I visited Anchorage in October and November 1995. With three days off, I was unable to resist the temptation to go flying…
Where to Rent
For anybody interested in renting at Merrill Field, I was pointed at three FBOs willing to rent light aircraft (Vernair don’t rent anymore):
Aerotech ((907) 279 6558) failed to answer the telephone
Take Flight Alaska ((907) 274 9943) offered me a Cessna 172 at US$ 80 dual and $58 solo (a Cessna 150 is $50/hr as of October 1999)
Ed’s Air Service ((907) 258 3247). Ed and Lorraine Hoeger have a Cessna 152, a Cessna 172F ($85 dual, $62 solo) and a Piper Apache ($155, I think).
I choose to fly with Ed, whose professional and thorough checkout lasted just over an hour and included stalls, steep turns, and soft field take-offs and landings on a snow and ice covered runway at Birchwood.
I also called a couple of other companies as I wanted to fly something on skis (floats don’t move in the winter):
Sound Aviation (Dan Easley, Tel: (907) 229 7173) had an answerphone message saying they were all on vacation until January.
Alaska Air Travel (Jack Barber, Tel: (907) 243 3944, Fax: (907) 248 2993) had a couple of 206s on wheels at $200 an hour or a Beaver on skis at $300 an hour. Unfortunately, the Beaver only has a single set of controls so I went back to Ed’s, but a flightseeing tour for non-pilots in the Beaver would be great fun.
Where to Fly
We went flying on two days out of three. First day: Merrill Field – Portage – Lake George – Knik Glacier – Birchwood – Merrill Field (about an hour) in Ed’s C172F. Minus 28C when we left (I had to go inside to warm up after the pre-flight), but no cloud and visibility 50+. We landed just after sunset. Wonderful scenery and a wonderful experience.
The second day was a lot warmer, just minus 15C! The locals were calling it a heat-wave! In perfect weather we flew north-west to the Kalhitna Glacier, then East to the Great Gorge (just south of Mount McKinley). Kept the height up to 11,000 so we could glide to lower terrain if the engine coughed. Fantastic views, no clouds and no turbulence. From there we flew some touch and goes at Kalheetna and then down to Lake Lucille (next to Wassila Lake). After a low approach we made a touch and go on the ice-covered lake. We had planned to have a meal in the lodge there but it was starting to get dark so we pressed on back to Merrill. Total time en route 3.5.
If there was going to be a “next time” for me, I’d look at planning a flight into the mountains west of Anchorage, and maybe a trip down to Seeward. Other spectacular areas include Lake Clark National Park, Redoubt Volcano, and Iliamna Volcano.
Merrill Field also has an excellent Pilot Shop (next to the tower) with all the latest gadgets.