Tag Archives: PAYA

Overcoming Reputations

Yakutat is a truly incredible place.  Incredible fishing,  incredible mountains,  incredible glaciers…  even incredible surfing and many other “incredibles”.  But it is far from perfect.  One of our shortfalls has been in aviation and the services available here at the Yakutat Airport.

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Teen and I started Yakutat Aviation Services as a means to change our local reputation as being a black hole for services.  We have a reputation within the aviation community as a place to avoid and we have been lugging this rep around for decades. It isn’t any one business’ or person’s blame,  but a build-up of a lot of horror stories and dissatisfied pilot visitors.

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That said…  tonight we had a “Queen Air” stop in for fuel.  The pilot said he was planning to fly non-stop from Ketchikan to Homer without refueling,  but another pilot in Ketch told him what we are trying to do here and he decided to stop in and support us.  Bought 140 gallons of fuel that would not have been sold here had we not started YAS.

A year ago,  there was an article in AOPA Pilot magazine about flying the coast from Anchorage to Juneau.  They did NOT stop here,  but most of the photos illustrating their article were taken within the Borough.  OK,  they definitely stopped several times in Yakutat,  but they avoided the airport and didn’t spend a dime here.  In the “letters to the editor” in the following issue,  someone wrote that he understood how they wanted to avoid buying fuel in Yakutat…

I don’t want to point fingers at the old traditional supplier,  but they are principally a wholesaler and not a retailer.  They don’t provide retail “service”.  But that is what we are doing now.

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On my flight down to Juneau for my heart test,  the Alaska Airlines pilot came back to our row and handed me a magazine that featured a cover article he wrote.  Burke Mees is a neat guy,  although I don’t know him well.  He flies the CAF BT-13 up in Anchorage most weekends for tours in their great old WWII trainer.  I first met Burke a few years ago when he and another pilot burned through some of their ground time and walked over to the hangar from the AS jet.  I told them about what we were planning to do with the hangar and museum,  etc.

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This past spring,  Burke flew with the owners of an experimental “Gweduck” up to the Anchorage Airmen’s Show.  They stopped in at Yakutat for fuel briefly.  The Gweduck is basically a modernized kit Grumman Widgeon with all composite parts,  so landing in saltwater doesn’t corrode the hull.  Really neat plane.  Their stop in Juneau was featured as the headline front cover story on the Juneau Empire at the time.

Burke said he mentioned us in the article,  but to my surprise,  he does a LOT more than mere mention…

“YAKUTAT

For those of you who have made this trip,  you’ve probably avoided landing at Yakutat because of the imposing Mount Fairweather-sized gas prices that loom large on the horizon and cast a long shadow on the coast route.  I can report that this is no longer a problem.  Bob Miller recently started Yakutat Aviation Services,  and now prices are considerably lower for both 100LL and Jet A.  Bob is a local entrepreneur who lives with his family in the old WWII hangar on the field,  and he also owns the 1941 DC-3 in the hangar.

This airplane is a piece of history;  it started out as a military C-47 and saw wartime service in North Africa,  Sicily,  and over Normandy on D-Day.  After the war,  it spent a lot of time flying commercially in Alaska,  including with Cordova Airlines,  which later merged with Alaska Airlines.  The airplane’s story is written on its airframe in patched German bullet holes and corrosion from making Alaska beach landings.  Bob plans to use proceeds from the fuel sales to get the plane flying again.  If you’re in Yakutat you should make a point to check it out.”

How’s that for cool?!?!  Granted most of you have probably never seen or read Water Flying magazine (I know I hadn’t…),  but it is the bimonthly publication of the Seaplane Pilots Association and a really nice/interesting magazine.

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Nice to see we’re starting to make a difference.  Yet another weird risky thing Teen and I are doing in little ol’ Yakutat.

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A Busy Week at the Airport

Most of you know that I have been pretty distracted this season as we work toward getting the new airport fuel facility up and running.  This weekend,  we did just that!  We’re officially functional and we sold our first AVGAS!

