Peaceful contemplation.

I hadn’t realized how much I really missed the confidence of being a passenger in a Grumman. The Grumman is an airplane, for those of you unfamiliar, that can land on both land and in the water. It has two engines which I count as a necessity in the Aleutians. It is a plane where the pilot seems to become an extension of the machine itself, constantly in motion. The plane is a holdover from days gone by considering that both the Goose and the Widgeon last came off the production lines in the mid 1940s. It’s well suited to coastal conditions and is perfect for rough waters and windy conditions. Which is a perfect description of where I live.

I am not what you would call a comfortable traveler in the air. Honestly, I attribute my nervousness to my penchant for always being in control. Add to that the fact that I really know nothing about the aerodynamics of what planes are capable of doing, and you have the classic nervous Nellie. But I am not a passenger who screams and clutches her rosary beads when things get dicey. My husband is an A&P mechanic, an air frame and power plant mechanic, and spent 30 years maintaining airplanes, especially sea planes. Everyone who knew me in my town of 4,000 knew that my husband worked for the airlines. So I am an uncomfortable flyer who learned how to internalize it all.

So much has changed in our air service in the past 8 years. Flying the Aleutians is tough, at best. The Grumman Goose left the Aleutians when it was sold by the airline who had the contract for air service for our area. The company added Saab 2000’s to the mix which took our flight time to Anchorage (800 miles) down to a little over 2 hours instead of over 3 hours. We got used to those shortened flight times with our smooth Aleutian pilots. Unfortunately, the airline fell on hard times and declared bankruptcy, were bought up by a conglomerate whose experience in the Aleutians was sadly lacking. They got rid of all the seasoned pilots and you can imagine the outcome. They crashed, with a fatality. So my comfort level is at zilch. Imagine my surprise when I received a call from the pilot who flew the Grumman Goose for my wedding. He announced that he had just bought a Grumman Widgeon and was planning a trip down just taking some time off.

Having not been on a plane since October of 2019, I was actually happy to see the pilot again and was glad to be able to welcome him to my home, feed him, send my husband off on a flight to deliver goods to a small village, and take a “look see” at a volcano that had erupted 2 days prior. Pilots are the source of most photographs of erupting volcanoes for the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Later that evening when he asked me if I wanted to go for a short flight that would include his friend hiking up a mountain to 1100 feet so that he could take picture of the Widgeon in flight as it flew by, I surprised my self by saying yes.

It was gorgeously sunny, winds out of the south east at 15 knots. He told me he is only landing in fresh water until he has a protective coat put on the Widgeon to protect from salt water, so we would be taking off and landing on the runway. We did take the opportunity to do a splash and dash on a lake, did about 6 back and forth passes along the rim of the mountain, circled around and landed. It was exhilarating. We were only up for about 20 minutes, but my faith in flying, at least with this pilot, in this plane, has been restored.

If you ever get the chance, take it.


Goosevia Daily Prompt: Blink

I was sitting with my mother this past summer during an early evening in June.  My husband was discussing some of the finer points of the agenda for the 75-year Commemoration of the bombing of Dutch Harbor and the evacuation of the Unangan people.  Events were to include a memorial ceremony, historical presentations, personal stories, many luncheons and dinners, and flyovers by historical aircraft.  The commemoration of a little-recognized part of history is significant and educational not only for those connected to World War II in the Aleutians, but for a much broader international public.  My mother, who was 87 1/2 in June, had been 12 years old when the events of WWII enveloped the islands that she called home and changed her life forever.

On the morning of June 3, 1942 and continuing June 4, Japanese planes rained bombs on her home town of Unalaska and the Navy and Army infrastructure that had been constructed for the protection of Alaska and the lower 48 states.  Within a month, her family was split apart as older siblings joined the military or, in the case of her two older sisters who had married servicemen, were evacuated to their husbands’ families in the lower 48.  She, three of her siblings and her mother were forcibly evacuated to an abandoned fish cannery in Southeast Alaska.  Her father, not being native, was not allowed to accompany them.  They were not allowed to return to their home until late in 1945.  Although the war ended, and things were supposed to return to normal, nothing was ever normal again.  Families were smaller, having suffered the loss of 10 percent of their population in the detention camp.  Economies were changed as industries that had been in place prior to the war had disappeared.  Many Unangan homes had been ransacked by the military personnel and were unfit for habitation.  The trust that they had in their government was badly damaged.  My mother’s family was never, ever all together again after July of 1942.

So, a 75th year commemoration was a pretty important event in the life of my mother.  It would mark a time when she knew that it most likely would be the last time she would see any of her friends who might come back for the commemoration.  Only a handful of original evacuees remain living in Unalaska, so she was looking forward to seeing her now distant friends.

As she sat in the living room of the home in which she grew up, a drone of engines, starting out faintly, grew louder and louder, soon passing directly over the house.  She turned toward us and in a surprised voice said, “The Japanese.”  In the blink of an eye, with the sound of the plane engines, she was transported back to what was, most certainly, a hellish part of her life.


Into the Wild Blue Yonder


This is what I am hoping for on Sunday morning.  Clear blue skies with just enough of a breeze to give an airplane good lift so that our luggage will not be left behind due to weight and balance.  I am taking off for about two weeks.  Going to brave the frantic pace of the lower 48.  Crowded airports,  milling crowds….traffic.  I also will get to see my sisters, so that, in itself, makes it all worthwhile.  I’m packed.  A novelty for me as I usually am packing the morning of my flight….that must be where my daughter learned the habit.

That is an airplane in the photo, by the way,  on final approach.  Not a bird.  It is a Saab turbo prop with 30 seats.  Typically it takes about 3 hours to Anchorage where we will switch to a jet.  We can hope for a tailwind, in which case we may make it in 2 hours and 40 minutes or so.  If it is a rocking and rolling takeoff, I’m at least hoping that I will be granted a tailwind aloft.

I’ll be checking out all your blogs while I am gone, but am only taking my Kindle Fire, so no posts for me.  I guess you can say I will be on vacation.