The October issue of Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association magazine includes a story that showcases a growing trend in travel for aircraft owners. The article highlights the annual Alaska trip organized by The Flight Academy, a Seattle company that specializes in Cirrus aircraft training. Cirrus is a Minnesota-based company of single-engine aircraft currently at work on developing a personal-use jet. The company has a solid following among American pilots who appreciate its innovative designs.
The Flight Academy offers "Adventure Trips," where Cirrus owners, accompanied by instructors and family members, fly in their own aircraft to preplanned destinations and enjoy the journey as well as local activities such as kayaking, hiking and fishing.
On the Alaska Adventure in the article, the clients participated in a five-day trip that took them up the Inside Passage to Ketchikan, then on a side trip to Juneau before they turned back to Klawock and returned to Seattle. Along the way the group spent time sightseeing and fishing, which is a big part of the appeal. From the article:
This annual trip to southeast Alaska is the inspiration of Luke Lysen, founder of The Flight Academy, who spent six summers here during his late teens and twenties working on commercial fishing boats. The tall, easygoing, unflappable pilot/instructor/business owner thought he had left the place behind. But he was drawn back a decade ago when he and two brothers returned to the region for a flying/fishing trip. And it became obvious to Lysen that clients at his then-new aviation business would enjoy flying there in their own airplanes — and the experience would make them better, more confident pilots.
The Alaska trip allows The Flight Academy clients to not only enjoy the scenery and wildlife (more than once in the article eagles are referred to as "Alaska pigeons"), but also the notoriously dicey southeast weather. "It's not the magical scenery or the fishing," Jill McIver, Cirrus Pacific Northwest regional sales director, told the magazine. "It's the challenge of flying in a place where the weather and winds can change quickly. It's flying IFR in a non-radar environment and doing all that in a place where distances between airports can be vast."
Writer and pilot David Hirschman clearly enjoyed the trip, especially the "rare Alaska sunshine" that afforded them an excellent day of fishing in Klawock, where they landed "enough salmon, halibut, ling cod, and snapper to stock the Pike's Place Market in Seattle."
Aviation publications enjoy writing about Alaska; it is by far the most continuously popular location they cover and multiple stories on the state's aviation environment (good and bad) are included over the course of a single year. "Journey to the Land of the Midnight Sun" is unusual in that it does not rely on excess drama but is rather more technical in nature; the Capstone project is discussed at length, for instance. While Chris Rose's photographs are certainly stunning (this is Southeast after all), what lingers is that for all its majesty, this was still an entirely manageable and enjoyable flight where nothing bad happened.
"One of the most surprising things about Alaska is how accessible it is," says McIver, whose sales territory includes the entire state. "Ketchikan is within easy nonstop range for an SR22. And Anchorage is only one tank of avgas beyond that. It may feel like the end of the Earth, but it's within reach."