Section Two: Getting There
Its a Long Trip Regardless of Where You Start
Where to Meet Up for a Group Trip?
Route One: Flying from Eeastern/Central US (print this route)
Edmonton City Centre (CYXD
Edmonton International (CYEG)
Fort Nelson (CYYE)
Fort St. John (CYXJ)
Peace River (CYPE)
Piney Pinecreek Border (48Y)
Watson Lake (YQH)
· On the other hand, when VFR conditions exist, flying this route along the coastline of British Columbia and southern Alaska offers magnificent views of mountains, forests, inlets and the ocean.
· The first leg of the coastal route is from the Seattle area to Ketchikan (PAKT), a distance of 603 nm. Significant mountainous terrain exists along this route, so the recommended IFR route with the highest MEA of 9,600 feet would be along the Victor airways: V495 to Victoria VOR (YYJ), V440 to Comox VOR (UQQ) and Port Hardy VOR (YZT), V347 to Bella Bella VOR (YJQ), A10 to Prince Rupert (CYPR for the airport or PR for the NDB), V309 to Annette Island VOR (ANN) and then to Ketchikan airport (PAKT).
Anchorage Merrill Field (PAMR)
Bella Bella (CYJQ)
Port Hardy (CYZT)
Prince Rupert (CYPR
Route Three: Flying from Seattle/Vancouver to Whitehorse via the Trench and the Alaska Highway: 850 nm with One Stop in Prince George (print this route)
· To reach the Trench, one must first fly across the Rockies from the Seattle/Vancouver area to Prince George. The shortest IFR route is a distance of 305 nm, with the highest MEA of 14,000 feet, and would be along the Victor airways: Paine VOR (PAE), V23 to Whatcom VOR (HUH), V349 to Williams Lake VOR (YWL), then V349 to Prince George VOR (YXS) and to the Prince George airport (CYXS). The segment along V23 from Whatcom VOR (HUH) to Williams Lake VOR (YWL) has an MEA of 14,000 feet. For pilots who don’t want to use oxygen, an MEA of 10,000 feet is available by instead flying V349 from Whatcom VOR (HUH) to JANEK intersection, then V338 to Ashcroft VOR (YZA), then V325 to Williams Lake VOR (YWL). This alternate route has a distance of 333 nm. It is highly advisable to stop for fuel in Prince George, since the second leg of this route (342 nm to Watson Lake) has only sporadic gravel landing strips that require advance-fueling arrangements.
· One can also reach the Trench by flying VFR from the Seattle/Vancouver area to Prince George, a distance of approximately 280 nm. The Canadian VFR charts for Vancouver and Prince George depict the recommended route with a trail of blue diamonds: depart Vancouver harbor to the north over Howe Sound (reachable by flying V321 on the 352 degree radial from the Victoria VOR (YYJ)) and then follow the Cheakamus River through a 2,000 foot high pass just next to the Whistler Mountain ski area, over Anderson Lake, past Lillooet airport (CAR3); then through the 3,450 foot high Kelly Lake mountain pass; then follow highway 97 past Williams Lake VOR (YWL) and Quesnel VOR (YQZ) to Prince George airport (CYXS). The portion of this route from Vancouver until just past Anderson Lake traverses the 10,000 foot high Rocky Mountains by means of a river valley that is generally only 2,000 to 3,000 feet high, so winds and weather can be important factors. Beyond the Kelly Lake mountain pass the terrain rises to a wide plateau that is generally 4,000 feet msl.
· To actually fly the Trench (which is basically a natural ditch through the Rocky Mountains), the second leg covers a distance of 340 nm from Prince George (CYXS) to Watson Lake (CYQH). The Canadian VFR charts for Prince George and Fort Nelson depict the recommended route with a trail of blue diamonds: depart Prince George airport (CYXS) and follow the highway outbound at a heading of 326 degrees to MacKenzie (CYZY); then follow manmade Williston Lake at a heading of 306 degrees for its entire 110 nm length; then continue north following the Finlay River past Fort Ware (CAJ9). At this point the Trench begins to narrow 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 it is closed off due to weather, its time to turn around (aren’t you glad that you left Prince George with full tanks?). Beyond this pass the Trench descends and widens: follow the Kechika River until the Gataga River at the same 306 degree heading to Watson Lake (CYQH). This last portion will be in open tiaga terrain and the Liard River plain, with few ground features and virtually no civilization.
· Be advised that this second leg (described in the preceding paragraph), where a pilot is flying 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 don’t expect to receive many weather updates enroute. Also, there are no published airways for IFR navigation along this second leg of the route through the Trench, and the typical area minimum altitude in this region is 12,000 feet high, so don’t expect a swift or safe transition to an IFR flight plan if the weather deteriorates.
