Being involved in school activities can be a great way to explore a very spread out state. Between all of our kids they have been from the northern end like Barrow, to the southern parts such as Ketchikan, Dillingham, and Unalaska. Making flight connections and dealing with weather can sometimes be a huge challenge. The first time we flew to Ketchikan our route was: Nome, Kotzebue, Anchorage, Seattle (Washington) and then Ketchikan. It took a while but, like bus trips in the lower 48 states, the ride is part of the experience!
If they fly on Bering Air they are usually in a 1900 which allows 19 people plus pilots for a total of 21 for a charter. If it is a scheduled flight the FAA states they can only take 9 people....but that is getting off the topic ...... The plane does not have a bathroom or a flight attendant. Students flying in the winter on a school trip are required to wear winter gear including hats, gloves, snow pants, and warm coat. They are supposed to limit their baggage to 25 lbs each which includes their sleeping gear and uniforms. If it is a shorter distance, and the planes don't need as much fuel to fly round trip, a little more can be allowed. This flight will be about an hour each way.
For weather reports in most of the villages, the pilots rely on agents. They are familiar with area, the weather patterns, the runways and are a reliable source. Many of the villages now have an AWOS (Automated Weather Observation System) which is maintained by the FAA. Their reliability can be altered if they get covered with frost, etc. like any piece of equipment.
On Friday the ball teams were scheduled to fly to Point Hope on a charter. The plane would be returning with Point Hope players to play in Nome. All of the Nome kids show up only to be told the weather is down in Point Hope so they get to hang out in the lobby. The pilots, DOps, etc. keep checking with the Point Hope folks. Finally the people say it is starting to lift (getting better) so they wait a little longer....weather can change pretty quickly here --up or down! The folks in Point Hope go check the AWOS and clean it off to make sure it is reading correctly. The day wears on...... evening games are cancelled............... the players go get something from the neighboring coffee shop and come back. Scheduled flights to other places take off and return.......... the day at the airport continues. Finally the weather reports look okay and should stay good so the pilot makes the decision to fly. The kids are eager to go, use the bathroom one last time, and grab their gear to load the plane.
The flight takes off, lands safely in Point Hope, loads the returning players and flies back to Nome. They will repeat the flight (hopefully without the delays!) on Saturday after the games. The kids will fly with earphones from their music in hand, sleep or talk while the pilots do the driving.....just like the kids on the buses on the road system do.
Some things are different, but some are the same no matter where we are.
|Cross Country Runners return from Unalakleet 2009|