Column - Commentary
We're on a Flight to Nowhere!!By DAVE KIFFER
September 27, 2020
I miss just missing the airport ferry and having to wait a half an hour more just to get across.
i miss completely disrobing at TSA on the off chance I am trying to smuggle a five-ounce Jack Daniels in a body cavity.
I miss the unbearable plastic chairs in the terminal and the incomprehensible airport TV.
I miss the person sitting next to me shouting into her cell phone.
"Yes, we're at the airport. Yes, we're on time. Yes, I remembered to turn the stove of!!!!"
I miss sitting with the middle seat open only to have a very, very, very large person get on the plane at the very, very last minute and plop down into it.
I miss hearing the safety lecture half a dozen times between Ketchikan and Anchorage.
I miss the wind tunnel roller coaster between Wrangell and Petersburg.
I miss the landing smackdown in Sitka.
I just miss flying.
Sure, I get that, in these COVID times, you just really don't want to fly if it means spending an entire vacation in quarantine. Or having Q-tips go in your nose and out your ears. Or sharing a completely enclosed cigar-shaped metallic space with someone who's forehead is so warm your earbuds are starting to melt.
But, just maybe, there's another way.
How about a "Flight to Nowhere?"
This is not an original idea, there are people in Asia and Australia and the Middle East who are doing just that. Airlines are offering short, socially distanced flights that leave airports and - return - to those same airports.
They're kinda like airborne booze cruises. Plenty of snacks and alcohol. Some even often gourmet meals.
You basically get to relive all the "pleasures" of flight without actually going anywhere - and having to quarantine!
Most of the flights seem to be around 90 minutes or so. Hopefully, the folks don't spend 45 minutes of that on the tarmac waiting to take off. But, then again, that would just be part of the "experience," right?
So, I was thinking.
Which, of course, is the columnist's version of "hold my beer."
Whenever a columnist says "I was thinking" you can pretty much guarantee a warped outcome. "I was thinking" means usually just the opposite.
But, as usual, I digress.
Anyway, I was thinking that since we "think big in Alaska," why should be limit ourselves to short, little flights?
Let's REALLY go somewhere, people!!!!
A 737-800 can fly roughly 3,500 miles without refueling, so we should be able to go 1,750 miles in one direction and then come back, right.
Okay, maybe that's cutting it a little too close. We don't want to run out of fuel in Dixon Entrance and have to "glide" in.
So how about going 1,500 miles and coming back? Maybe 1,300? What does that get us?
Well, in 1,300 miles we can reach Barrow, better known these days as Utqiaġvik. We can catch (not literally) a blanket toss from above.
In 1,400 miles we can reach Dutch Harbor. No, we can't stop off for an adult beverage at the Norwegian Rat Saloon, but we can toast a mini rum and coke as we pass by.
Okay, maybe after six months cooped up in Alaska, the last place you would want to go would be.....Alaska. I get that. Just wanted you to have the option.
What else in in range?
How about San Francisco (1,300 miles)? The Bay area is lovely from above, unless there is fog. On the other hand, after drinking on board libations for several flight hours you are probably too fogged to notice the meteorological kind.
Los Angeles might be stretching it (at 1,600). The warm weather is tempting, but once again, it probably doesn't matter if you are hermitically sealed in a heavier than air aircraft.
Just not into "The Coast?"
How about Denver or Fargo (both at 1,600). The front range is lovely in the twilight. And Fargo has the best "Radisson" in creation, even though, once again, you can't really get off there, unless you want to do the nasal cavity mambo again.
Or Churchill, Manitoba at 1,400? You get to see both polar bears and Hudson's Bay. Now, that's a sightseeing bargain.
Personally, I would love to fly over the Grand Canyon again, it's one of the few things that still looks really impressive from 30,000 feet, but it's just under 1,700 miles one way and - frankly - I'm a punk who does not feel that lucky.
Of course, if the journey - and not the destination - is truly the thing, you can just head out over the open ocean for 1,500 miles or so. You'll get about two-thirds of the way to Honolulu before you have to turn back.
Or you can just keep going and spend two weeks quarantining at a nice place in Hawaii.
There are worse things.
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Dave Kiffer is a freelance
writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.