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We awoke this morning to the dismal sight of low clouds and fog obscuring the mountains surrounding Dawson. We were all feeling pretty glum, wishing we had left late yesterday afternoon. However two local pilots assured me it would burn off by late morning. They fly a Beaver on floats, hauling freight.
As predicted, it did lift and we were ready for takeoff by late morning. The gravel strip was soft and muddy from yesterday's steady rain, but the Six handled the field without problem. I followed the Yukon River until I had gained enough altitude to start out for Northway via AR37, a new airway. We had originally planned to fly (north) down the Yukon River to Fort Yukon and then take an airway straight into Fairbanks. The weather and the alleged lack of customs in Fort Yukon combined to change our plans. We filed VFR in order to avoid the hassle of an international IFR flight plan. As soon as we crossed into American airspace, we cancelled the VFR flight plan and air-filed IFR straight into Fairbanks via Northway, since it seemed preferable to come into Fairbanks under IFR control. The FSS specialist at Dawson City had advised us this approach would be far easier than attempting to file an international IFR flight plan, which would have to go through Edmonton.
This route put us over some of the area of Alaska that has been so severely affected by forest fires. The majority of the fires are reported to be caused by lightning, but their extent is now so great that it may not be possible to put them out until fall and winter brings rain and snow to the area. Center put us at 9,000 feet to avoid the fire-fighting traffic. Around Northway and Delta Junction the visibility was greatly reduced due to smoke from these fires.
A friendly controller brought us right into Fairbanks, giving me the opportunity to fly the ILS-10 approach. We lost a day due to being weathered in at Dawson. So our stay in Fairbanks will be shorter than planned.
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Copyright © 2003 Linda Dowdy, last revision 030210