This project has been 4 years in the making.  The main reason for the delays has been the financing.  No traditional banks were willing or interested in funding the project,  no matter how promising it is as a business because of the remote location and poopy economy.  Add the usual slow pace of getting anything done in Yakutat and we’re 4 years behind schedule.

Our electrician came into town (again) about 2 weeks ago and went to work pulling the final wires and getting everything connected.  We discovered some extra wiring problems with the hangar in the process,  but those have also been remedied now,  till we find something else to worry about.  I can not say enough wonderful things about Smokey Point Electric.  They have been such a pleasure to work with.  Also,  our local power company guys were a huge help in getting things hooked up and functioning too.

The tech guy from Mascott Equipment arrived last Wednesday night to do the final hook-up and system testing.  He discovered some of the pipes had been hooked up backwards on the AVGAS dispenser,  so it was a bit of a challenge to get that fixed with Yakutat’s limited access to parts.  He was able to piece it all together and get it running.  We are still operating manually though because the credit card system is having some challenges connecting through our limited phone system.  Hopefully that’ll be solved today though,  so people can swipe and fuel without me having to be there the whole time.

Our first customer was the perfect guy!  A non-local who comes through a couple times a year.  He has been pestering me for two years every time he passes through about getting AVGAS and we finally had the ability to meet his needs!  We’re far from done though.  Signs should be arriving this week and in the spring,  we will landscape around the pumps to make it all look nice.

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I need my plane back,  so I can update this photo with the facility showing.  The tanks are where the snow blob is immediately below the hangar

 

All the profits from the fuel facility will go to finishing the hangar renovation and to buying artifacts and aircraft for the museum.  It’ll take us a little time to recover financially,  but once we do,  the museum will grow pretty dramatically over the next couple years.  Nice to finally see some real progress on something!

Progress!

Yesterday was a good day around here.  Besides having overcast and dry weather for fishing,  business through the fly shop was brisk and…  we finally got the fuel tanks moved!  The city’s Bull was repaired and they brought it out to the airport to lift the tanks into place.

 

This was a stressful event,  but all went well.  Just a few scratches on the paint.  That’s all.  Electricians arrive next weekend with final install middle of next week.

For such a big beast with no brakes on rough lumpy ground,  they did an amazing job of placing them on the spot!  Huge thanks to Ron and Sampson for their work as well as a big thank you to Sonny for getting the Bull fixed before the rains hit and turned the ground into much.

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In another week and a half,  we should be ready to pump fuel.

A Crowded Week

If you have felt I’m a bit distracted this year,  you’d be right…  We’re finally moving forward with the “new business” and it has been a long-time coming.  We rolled the hangar storage and renovation into the Yakutat Aviation Services,  LLC moniker a couple years ago and separated it from the fly shop.  It took us 4 years to piece together the financing for the project,  but that finally came through last fall.  We took delivery of our shiny new tanks in April,  but we’ve had delay after delay this summer.

Yesterday,  we finally poured concrete.  Three more days and we should be able to set the new tanks on their foundations.  We are building a brand-new state-of-the-art airport fuel facility to service the airplanes that pass through Yakutat airport.  The location is the empty field between the northeast side of the hangar and the approach end of runway 11.  It is a good open location,  where we were able to put the Jet-A tank about 80 feet from the 100LL AVGAS tank,  so a helicopter can land on the site far enough away from the Super Cub fueling at the other dispenser not to flip it.

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Fuel tanks will go where that snowpile is immediately below the hangar in this photo…

 

Always great with timing…  starting a new business in the heart of an economic crisis meant no banks wanted to loan us money for fuel tanks in a remote Alaskan village.  4 years later,  we had the Frankenstein of a financing package together.  In the meantime,  we also bought a Jet-A truck and have been fueling turbine aircraft since January.

