosh 1984. On the Sunday after Oshkosh, Freds Defiant and Mike and Sallys Long set off for Minot, North Dakota where they planned to meet Bruce and Bonnie. Some real serious scud running was required in western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota but the rendezvous was made on schedule. The next morning the flight of three flew to Edmonton, Alberta, where the tower requested and got a three ship formation flyby. From Edmonton we flew to Fort St. John where we spent the night. Next day we flew along the Alkan highway up to Fort Nelson where the weather was on the ground. A quick 180 and back to Fort St. Johns (nice to have all that range).
Later we were able to make It through, although we had to do a little cross country away from the highway plus some fairly good scud running, which required more than a little pucker power on the part of some of the crew. We made it into Watson Lake in glorious sunshine and spent the night. Watson Lake is a really neat place. Early next morning we left for Northway, Alaska. Again we found ourselves doing some serious scud running between Whitehouse and Northway. We cleared customs and had the best home made pie ever. We ran into bad weather at Gulkana, but with Freds knowledge of the area, we were able to sneak under it and around it and finally found our way to Freds home base, Merrill Field in down town Anchorage.
We stayed with Fred and his wife Sharon-Kay and had the best time ever. While taking off to fly in an airshow at Merrill Field, Mike had an exciting time, when a valve stuck on his 0-235. Our schedule was so hectic, we were unable to look at the engine, but on returning from Valdez, we found a bunch of homebuilders, including a VariEze builder/flyer, Ron Himmelberg and a Long-EZ builder had removed the cowling and had pulled the cylinder! These Alaskans certainly are the most helpful folks. An engine rebuilder was located only 200 yards from our parking place and he had everything ready to go in two days including getting parts from "outside" (the lower 48). Bruce and Mike got the engine all back together and test flew it at 10:30 P.M. that evening, in broad daylight. Big "thank you" to Bruce for all that hard work. Next day Mike and Sally flew to Fairbanks and back to break in the new overhaul, flying very close to Mount McKinley.
It was a crystal clear day and the 20,000 plus foot high mountain was breathtaking. The engine ran well and they felt confident to try the trip home. Too soon it was time to leave Fred and Sharons wonderland, so we bid a tearful farewell. We flew non-stop to Whitehorse in the Yukon, where we stopped for lunch and customs. After lunch we flew to Fort Nelson where we spent the night. The weather was perfect! Next morning we flew to Williams Lake, a little of the now familiar scud running was required. Flew on to Pentecton, Canada. After landing, Bruce did a brief check of his airplane and found that the main oil seal had broken and was lying in the bottom of the cowl !
Once again more helpful folks made repairs easy. After spending the night, we jumped across the US/Canada border and cleared customs at Spokane, Washington. We had breakfast and then Bruce and Bonnie departed to visit friends at Grants Pass and Mike and Sally headed for home. What a fantastic trip. Canada and Alaska are truly magnificent. Have you ever had 100 miles visibility and looked out and seen nothing but majestic mountains, rivers, lakes and fabulous trees? Awesome. What memories flying along the face of the Columbia glacier in a Grand Champion Widgeon, courtesy of George Pappas, flying a super cub on floats out of little fresh water lakes, looking for mountain sheep in steep glacier cut canyons, watching the salmon making their way up the rivers, dinner at the top of the tallest building in Anchorage.
The people in Canada and Alaska honestly enjoyed sharing their wonders with us. Super folks. If you ever have the opportunity to fly your EZ up to Alaska, dont pass it up. Do learn all you can about the trip. AOPA can be very helpful. Read Don and Julia Downies book "Alaska Flight Plan" and go for it. It is not to be missed. Some statistics for the trip on N26MS. Total distance travelled from Mojave to Oshkosh to Anchorage and back to Mojave 6920 nautical miles (7963 statute) Total hours on the Hobbs meter - 61.6 hours (engine running time, include taxiing, side trips. Oshkosh flybys etc).
Total fuel burned for trip 308 gallons
Average fuel burned per hour 5.0 gph.
Actual flight time, Mojave to Mojave 54.7 hours
Average ground speed for trip 126.5 knots (145.5 mph)