August 15, 1990 -- Day 17

Whitehorse YT to Skagway AK

(bottom of page)

DC3 at Whitehorse Morning in Whitehorse yielded blue sky and mild temperatures. Cindy and I walked over to take pictures of the DC-3 "weathervane". Yes, there is an intact DC-3 mounted on a pivot that serves as a weathervane. The aircraft is so well balanced that it is reported to turn with only 5 knots of wind.

The trip through the mountains to Skagway was easy and quick this morning. However my pilotage was off, and Skagway appeared unexpectedly while I was still at 7,500 feet. I cruised down the Lynn Canal for a few miles to lose altitude. The Lynn Canal is a huge natural waterway that was carved out by a glacier many thousands of years ago. Air traffic up and down the Lynn Canal has its own set of rules to follow. Southbound traffic flies at a certain set of altitudes while northbound traffic flies at another set of altitudes. There are also assigned radio frequencies to utilize while flying the canal. We found out about the altitude and frequency conventions only by reading a notice put up on the wall of the L.A.B. Flying Service building in Skagway itself.

Skagway, ringed by mountains on three sides, is somewhat of a "one-way" airport. Unless the wind is quite strong, pilots make straight-in approaches to the single runway from the water. Likewise most traffic takes off towards the water. We landed with a tailwind, but the uphill slope on the runway helped stop the plane.

Skagway is served by a local flying service called L.A.B. Flying Service. The service has a fleet of Cherokee Sixes. Tied down at the airport, N2928X looked like it belonged there. In fact we learned later that one of the L.A.B. pilots actually started pre-flighting my plane before he realized the registration number wasn't familiar!

This afternoon we rode on a narrow-gauge railway up to the top of the historic White Pass. During the gold madness of 1898, thousands of stampeders used every means possible to move their necessary supplies over the White and Chilkoot passes. Thousands of horses were shipped up from the lower 48, to be overworked to exhaustion and death. It was so bad that one particularly steep stretch of the pass, near the summit, is still today known as Dead Horse Gulch. Near the top of the pass, the original trail of the stampeders remains clearly visible. The narrow gauge was built in the early 1900's to serve the pass. Riding in its vintage parlour cars, the round trip to the summit and back takes three hours. It is hard to imagine the stampeders packing their required ton of supplies over the trail in harsh winter conditions.

Approach into Skagway

Photos of the train trip up the White Pass
Glossary of aviation terms or Map of the trip
Shortcut to any specific day or location

Previous day or next day or

  Seize the Sky home page

Linda Dowdy
Bethel, Minnesota
Comments or questions? E-mail me at

Copyright © 2003 Linda Dowdy, last revision 030212