Monday, January 12, 2009

My Commute to Anchorage, Beechcraft Style

This morning, when I checked in for my flight from Kodiak to Anchorage, my counter agent, Judy (yes, I know all their names by now), let me know that our plane was a Beechcraft. This plane has no toilet and no attendant.

Pshaawww, I thought. I have flown in a box with wings from Mombasa to Nairobi. How bad can it be?

I approached the plane, and the ground crew advised me to wait, “Only one person on the stairs at a time.” Once seated, the co pilot walked the aisle to ensure we had on our seatbelts. She turned around, secured our packages using seatbelts that bolted into the sides of the cargo area (think C130 cargo storage), and grabbed a flashlight. In the darkness that is 0730 in Alaska, she used the flashlight to ensure that she had secured the door. Nonchalantly, she turned to the closest passenger and informed him how to open the door, should the pilots not be able to turn around and pivot the 1.5 feet from the open cockpit to the door. It was at this point that I really started to tighten up.

And yes, you read “open” cockpit. Never, in my life, have I been able to see the runway taxi just as the pilots do. Even in Kenya, our shoebox with wings had a door that closed off the cockpit. Apparently, that feature was not available on the Beechcraft assembly line. Either that or Era Aviation felt it hampered the pilots’ being able to get up, pivot, and open the door, all in 1.5 feet of space.

The runway in Kodiak was, um, slushy at best. We taxied to the end and attempted to fully turn. With the engines blowing full blast, we tried to turn our wheel so that we lined up with the runway. Evidently, the pilots did not think that taking off at an angle was an issue, so we took off sideways. Have you ever been in a rear wheel drive car in the snow/ice and have it fishtail? Yeah, well, imagine being in a plane and doing the same maneuver during takeoff. Tightening continues.

I find myself laughing to myself at the absurdity of it all. The roar of the engines drowns me out, but my fellow passengers decide to take a picture to commemorate what may have been our last flight.

70 minutes later, we approach Anchorage. Through the front window (heh), we see the lights of the Anchorage skyline and the runway. The wind picks up as we descend, and as we land, we pull another one of those fishtail maneuvers. Fun. I tell ya, if my sphincter had not been so tight, I may have laid a golden egg immediately upon landing. Ahem.

The copilot took off her headphones, hollered back to us, “Welcome to Anchorage!” She flipped some switches, unbuckled, and got up to open to the door (with flashlight). I de-boarded and made my way to the rental car garage. There, I used super human strength to pry open the doors that were iced shut, let the car warm up for about 10 minutes, and made my way through the snowy streets of Anchorage.

At to think, my normal commute is made in pjs, and my only two stops are letting out the dog and brewing coffee. Sheesh, what a commute.


Tidden Tales said...

sounds like you had an adventure as always! Do you ever do anything normal? :) Although your daily commute has a really nice ring to it!!!

Becca and Jason said...

Ooooo, sounds fun! I've been on that kind of plane before for the 0230 ANC-ADQ flight they had last summer... it's a little unnerving when your co-pilot is your "flight attendant." I can't even imagine getting out of here in one of those today! YIKES! I can only hope the runway was at least a smidge better than the roads!!!
Have a good time up there! Eat some Moose's Tooth for me, k?

Mom said...

Flight or Amusement Park?

Get a boat!

1989 Flight back to Berlin.

Trying to land on the Interstate at JFK. FOG

Lance said...

Yea Baby!! Now you are really making me laugh. How many times can you push the outer edges of sanity and return?? I can just see you smiling the whole way. And now you are laughing about it. Hang tough!! LA

Flo said...

What a crazy story! I'm not sure I'd be comfortable seeing a pilot literally fly the plane on a commercial flight, you're totally brave! Have a safe flight home, and make sure to take covert photos of the non-existent cockpit wall!