SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska





November 26, 2012
Monday PM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska
- Wow, in two recent weeks Our Fair Salmon City survived not just a tsunami alert, but a hurricane as well. And they say nothing every happens around here!
jpg Dave Kiffer

I previously chronicled the "tsunami" so let's revisit the "hurricane."

But not without a slight disclaimer.

I missed it. Sort of.

The day of the "hurricane" I was on a plane headed to the frigid north.

You see, I've decided that what I really want to be is Mayor of Wasilla (N0T!), so I have spent  weeks on end in that part of the state to get a feel for the politics on the Mad Zoo Valley.

In truth I have made four round trips to Anchorage in the past six weeks for a variety of reasons.  Talk about a bit of “spoilage” on the Milk Run!

Anyway, that morning we rose out of the buffeting winds at the airport and circled south toward Annette Island and right into - the hurricane.

We were apparently the last plane to leave before the airport was shut down for high winds. Lucky us.

Actually it wasn't too bad. For a few minutes it was the aeronautical equivalent of plopping one's nervous posterior on one those mechanical bulls that were so popular after "Urban Cowboy" in the 1980s.

Yee haw!

Anyway, we got turned around pretty quick and then rode the winds north to Wrangell in something like seven minutes.

Okay, I exaggerate. The flight from Ketchikan to Wrangell lasted 12 minutes and 41 seconds. We WERE riding on a hurricane after all.

Ironically, as we were taxiing to take off, I opened up a copy of Flying magazine and absently turned to a column on how to avoid mistakes made by other pilots.

Pilots in general love to read about mistakes made by other pilots. Sure, the information is instructional. But really it’s all about enjoying the smug feeling you get you when realize "geeze, I would never do that. What a moron that other eegit was."

Anyway, the column was all about making mistakes on landings. In this case, the pilot of a jet landed further down the runway than he was supposed to.

He immediately began deploying all the various cool doohickeys that pilots use to stop their planes (we are NOT talking Fred Flintstone here).

Then he realized that he wasn't going to stop in time. So he immediately tried to undeploy those doohickeys and take off again.

It didn't work.

He ran out of runway and crash-landed in a ravine just past the end of the runway. One passenger died in the crash, but everyone else survived.

Sound familiar?

 It should.

It happened to an Alaska Airlines 727 in Ketchikan in 1976. I was one of a bunch of Kayhi students who literally watched it happen.

Now, you don't see Ketchikan show up very often in national magazines (besides Bridge to Nowhere Monthly, of course), but here was Our Fair Salmon City being noted as the location for a particularly example of egregiously bad piloting. One that is still causing other pilots go "tsk, tsk, tsk" 35 years later.

But I digress.

So here I am - in 2012 - trying to take my mind off a wildly bucking jet ascending into a hurricane in Ketchikan by reading a story about a jet crashing... in Ketchikan.

I could not make this up if I tried.

Anyway, I headed north and missed most of the rest of the rest of the hurricane fun.

Turned out that - unlike the East Coast or Florida or the Gulf Coast or the Caribbean - we just soldier trough our hurricanes without alerting the national media.

A few trees got knocked down, some people lost power, a few homes were damaged. Some folks later noted – a bit smugly - that we don’t “name” our hurricanes.

That is not entirely true.

We call them “Fall.”

On the Web:

More Columns by Dave Kiffer

Historical Feature Stories by Dave Kiffer


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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Dave Kiffer ©2012

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