All profits from fuel sales will go toward the Alaska Warbird Museum and for finishing the renovation of the hangar.  There should be enough cash flow from this to eventually finish the hangar properly with 8 retail shops (including the fly shop),  a year-round restaurant,  “War Department” movie theater,  two lane bowling alley and buy artifacts and (hopefully) airplanes for the museum.  All this,  while lowering the cost of aviation fuel in Yakutat by $2.99 from what it was last year…  Yakutat now has the cheapest Jet-A in all of southeast Alaska…

So…  here are some photos from the summer’s progress:

They were delivered in mid-April right in the throws of steelhead season.  We had KNIK Construction offload the tanks from the trailers,  since they are here resurfacing the runway this summer.  Each tank weighs on at about 30,000lbs empty.  Double-wall Fireguard tanks,  which means two layers of steel with concrete between them.  Double-walled,  so they qualify as their own secondary containment.  Plus both tanks are also epoxy lined doe added protection.

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Peaking inside the Jet-A dispenser,  with a weather-proof housing and roll-up door.  Side doors to access the filtration and do maintenance.

 

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Tanis playing with the Bobcat,  burying the conduit trench for the electricians.  All the trenching photos are on Tanis’ camera…

 

Leaning on a shovel handle as the first of 5 truckloads arrived yesterday morning…  Rebar every 12 inches,  Tanis adding some extra shovels of concrete to the low spots,  smoothing the top,  on to another foundation,  I’m no concrete finisher and it shows – but it’ll hold these heavy 12,000 gallon tanks even if it is ugly…

It lightly sprinkled through most of the pour,  then the sun came out in the afternoon.  So did the bugs,  but we were done by then.  And here are the photos off Tanis’ camera…

Trenching and building the forms

Because no job goes as planned…  we took a day “off” to have the sewer pumped and snaked.  Toilets may flush,  but that doesn’t guarantee the poop makes it to the septic tank.  Wherever that may be…  This is one of three manholes in and around the hangar that were full to the brim…

Teen and Tony on the first load,  second load and final load in the 5th foundation…

Now back to fishing…

Yakutat Airport Government Building for Sale

I was contacted by the GSA today about a bid sale of the old Weather Balloon Shed at the Yakutat airport.  The info is as follows with photos of the building at the bottom:

Government Building For Sale
No underlying land
Upper Air Inflation Shelter
Yakutat Airport
Sealed Bid Sale Bid Opening 5/13/15

NO BID IS TOO LOW!
RealEstateSales.gov
253-931-7556

Point of Contact: Andrew Schwartz
Disposal Realty Specialist
General Services Administration
Auburn Field Office (9P2PZF)
400 15th St. SW, Room 1161
Auburn, WA 98001
(253) 931-7556
Fax (253) 931 7554

GSA starmark

The location of the building at the PAYA airport

The location of the building at the PAYA airport

The photo he sent me with the airport ramp in the background

The photo he sent me with the airport ramp in the background

Northwest elevation

Northwest elevation – these are my photos…

Northeast elevation from Alsek Air hangar is kind of brushy

Northeast elevation from Alsek Air hangar is kind of brushy

Southwest elevation

Southwest elevation

Southeast elevation from the ramp

Southeast elevation from the ramp

The building is being offered for sale as is/where is,  with no claim to the land it sits on…  If you want to utilize the land,  that would require a State DOT lease like I have for the WWII hangar.  Or,  you could move the structure…  I always wanted to sneak onto the roof and paint the ball as a basketball,  or golf ball…  You could do Laser Floyd inside the dome…  Just some possible ideas for it…  🙂

What Fool Said “Spring Was Here”?

Ya,  I know.  It was me.  Winter finally arrived!  About 18 inches of white since Sunday.  Heavy wet snows,  with clear sunbreaks,  followed by more snows.  The ground is warm,  but the snow came down so fast and furious that it was able to build up pretty good.

Chris took a nice picture here of a lens smudge...

Chris took a nice picture here of a lens smudge…

Tuesday is supposed to warm up and turn to rain.  Expecting to see another foot before it does though.  The road is still reasonably drivable with 4-wheel drive.  Not sure if it will be with another foot on it,  but the rain will wash it away pretty quickly.  Water temp dropped back down to 34 degrees,  which will help slow the spring run down a bit.  And we’ll have at least a little snow along the banks to keep the flow going through any dry spells.  Believe me,  we needed this!

The snow just starting to fall

The snow just starting to fall

Starting to stick

Starting to stick

A pile emerges on the ramp

A pile emerges on the ramp

Oh,  I don't need to put the plane away...

Oh, I don’t need to put the plane away…

Watch the wingtip DOT!

Watch the wingtip DOT!

This was more than the forecast said

This was more than the forecast said

Great!  Now what?

Great! Now what?

Gusting throughout today,  for a miserable time outside.  Looks like the perfect day to stay indoors and bake cookies!

Peanut butter cookies,  waiting to cool before dipping them in melted chocolate

Peanut butter cookies, waiting to cool before dipping them in melted chocolate

And one more "almost" photo of a steelhead by Chris

And one more “almost” photo of a steelhead by Chris

The plane is inside now,  but it took a lot of shoveling.  Next time,  plan ahead!

Pilot Stuff

We did my biannual flight review this week in amongst everything else that is going on.  A crazy-busy time of year right now,  even if it isn’t all that productive.  Since I needed to demonstrate soft-field and short-field landings and take-offs,  we snuck our fly rods into the plane,  so Teen wouldn’t question why my 4-hour flight training…  Well, we had to go land at the Middle Italio and I needed to do some research on how the fishing is for the fly shop too!  This way,  I could be more productive with my time by…  um…  nevermind…

Left engine comes to life

Left engine comes to life

I just have my “private pilot”,  thus I can NOT fly people commercially.  There are two good air taxi’s here in town to take care of that just fine.  I can fly for my own businesses,  providing the flights are “incidental” to the main business.  I can fly my commercially caught salmon off the Akwe,  I could fly fish and supplies in and out of the Dry Bay fish plant if I ever get it operational again,  I could have flown the clients to my guide business (providing I didn’t charge for the actual flight),  etc.  I’m planning to get my commercial rating in the next year or two,  but I do need more experience and practice before I do.

Going around in circles on the ramp

Going around in circles on the ramp

So,  I own two airplanes – one I can fly (the Cessna 206) and the DC-3.  I have no tail time and no multi-engine time,  so I’m a LONG way away from flying the DC-3.  My friend and flight instructor Rod is here this week and we have tried to keep him busy through his stay.  He helped get the engines running,  which took a couple days to do.  In our extremely wet climate,  the magnetos wouldn’t fire and took a lot of effort to get them dried out and cleaned up.  Just like last year,  the right engine mags ran great after a little effort,  but the left engine mags continue to have trouble.  One is good,  but the left engine right mag is intermittent.

Chris and I fumbling through the checklist

Chris and I fumbling through the checklist

Once we had the engines purring,  I got my first major DC-3 lessons…  There are two AD’s that need to be addressed to officially make the plane airworthy again,  so our activities were limited to start-up,  taxi and shut-down.  Tanis and Chris were both onboard taking short movies of the procedures.  Chris got to sit in the co-pilot seat and taxi a little bit too.  This is a big lumbering hulk of a plane and it does take a little effort and coordination to keep it on the centerline – learning to lock and unlock the tail-wheel,  turn with differential braking and coordinating the different throttles.

My "fun meter" is exceeding the redline

My “fun meter” is exceeding the redline

I uploaded more than a dozen videos to my Vimeo page.  I’m not going to post them all here,  but if you want to check them out,  go to the N91314 channel and all 21 videos are listed.  Unfortunately they are listed with most recent first and if you want to watch them in order,  you need to start at the bottom…  The first three (last three listed) are from 2010 when the plane first arrived.  4th is from last spring when we fired her up for the first time since 2010,  then there are the videos from this week that start with a couple Teen took from outside the plane,  then the ones from the same time inside the cockpit.  I thought the ones inside were pretty interesting,  even though I look pretty clueless as I struggle to find which dial or switch Rod is telling me to check…

If you have an interest in aviation and/or DC-3’s,  this is what it is like to have a first flight lesson in one.  Enjoy!

This shows the engine start-up from outside:

This is part 1 of going through the preflight checklist: