Flight in a Beaver - 2012 Alaska Aviation Adventure (Part 3 in a Series)

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On this trip to Alaska, I accomplished three firsts on a single flight:
·      I flew in my first floatplane
·      I flew in my first Beaver
·      I chartered my first airplane

Similar to the 747 jumbo jet or Concorde supersonic transport, the de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver is an iconic airplane in its own right.  Chances are, you have seen a Beaver floatplane (at least a representation of one) and not even know it:  almost all generic floatplane you see in drawings or t-shirts are always of a Beaver.  
As an example:

Designed as Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) utility cargo and passenger plane, de Havilland Canada built 1,657 Beavers between 1947 and 1967.  Beavers (and their larger sibling Otters) are so specialized yet rugged that there are no replacements for them.  As a result, many are rebuilt and upgraded with turbine engines in order to extend their service life. 
After seeing so many Beaver floatplanes (“Wet Beavers”) on my previous trips to Alaska, I decided to log that classic on this trip.  The timing worked out as well:  the week I was there, Lake Hood Seaplane Base in Anchorage had just thawed out from winter ice and lake operations restarted only one day before my flight.
Price for an one-half hour sightseeing flight was $100 per person (the price was essentially the same between all companies).  Another friend and I managed to convince four others (who were also along on this Alaskan Adventure) to join us on the flight.  I booked our flight with Rust’s Flying Service – the largest flight-seeing operator at Lake Hood – for their photogenic red airplanes.  Since six people filled the entire plane, I was given the charter rate: $300 for the half hour, making the flight $50 per person – what a deal!
A flotilla of Rust's Beavers and Cessna 206s on their ramp/dock:


The Beaver seats six people plus one pilot.  One lucky flier gets the right front seat, where the co-pilot would normally sit.  Behind that, two rows seating two each, and the person in the last row gets an entire row with views out of both sides of the aircraft. 
We flew on aircraft N4444Z (serial number 1307), built in 1958. In 1998, this aircraft got modified with a cabin extension with bubble side windows.


Rather basic safety card.


Mike and I sat in the second row.


On this short sightseeing flight, we flew from Lake Hood to the west towards Mount Susitna (“The Sleeping Lady”) along the shores of Cook Inlet, past marshlands populated with small fishing cabins, frozen lakes, and even had moose sightings!
The Sleeping Lady ahead:


More sights:


View of our shadow.  Those “cracks” in the marsh are actually moose tracks.  Look for moose in the video.
View out the front:

Turning base back to Lake Hood.  Anchorage International Airport (ANC) is just beyond the lake.

Surprisingly, while on the water, the floatplane did not feel like a boat; I was expecting lots of bopping up and down.  As I later found out, floats act like suspension insulating the cabin from the water.  Our pilot did a very smooth takeoff and landing as well.  While in flight, the airplane was quite noisy, making the headset a necessity.  And being an utilitarian aircraft, those seats were just padded version of a park bench!  On the plus side, the concave bubble window gave a nice view, allowing expansive views all around.

After returning back to Lake Hood, another pilot took our Beaver out for some splash-and-goes.  This gave me bonus opportunities to get shots of my aircraft in action from the outside as well.

Group shot after the flight:  Robbie, Mike, Doug, Joe, Todd, and me. 

Yet another classic bird logged in my collection!

Copyright © 2012 Ben Wang.  All Rights Reserved.

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