Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska - Opinions



Peace in our homes
by Patrick Jirschele


July 25, 2004

It is 6:30am Sunday morning. I was going to sleep in late but a plane flew over at tree top level a couple of minutes ago. One minute I was asleep with the sound of lapping waves, the next I'm upright with my heart beating out of my chest from the sound of a radial engine at around 90db right over the cabin. That is like firing a shotgun in a library. My hands are still shaking.

A few weeks ago while I was on the phone in the cabin, a plane came in too low and way too close. The noise was deafening as it pulled up and over the new house and trees. Why it didn't stall or hit the trees is a tribute to that old plane. There was another plane that turned off to the center of the Narrows. My guess is that they some how didn't see each other and one plane crowded the other. It was over in a second. I was shaking then too, but I bet I wasn't the only one.

When we first moved to our home on Pennock the planes seldom flew close to the houses here. Back in 1989, there was a gentleman's agreement with the Tongass Aircraft Pilots Association. They agreed to not fly before 7:00am or after 10:00pm. They agreed to fly down the middle of the Narrows and not cut over homes on Pennock Island.

Many pilots still honor this agreement. Many do not. I should make it clear that according to the FAA, no one is breaking the law. On takeoff and landing, the planes can fly over homes at any altitude. The floatplanes are landing on the Narrows, not an airport, so there is no real control over landing patterns. We are a few miles from the airport and have much more traffic and noise than if we lived on the end of the runway. We depend on the honor of the pilots for some peace in our homes. So much for zoning laws protecting residential property.

Why do they fly over or close to our homes? Over the years I have made many complaints. I have gotten many answers, some less than civil. Here are some of them.
"Because we can"
"You're part of the show. You're animals in a zoo and I'm the zoo keeper."
"We are not doing anything wrong, we'll fly over your house if we want to, our pilots may be avoiding another plane."
"We try to avoid Mountain Point, those are expensive homes."
"Cutting over Pennock saves time and fuel"
There are others I didn't record or can't be printed here.

One company, Pacific Airways, tries to honor the old agreement. If they get a call because one of their planes strayed over a home, they take care of it right away. Always cordial, always professional and the exception. That attitude promotes a safe operation and a good neighbor. A pilot who cuts over a home to save a few seconds or a couple of ounces of fuel may cut corners elsewhere.

I wish someone would blow the dust off the old agreement and have the gentlemen and gentlewomen of the Tongass Aircraft Pilots Association sign it again.

Why did I want to sleep-in this morning? A friend who has children the same age as my grandchildren called late last night. He wanted to know if I thought Ketchikan was still a good place to raise children.

Patrick Jirschele
Pennock Island, AK - USA



Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.



Post a Comment -------View Comments

Submit an Opinion - Letter

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska