SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Remembering Don Ross
By Doug Barry


August 31, 2009

The picture on the Sitnews front page of floatplanes-in-formation honoring Ketchikan bush pilot Don Ross brought back an instant memory of a time when I believe Don's exceptional experience and skill saved four souls.

My dad asked me to accompany one of his subcontractors (and his son) up to the private cabin on Mirror Lake. This was their 3rd trip to the lake. They were visiting from southern California and they loved the experience.

It was one of those "increasing and lowering clouds" summer days we're all too familiar with. The weather was moving in quickly as we left the float at Weber Air in a Cessna 185.

The most common route into Mirror Lake threads up a valley from Thorne Arm along Fish Creek, with forested hillsides steepening and narrowing on both sides the closer you get to the lake. By the time we were about half-way up, the fog was socking in around us, so Don wisely decided we should turn back to town or find an alternate route before we got to the point of no-return. I suggested going around to Ella Lake to the east and trying the short notch between the two lakes.

We found a higher ceiling as we flew over Ella. But just as we started to head west along the stream to Mirror Lake, we suddenly ran into a heavy squall and the clouds and fog engulfed us. We hit extreme turbulence and the plane bucked violently as we flew just over the tops of trees, walls of granite on both sides. Some of the drops were so sharp, we actually hit our heads on the ceiling of the Cessna; our gear, ice and food supplies also defied gravity. I was sitting behind Don and I could see sweat on his face.

Through the thick fog and heavy rain, he suddenly spotted a big patch of water below and Don dove right toward it. It was Mirror Lake. We taxied on the water from our landing spot for about a half-mile to the dock of the cabin. The lake was totally socked in right down to the water. It took about 90 minutes for the weather to lift enough for Don to fly back to town. Understandably shaken, we were elated to have arrived safely and grateful to have had such a level-headed and great pilot at the controls.

The next day, of course, was one of those spectacular, calm, bluebird sunny days in the Misty Fjords.

I hope Sitnews will publish a story on Don's significant contribution to local aviation and prospecting in the Ketchikan/Prince of Wales Island area. He deserves it.

Doug Barry
Ketchikan, AK

About: "Born & raised in Ketchikan."

Received August 31, 2009 - Published August 31, 2009

Editor's Note:

A feature story about Don Ross is currently being worked on.


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska