Flight flies to Atlin

By George Balmer, Captain




Saturday April 14, dawned clear and cold (-3 C) in Southern Yukon. COPA Flight 106 was scheduled to fly from Whitehorse down to Atlin, British Columbia, just south of the Yukon border, for some sightseeing and lunch at John Faulkner’s place.

Faulkner’s 185 flew over my house as I was finishing breakfast at about 0830 reminding me to get moving. Our departure was set for 10:00 and when I arrived at the Whitehorse airport Murray Adams was already waiting for me. He was flying down with me in my RV-8.

As we pre-flighted C-GRVO, Darrell Kalnicki and Randy Shewen arrived and began pre-flighting their 172, C-FXWE. Jeremy Johnson decided to ride down with them.

I filed a flight plan and FSS informed me that a PIREP from Faulkner reported the airstrip bare and 9/10 dry. This had been a concern for most of us because the maintenance in Atlin can be light and they had a record amount of snow this winter that has been slow in disappearing. My RV-8 does not handle deep soft mud.

Adams and I were in the air by about 10:05. The spring time turbulence was light and allowed an indicated airspeed of about 160 Knots at 7,500 feet. The visibility allowed a good view of the mountains and west far into Alaska. The scenery around Atlin is truly spectacular, one of the best kept secrets of the North.

Our arrival was a mid-field cross for runway 18 and just before wheels down we heard Shewen report to FSS on 126.70 en route.

Faulkner met Adams and I at the airport and drove us to his “cabin” overlooking Atlin Lake. It is a truly beautiful location and the place is gorgeous. Faulkner has made a remarkable effort to make this kind of retreat from the daily grind. In a few minutes we heard Shewen report overhead on 123.20. Faulkner played the role of taxi and we just kicked back.

Before long we heard John Troyer call from his perfect Cherokee 140 inbound with Gerry Kearn and Bernard Johnson. Then Christoph Alther from his Maule co-piloted by Thor Flender and Ed Festel from his enviable Cessna 170 with his lovely wife Claire in right seat. Bringing up the tail, as usual was Emery Sederberg in his Christavia sporting a new 100 hp engine spinning one of his hand-crafted wooden props. All in all, our group is a pretty diverse cross-section of aviation enthusiasm.

Lunch was inside by the wood stove or out on the deck enjoying spectacular views of ice-capped mountains. Some half-serious hangar flying took us to mid-afternoon and as the clouds and winds built someone made a move towards the boot shelf and we all followed. Nothing to do with Faulkner’s taxi service, but most of us elected to walk the two km from his house near town to the airstrip.

It was indelicately pointed out to me by someone that since I was likely to pass everyone, and pose a potential mid-air threat in the process, we faster airplanes should go first. I don’t know if my reputation is as a potential safety threat, more likely people are embarrassed by their inferior Piper and Cessna products workmanship and performance. So, the homebuilts both led the way home and followed doing tail-end clean up to end a perfect Saturday.

We are preparing next for an overnight expedition to Fort Selkirk, a picturesque but unoccupied historic site along the Yukon River, about half way to Dawson City. This should be around June if anyone is interested.