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Route One:  Flying the Coastal Route


·        Once again, the coastal route is the only route from Alaska that bypasses a landing in Canada.  This may be a benefit for pilots or passengers with immigration issues getting back into the US from Canada.  Pilots considering this route for immigration reasons should be aware that IFR conditions can frequently exist at Sitka (the recommended refueling stop), due to the coastal fog and rainforest conditions which often arise in that part of the state. 


·        Unlike the coastal route from the continental US (Route Two in Section Two), the return route to the continental US offers a number of alternate airports inside Alaska.  Nevertheless, if the coastal route is being flown for immigration reasons, it is advisable for the pilot to have an instrument rating and to be prepared for IFR conditions both in southern Alaska as well as in Washington state.  And, be advised that ATC cannot provide any radar coverage for enroute or approach segments (since there are virtually no radar facilities in Alaska other than the Anchorage area), so you’re entirely on your own.  As noted in Section Two, even experienced pilots would say that flying an instrument approach into airports like Ketchikan, Sitka and Juneau can be as hard core IFR as it gets, and IFR conditions can often be the rule, rather than the exception, at those coastal airports.


·        On the other hand, when VFR conditions exist, flying this route along the coastline of southern Alaska and British Columbia offers magnificent views of mountains, glaciers, forests, inlets and the ocean.


·        The first leg of this route is from the Anchorage area to Sitka (PASI), a distance of approximately 540 nm.  Significant mountainous terrain exists over the Kenai peninsula and just inland from the coast, so the recommended IFR route with the highest MEA of 10,000 feet would be along the Victor airways:  V320 to Johnstone Point VOR (JOH), V319 to Yakutat VOR (YAK), V440 to SALIS intersection, and then direct to Sitka airport (PASI).  Interesting places to visit or refuel along the way include Valdez (PAVD), Juneau (PAJN) and Yakutat (PAYA); see Section Three for details.  The port town of Valdez is the southern terminus of the Trans Alaska Pipeline, and Juneau is the capital of Alaska


·        The second leg of this route would be from Sitka to the Seattle area (e.g., Boeing Field (KBFI)), a distance of approximately 760 nm.  Significant mountainous terrain exists just inland from the coast, so the recommended IFR route with the highest MEA of 8,000 feet would be along the Victor airways:  V311 to Annette Island VOR (ANN), V309 to Prince Rupert NDB (PR), A10 to Bella Bella VOR (YJQ), V347 to Port Hardy VOR (YZT), V440 past Comox VOR (QQ) to Victoria VOR (YYJ), then V495 to Boeing Field (KBFI).  There is usually a tailwind along this route; if there isn’t then a stopover in Ketchikan (PAKT) or an airport in Canada such as Prince Rupert (CYPR)  (if there are no immigration issues) would be advisable.  There is no radar coverage after Anchorage until roughly 75 nm  northwest of Vancouver, although there is excellent radio communication with ATC.


·        If flying IFR, use the NACO L-1 enroute chart.  If flying VFR, use the following NACO sectional charts:  Anchorage, Juneau, Ketchikan; and the following Canadian sectional charts:  Atlin, Kitmat and Vancouver.


·        The scenery and terrain on the coastal route is quite spectacular, with incomparable views of glaciers between Anchorage and Yakutat (e.g., the Ellsworth Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula, the Bering and Malaspina Glaciers beginning roughly 100 nm before Yakutat, with 18,000 foot Mt. Elias in the distance), as well as the Prince William Sound.  Between Yakutat and Sitka there are beautiful mountains and inlets, as well as the Brady Glacier.  Between Sitka and Seattle there are also beautiful mountains, bays and inlets along the rugged coast of British Columbia, as well as Vancouver Island.  If the coastal route is flown when VFR conditions exist, the MEAs would not be relevant and the pilot could simply track the coastline at a suitable VFR altitude.


·        Listed below are directory information, diagrams and instrument approach procedures for each of the airports mentioned in Route One (or, in the case of a navigation aid, the associated airport).  This information was obtained from either AOPA or NavCanada, is copyrighted, has an expiration date of mid-2004, and is presented for informational purposes only.


Bella Bella (CYJQ)

Juneau (PAJN)

Ketchikan (PAKT)

Port Hardy (CYZT)

Prince Rupert (CYPR) 

Sitka (PASI)

Valdez (PAVD)

Victoria (CYYJ)

Yakutat (PAYA)