Helicopter to Remote Camp 2014On Jul 22, 2014 In the Field 2014
So Tony, Yoshi and Paul have been delivered to the remote camp. Mother Nature smiled on us and presented us with a beautiful, sunny, wind-free day. Perfect for the flights!
Exactly like last year, the flight prep consisted of the same steps. Denny Capps, the Park geologist with whom Tony has coordinated this year’s entire “In the Field in Denali National Park and Preserve project”, was there to see the team off. Tony conferred with Denny, the helicopter pilot, Shannon Bowman, and the helicopter manager, J Thatcher, to be sure everything was in order and discuss flight plans. J (whose name I misspelled last year as Jay. Sorry J!) was the helicopter manager last year for the extraction flights. If you recall (or reread the post from last year), the day the team was picked up from the remote camp was extremely windy and required some truly expert flying.
That trip had been a very scary experience for all involved. J reminded me of that and added that the pilot hadn’t been able to fly for a couple days afterward because he had been so unnerved. At the time I knew it was very, very windy, and that the crew and passengers arrived back with wide eyes, but I now realize how I hadn’t really grasped the magnitude of the situation. I guess it really had been death-defying, which makes me again appreciate that they all arrived back safely. This also prompted me to embrace the beautiful day we were experiencing for the flights today. Again like last year, everyone and everything was weighed and methodically tallied. The guys geared up (flight suits, survival vest, gloves, boots and helmets) and received their pre-flight instructions.
This year the park offered a larger helicopter. An AStar BA. Last year we had an MD 500 (previously referred to as a Hughes 500). The AStar BA provides more room and more capacity, so rather than the three different to-and-from trips it took last year to deliver the guys and their gear to the camp site, it took only two: flight one for Tony and Paul AND the gear and flight two for Yoshi. So, Tony and Paul and the gear were loaded in. The pilot called out his “clear” alert and flight one was off. An hour and a half later, the helicopter returned to pick up Yoshi. And, because there was an extra seat and no gear, and the weather was clear and presented no apparent or immediate danger, I was able to join as well! They didn’t have to ask me twice! I geared up, and yes, was weighed, (ugh), and was taken through the pre-flight instructions. Then Yoshi and I loaded in and – camera in hand, unlike last year – was able to visit the remote field location. As you can imagine the flight was amazing. The view, spectacular. The sights, incredible. I attempted to take a video of a portion of the flight. It doesn’t really do it justice but see what you think.