Thursday, April 16, 2009

a little more on subarctic and arctic flying

As always, it's far wiser to walk a strip before you decide to land there. Just because a plane or track from a plane are already there doesn't mean: 1.) it didn't crash there and get helicoptered out. 2.) your plane has the same capabilities as that plane. 3.) the soil conditions and / or the weather that allowed that landing and takeoff are still present.

Clumps and dense tufts of grass on dry gravel often surround a sizeable rock, as the grass is thriving on the moisture under the rock. On tidal gravel, on the other hand, the grass will surround a hole where drainage provides proper conditions for grass.

If you see a bright green meadow in an unfamiliar area, do not land in the meadow to check it out. Usually said "meadow" is a nice patch of muskeg, too watery for trees to survive, and so soft that landing will flip your airplane on its back. Getting the plane helicoptered out is expensive.

Things to think about: if you flip your airplane on its back, the ELT is broadcasting into the dirt. No matter how powerful, no one's gonna hear it. Same if you sink your plane; water is very effective at shielding and cutting off all emissions. This is why it may be wise to think about getting a portable ELT.

When planning your takeoff, do not assume you can fly low and slow over a cut bank or steep lake shore - if you're still in ground effect and have not achieved flying speed, you're going to settle down into the ground / water right after losing your ground effect lift.

You do need to worry about distant weather. Rain upriver makes the water level rise, and shortens the length of your gravel bar runway / campsite while also softening and loosening the gravel surface.

During summer, dense fog frequently lies very low over the arctic coast. Around midnight, when the sun dips below the overcast and is just above the horizon on the sea, the sunlight gets in under the fog and can heat the ground enough to lift the fog and allow VFR flight.


  1. Things to think about.

    ELT? I'm believing "antenna" is part of that somehow...?

  2. Emergency Locator Transmitter - they come fixed into the airplane with a G[ravity]-switch that'll activate if you slam it hard enough, like when crashing. The antenna is considered part of the system, given it is a fixed installation. But yes, I supposed I should be less jargon-intensive - sorry!

    PLB's - Portable Locator Beacons - are essentially ELT's without a gravity switch, that you activate by unclipping and flipping up the antenna and pressing the buttons that were covered by the folded antenna. They also fit in a pocket, making them very handy to take hiking, fishing, out on the fourwheeler.. or in your vest when you crawl out of the flipped airplane.