A flight through Alaska and up to 80 degrees north in Arctic Canada presents a few challenges that you don’t run into when flying around the lower 48. Before setting out there was a fair amount of work to do to get ready for the flight.
There were several major upgrades done to the aircraft to prepare it for the flight, as well as general maintenance to get it into top condition. The biggest upgrade was the addition of Flint auxiliary fuel tanks, one in each wingtip, giving a total of 23 gallons extra fuel. This would give an extra 2 hours endurance, over 250 miles.
A Garmin G5 attitude indicator was installed to replace the failing vacuum powered gyroscopic instrument. A G5, with no moving parts, would be much more reliable and also neatly presents extra information such as heading, airspeed, and altitude all on the one instrument.
Finally, dual USB charging ports were installed into the panel. These would be invaluable for charging all the various equipment we’d have with us such as cameras, phones, and satellite communicator, when out away from civilization.
AVGAS can be hard to find in Alaska and northern Canada. The extra fuel tanks in the aircraft would prove to be of great assistance in enabling us to make it between remote fuel stops. To extend range still further for the more distant parts of the trip, I bought four 5-gallon flexible fuel containers from Airframes Alaska which would give us another couple of hundred miles range if we really needed it (and, as it turned out, we would!)
At the airports of Cambridge Bay, Resolute Bay, and Rankin Inlet fuel was only available in 55-gallon barrels, and had to be organised in advance to ensure there’d be some available when we arrived. Shipments typically only come in once a year, so if you were out of luck then you could end up being stuck for a while! It’s not guaranteed that a fuel pump or filter will be available and so we took our own. We ended up needing them multiple times.
Alaska and Canada have certain minimum requirements for survival gear that must be carried; but the requirements are fairly light and it makes sense to be rather better equipped.
The following is a summary of equipment suggested for such an expedition, put together with the feedback of a lot of experienced pilots and others! Most was kept in a waterproof grab-bag for easy retrieval in an emergency, apart from the most crucial items such as PLB that were kept on my person.
- Camping gear. This doubles for use in a survival situation
- At least 1 week worth of food, and water purification
- A quality first aid kit, flashlight, and spare batteries
- A survival knife, a smaller escape knife with seat-belt cutter, and a hatchet.
- A tarpaulin, duct tape, and para-cord
- Emergency flares, whistle, and signal mirror
- Bear spray, and a rifle
- Bear-proof food containers
- Mosquito repellent and head-nets
- A personal locator beacon, in addition to the aircraft’s fixed Emergency Location Transmitter
- A Garmin InReach satellite communicator for tracking and 2-way satellite messaging.
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