· From Watson Lake (CYQH) to Whitehorse (CYXY) is a distance of 195 nm. The Canadian VFR charts for Atlin and Whitehorse depict the recommended route along the Alaska Highway with a trail of blue diamonds: follow the highway as it leaves Watson Lake at a heading of 242 degrees through the valley of the Rancho Ria River, where there is a small pass at 3,300 feet msl just after Pine Lake airport (CFY5) (the surrounding mountains are 6,000 to 7,000 feet high); continue following the highway through the valley of the Swift River, passing several small lakes and then the over Teslin Lake, past Teslin airport (CYZW); just at the end of Teslin Lake follow the highway as it diverges from the Teslin River and instead makes an abrupt turn southwest—travel through a cut in the mountains and a small 2,800 foot pass, then exit the mountain area and follow the highway as it turns to the northwest just before Little Atlin Lake (not highway 7 which veers to the south) along the shores of Marsh Lake to Whitehorse (CYXY).
· If flying IFR to Prince George IFR, use the Canadian LO 2 enroute chart (1.5MB, so expect slow download). If flying this Route Three by VFR, use the following Canadian sectional charts: Vancouver, Prince George, Fort Nelson, Atlin and Whitehorse. There is also a Canadian sectional chart entitled Alaska Highway.
· 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.
Fort Ware (CAJ9)
Pine Lake (CFY5)
Prince George (CYXS).
Watson Lake (CYQH)
Route Four: Flying from Seattle/Vancouver to Whitehorse via Edmonton and then the Alaska Highway: 1,420 nm with Stops in Edmonton and Fort Nelson (print this route)
· Pilots from the west coast of the US who are intimidated by the Trench route, or who want a better IFR alternative if the weather deteriorates, should consider flying the Alaska Highway to Whitehorse via Edmonton and/or Fort St. John or Fort Nelson. See the map above for additional information.
· To reach the Alaska Highway, one must first fly across the Rockies from the Seattle/Vancouver area to Edmonton. The shortest IFR route is a distance of 530 nm, with the highest MEA of 12,000 feet, and would be along the Victor airways: V120 to Wenatchee VOR (EAT), Ephrata VOR (EPH) and Fairchild VOR (SKA), then V112 to Cranbrook (YXC), then V305 to Calgary VOR (YYC), and then V301 to Edmonton VOR (YEG), landing at either Edmonton International (CYEG) to check in with Canadian customs or Edmonton City Centre (CYXD). There is an 86 nm segment of this route which would be at 13,000 feet, so it can probably be legally be flown without oxygen in an SR22; the remainder of the route would be no higher than 11,000 feet. If flying IFR, use the NACO L-1 and L-9 enroute charts and the Canadian LO 2 enroute chart (1.5MB, so expect slow download). If flying VFR, use the following Canadian sectional charts: Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
· The second leg is 490 nm, and goes from Edmonton VOR (YEG) to Grande Prairie VOR (YQU) to Fort St. John VOR (YXJ) to Fort Nelson VOR (CYYE) . This can best be flown GPS direct; the highest MEA is 8,500 feet. From Fort St. John (CYXJ) to Fort Nelson (CYYE) there are three choices: first, fly direct along V326 (171 nm, MEA of 8,500 feet); second, follow the Alaska Highway between these two points as it winds through the Rocky Mountains; or, third, follow the railroad between these two points, which avoids most terrain. The later two choices can increase the distance flown by up to 40%, but the terrain is quite beautiful. If flying IFR, use the Canadian LO 1 enroute chart (1.5MB, so expect slow download). If flying VFR, use the following Canadian sectional charts: Edmonton, Prince George and Fort Nelson.
· The third leg is a total of 400 nm when flown direct, and goes from Fort Nelson (CYYE) to Watson Lake (CYQH) and then to Whitehorse (CYXY). If VFR conditions exist, then simply follow the Alaska Highway as it leaves Fort Nelson (see the blue diamond trail on the Fort Nelson sectional chart) at a heading of 268 degrees, past Steamboat, Summit Lake (4,300 foot high pass), Toad River Valley (3,600 foot high pass), Muncho Lake, Trout River and the Liard River, then past the Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park toward Watson Lake (CYQH). The mountains to the south of this route will rise to nearly 10,000 feet, but beware that weather can often block the passes. From Watson Lake (CYQH) to Whitehorse (CYXY), follow the highway at a heading of 242 degrees (see the blue diamond trail on the Whitehorse sectional chart) through the valley of the Rancho Ria River, where there is a small pass at 3,300 feet just after Pine Lake airport (CFY5) (the surrounding mountains are 6,000 to 7,000 feet high); continue following the highway through the valley of the Swift River, passing several small lakes and then the over Teslin Lake, past Teslin airport (CYZW); just at the end of Teslin Lake follow the highway as it diverges from the Teslin River and instead makes an abrupt turn southwest—travel through a cut in the mountains and a small 2,800 foot pass, then exit the mountain area and follow the highway as it turns to the northwest just before Little Atlin Lake (not highway 7 which veers to the south) along the shores of Marsh Lake to Whitehorse (CYXY).
