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Route Three:Flying the Combination Coastal Route and Inland Route through the Trench

 

        This route combines the beauty of the Alaska coastline (e.g., Prince William Sound and the glaciers beginning roughly 100 nm before Yakutat) with the inland flying experience over the rugged isolation of the Trench (which is basically a natural ditch through the Rocky Mountains).As such, it is the reverse of a portion of routes two and three described in Section Two.Some pilots consider this to be ďas good as it getsĒ for scenic beauty and variety on a VFR day.Note, however, that there is hardly a shred of civilization in sight for most of this route, so it should not be attempted on a marginal VFR day (unless the pilot is ready and able to switch to IFR) and should not be flown without maintaining radio contact with at least one buddy airplane.It is advisable to plan on spending two days flying this route, with refueling and/or overnight stops at either Yakutat, Whitehorse, Watson Lake, or Prince George.

 

        The first leg goes from the Anchorage area to either Whitehorse, Yukon (CYXY), a distance of approximately 485 nm, or to Watson Lake, Yukon (CYQH), a distance of approximately 650 nm.The choice of destination is a function of wind direction/strength and the pilotís preference for duration of flight.Significant mountainous terrain exists over the Kenai peninsula and just inland from the coast, so the recommended VFR route with the highest MEA of 9,500 feet would be along the Victor airways:A1 airway all the way to Yakutat VOR (YAK), starting with Campbell Lake NDB (CMQ), then ATYOL intersection, then ATAGA intersection, then Yakutat VOR (YAK).Yakutat airport (PAYA) has a 7,700 foot paved runway.From there, fly GPS direct to either Whitehorse (CYXY) or Watson Lake (CYQH).

 

        If flying IFR, use the NACO L-1 enroute chart. If flying VFR, use the NACO Anchorage sectional chart and the Canadian Whitehorse sectional chart.

 

        The scenery and terrain on the coastal portion of this 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.MEAs are not relevant on this portion of the route, since the pilot would be tracking the coastline at a suitable VFR altitude.After making the turn at Yakutat (YAK), the minimum safe MEA is 9,500 feet, as this route traverses the spectacular beauty of the Tweedsmuir Glacier and the Rocky Mountains.From that altitude one can safely climb if a switchover to an IFR flight plan becomes necessary.

 

        The second leg goes from either Whitehorse, Yukon (CYXY) or Watson Lake, Yukon (CYQH) to Prince George, British Columbia (CYXS), a distance of approximately 600 nm and 450 nm, respectively.The Trench begins after Watson Lake.If flying VFR, use the following Canadian sectional charts:Whitehorse, Atlin, Fort Nelson and Prince George.

 

        The recommended VFR route from Whitehorse, Yukon (CYXY) to Watson Lake (CYQH) is a distance of 195 nm, and is depicted with a trail of blue diamonds on the Canadian VFR charts for Whitehorse and Atlin.Depart Whitehorse airport and follow Schwatka Lake, then follow the highway eastbound toward Marsh Lake (not the branch heading south roughly 8 nm before Marsh Lake); then follow the highway along the edge of that lake and head eastbound again to follow the highway along the Little Atlin River (not the branch heading south along Little Atlin Lake); then follow the highway along the edge of Teslin Lake; at Teslin airport (CYZW) the highway separates from the lake and continues eastbound through the mountains to Watson Lake (CYQH).Note that just alongside Pine Lake airport (CFY5) the highway goes through a small pass at 3,300 feet msl (the surrounding mountains are 6,000 to 7,000 feet high).All of this all sounds much more complicated than it actually is:just look at the recommended blue diamond VFR route depicted on the Canadian sectional charts.

 

        The recommended VFR route from Watson Lake (CYQH) to Prince George (CYXS) is a distance of 340 nm.The Canadian VFR charts for Prince George and Fort Nelson depict the recommended route with a trail of blue diamonds:depart Watson Lake at a 110 degree heading, across the open tiaga terrain and the Liard River plain to the Kechika River.Follow that river (donít veer to the left when it intersects the Gataga River), as it becomes the very small Fox River and then the larger Finlay River at Fort Ware (CAJ9); continue on this track over the entire 110 nm length of Williston Lake; then at MacKenzie (CYZY) follow the highway alongside McLeod Lake all the way to Prince George (CYXS).Note that between the end of the Kechika River and Fort Ware the Trench narrows and its floor rises to a 3,500 foot high pass through the surrounding high mountains (up to 10,000 feet);this is the choke point for weather.There is no way around the pass, so if its closed off due to weather, its time to turn around (arenít you glad you left Watson Lake or Whitehorse with full tanks?).Again, this route sounds much more complicated than it actually is:just look at the recommended blue diamond VFR trail depicted on the Canadian sectional charts.

 

        The route from Watson Lake (CYQH) to Prince George (CYXS), which is through the Trench itself, has no radio facilities to talk with ATC except for an RCO on 126.7 at Fort Ware (CAJ9), with limited range due to the mountainous terrain.So donít expect to receive many weather updates enroute.Also, there are no published airways for IFR navigation along this segment of the route through the Trench, and the typical area minimum altitude in this region is 12,000 feet high, so donít expect a swift or safe transition to an IFR flight plan if the weather deteriorates.

 

        From Prince George (CYXS), one can fly to the Seattle/Vancouver area, Edmonton or Calgary, and from there proceed east or south back to the continental US.The Victor airway routes are quite straightforward, and the Canadian sectional charts depict several recommended routes to these areas.If flying IFR, use the Canadian LO 2 enroute chart (1.5MB, so expect slow download).

 

        Listed below are directory information, diagrams and instrument approach procedures for each of the airports mentioned in Route Three (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.††

 

Calgary (CYYC)

Edmonton City Centre (CYXD)

Fort Ware (CAJ9)

Pine Lake (CFY5)††

Prince George (CYXS)

Teslin (CYZW)

Watson Lake (CYQH)

Whitehorse (CYXY)

Yakutat (PAYA)