Ever since my wife and I got our very first plane in 2006 (a 172XP) we loved using it for flying vacations. We flew to both the West Coast and East Coast (including NYC) from Dallas while we had our XP. But on the list was always the goal to fly to Alaska. For us, the goal was relational…we have dear friends who are missionaries just north of Anchorage, and we love spending time with them. So, once we got out A36TC Bonanza, we have been trying to make a flying vacation to Alaska happen.
Fly from the Dallas, TX area to just north of Anchorage, AK in a 1979 Bonanza A36 TurboCharged Single Engine Airplane.
I began the planning process by asking a few basic questions:
- Do I have the skill to make this trip? IFR Current flying in actual IMC?
- Is the aircraft capable of making this trip? Service Ceiling, Maintenance Issues, Passenger Comfort?
- Do I have adequate scheduling margin to make this trip?
In the three months prior to departing for Alaska, I had flown to Mexico twice (non-radar environment) and flown in some solid IMC with approaches. I felt very solid with my skills because I had been flying regularly in cross country situations. The cross-country aspect of my currency was not a small factor. The weather across such a large area as what I was proposing would be a giant factor and I wanted to be able to confidently say that I had a record of making wise weather decisions and that I had even been willing post delay or cancel a trip due to weather. I was able to say yes, I had made wise weather choices in a cross-country environment.
Our Bonanza had just finished an annual inspection but had gone into annual with a very short list of minor squawks. We had been careful to keep up with the service on the airplane, and I felt that we had done all we could do mechanically to make sure our aircraft was in the best shape possible. BUT…I also maintained a healthy cynicism and assumed something was going to go wrong at the worst possible time.
One of the biggest factors for me, was the fact the aircraft was turbo-charged so I would have the margin of a 25,000′ service ceiling. since I was planning to fly over the Rockies at 18,000 ‘ it was nice to have the power of a turbo helping me.
Our A36TC has a bunch of room in the back, so passenger comfort was no issue. There was plenty of room for our kids, bags, and the required emergency items needed when flying over Alaska.
The ability to not only have the time to fly the trip, have some fun while we adhere in Alaska, then fly home was a blessing, but I also padded the trip by 5 days and even kept my schedule light for an additional couple of days in the event I got stuck. I did not need the pressure of trying to get back for an important meeting driving or even slightly influencing my decisions.
Because of the flexibility of the schedule, potential delays & actual delays were not stressful. I think this scheduling element of the trip is especially important for the TYPE -A pilot (like myself) to plan for…slowing down enough to enjoy the journey can be forgotten amidst the haze of reaching the goal!