· If flying VFR, use the following Canadian sectional charts: Fort Nelson and Whitehorse. There is also a Canadian sectional chart entitled Alaska Highway.
· Listed below are directory information, diagrams and instrument approach procedures for each of the airports mentioned in Route Four (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.
Edmonton City Centre (CYXD)
Edmonton International (CYEG)
Fort St. John (CYXJ)
Grande Prairie (CYQU)
Pine Lake (CFY5)
Watson Lake (CYQH)
Route Five: Alaska Highway Route from Whitehorse to Anchorage: 532 nm Non-stop (print this route)
· When VFR conditions prevail, consider flying visually along the Alaska Highway (rather than IFR) from Whitehorse to Anchorage. The distance is 532 nm, which is only a few miles longer than the IFR route. It affords a birds’ eye view of some of the magnificent valleys, mountain ranges and glaciers that characterize this region. On the first leg of the route (Whitehorse, Yukon to Northway, Alaska), the St. Elias Mountains (18,000 feet) will be visible to the south and the Ruby Mountains will be visible to the north. The second leg of the route (Northway to Anchorage) passes through the Alaska Range, the Copper River Basin, and then the Chugach Mountains into the Anchorage Bowl. Depending on your comfort level, the height of the valley floor at a given point and the weather, you can fly at 2,500 or 4,500 feet for this entire route, or you can go higher and be near or above the tops of the mountains (generally at 6,500 or 8,500 feet) for the entire route.
· The first leg is 254 nm and goes from Whitehorse (CYXY) to Haines Junction (CYHT) to Beaver Creek (CYXQ) to Northway, Alaska (PAOR). Simply follow the Alaska Highway depicted on the Canadian sectional chart for Whitehorse (for some reason the Canadians ran out of blue diamonds at this point): depart Whitehorse (CYXY) at a heading of 246 degrees and follow the Alaska Highway until Haines Junction (CYHT), first along the wide valley of the Takhini River, then parallel the Dezadeash River. In the distance to the south and west are towering 14,000 to 18,000 foot high mountain peaks and the immense ice fields of the Kaskawulsh, Hubbard, Seward, Malaspina, Logan and Columbus Glaciers (part of the Wrangell/Mt. St. Elias National Park). If weather and time permit, it is worth considering a diversion to fly over any portion of these forbidding and breathtaking sights. From Haines Junction (CYHT), follow the highway at a heading of 289 degrees, first along the valley to Kluane Lake (which is the largest in the Yukon and is notorious for high winds, so check the weather first), past Burwash NDB (DB), and then through the wide Shakwak Trench to Beaver Creek (CYXQ). From there follow the highway at a heading of 290 degrees across the broad wetlands of the Chisana and Tanana Rivers. The Yukon/Alaska border is ten miles past Beaver Creek. By following the highway during this segment, a pilot will end up at Northway Junction, so remember to turn left to reach Northway airport (PAOR), or just fly this last segment GPS direct from Beaver Creek. Northway has a 3,300 foot gravel runway, with fuel, food and US customs. The runway was once 5,100 feet long and paved, until a recent earthquake shortened it and left it in a decrepit state.
· If flying this first leg VFR, use the Canadian Whitehorse or Alaska Highway sectional chart (inasmuch as the NACO Whitehorse sectional chart does not show the highway with the same degree of clarity).
Anchorage Lake Hood float plane facility (PALH)
Anchorage Merrill Field (PAMR
Beaver Creek (CYXQ)
Sheep Mountain (PASP)
Tok Junction (6K8)
Considerable confusion can often arise in locating the proper four letter identifier for airports in Alaska. NACO charts and approach plates use a three or four letter identifier which apparently does not conform to the four letter identifiers in the Garmin database, so don’t try to use the charts to punch in an airport in Alaska on the Garmin. Also note that airports in Alaska use the letter P, rather than the letter K, as the airport prefix.
One way to find the proper airport identifier is to use AOPA’s free online flight planning software and prepare a list in advance.
Also, the NOAA publishes a list of numerous airports in Alaska with the proper ICAO identifiers.
After crossing the Canada/Alaska border, the first landing must be made at a US airport of entry. Unlike CanPass, which has one central phone number, each US facility has its own phone number and should be contacted at least 2 hours in advance. To avoid a problem, it is often best to call the prior business day, before 5 pm, to advise US customs of the expected arrival time. Do not rely solely on using ADCUS in the remarks section of the flight plan. Also, it is advisable to write down the name and shield number of the US Customs officer, in case there is any question about having received prior permission to enter the country.
US Customs will be looking for an annual decal, the private aircraft arrival form, and the customs declaration form. Also be sure to have the permanent registration for the aircraft, not the pink temporary slip which is provided by Cirrus when its purchased. Don’t leave the plane until they arrive and have reviewed these documents.