The Famous Five's Alaskan Adventure - Episode Three - 'If you ever want someone to "Sully" a journey, this was it!'


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North America » United States » Alaska » Denali
June 23rd 2019
Published: June 24th 2019
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Our last view of the RockiesOur last view of the RockiesOur last view of the Rockies

The view of the Rockies from our Bombardier flight.
You may remember that the band Supertramp once sang, 'It's raining again' and after the beautiful day in Calgary yesterday guess what, the heavens have opened once more. So that's it, we've had enough of the wet stuff and we're out of here! An early start this morning, with our flight scheduled for 10.15, so we were up and at it by 5.00 am and were 'locked and loaded'(as 'the Donald' has been known to say), ready to depart by six. Laurie and her husband were away overnight, so we had said our 'thank you's' and 'good byes' yesterday and we pulled away from The Barn with a heavy heart, partly because we had said farewell to Laura, but also because we were leaving this lovely property - definitely a five star review on Booking.com

The drive to the airport was quiet (unsurprising I suppose, at this time on a Sunday morning) and after a couple of laps around the airport, we managed to find the Car Rental Return area, dumped the Hyundai (which had served us well), checked in and were through Security pretty quickly and in no time, were sitting by our gate, drinking Tim Horton's coffee (and
Anchorage 1Anchorage 1Anchorage 1

The midnight sky in Anchorage.
no Tim Horan it's not your coffee!). Tim Horton's are everywhere in Canada, providing fast food breakfasts and the good thing is, because they're not trying to be fancy with all manner of exotic beverage choices and instead, simply provide good old coffee or tea, it's cheap..........with a medium sized cup costing under $2; a veritable bargain!

We are flying to Anchorage today, with a stopover in Vancouver for a couple of hours or so and, not only do we need to deal with US Immigration at some point, but also need to hope that our checked bags make it onto the connecting flight (with no help from us, because it's supposed to happen automatically!) and arrive with us in Anchorage........what can possibly go wrong?!

Now folks, here's the thing......I swear that I wrote these first three paragraphs whilst sitting in Calgary airport, including the words 'what can possibly go wrong' and I had every intention of posting this next episode in a few days time. However, circumstances have intervened and I have decided to treat you to an interim post, so here goes!

Our flight to Vancouver was uneventful, aboard a pretty small Bombardier Q400 turboprop
Anchorage 2Anchorage 2Anchorage 2

A much needed beer in the Moose’a Tooth!
(one for Dave Munday!!) for the short 90 minute flight. Although the weather was miserable, we did manage to get a decent view of the Rockies at one point during the flight. Once at Vancouver, we had a very lengthy route march across the terminal to the area handling flights to the USA. And it was good news, we were able to clear US Immigration before getting to Anchorage, which should, hopefully, save a lot of time when we arrive - and as it turned out,mhow prophetic this thought was! In actual fact, we were through Immigration in no time at all and a few minutes later we were hugging hello with Steve, Lily and Sarah.......and that's where it all started to unravel!

Mandy and I grabbed a quick snack and we were all soon boarding for the three and half hour flight to Anchorage. Although we left about 15 minutes late, the Captain was confident of making up time during the flight. However, after about 20 minutes, food and beverage service had just started and we noticed three things; a smell of fumes in the aircraft cabin, a constant whiny noise sounding a bit like an unhappy dog and just as the drinks trolley had got to our row, the steward scooting off done the aisle with his trolley, making us all assume that we were in for some major turbulence. A few minutes later, we hear the Captain on the tannoy asking for the chief steward to report to the flight deck, which did start to make me wonder.

About five minutes after, the Captain is back on the tannoy. He calmly announced that some us may have noticed from the on-screen flight map that we were heading back towards Vancouver. Apparently, they had noticed a small systems anomaly and had decided to return to Vancouver, where we would be landing again in ten minutes (cue groans of disappointment amongst the passengers!). He went on to say that when we land, we would see emergency vehicles on the ground, purely as a routine precaution, so no need to worry.

Thoughts immediately turned to whether we would be able get another flight to Anchorage today, what we needed to do about our rental car, how would this affect our itinerary in Alaska, in fact, all the important stuff. In the meantime, our landing had probably taken about 20-30 minutes as opposed to 10 and I was wondering whether the pilot was having to dump fuel, before landing. Anyway, we eventually landed at some speed and almost immediately the pilot slammed the brakes on and we came to a stop very quickly.

As predicted, there were lots of emergency vehicles on the adjoining runway, with blue lights flashing, but none appeared to approach the plane and after a couple of minutes, the Captain was back on the tannoy. Welcome back to Vancouver he calmly intoned and sorry about the impact on your journey. He then advised that, in 20,000 hours of career flying, he had never experienced an event like this - it turns out that the 'small systems anomaly' was, in fact, the complete failure of one engine and we had been flying for the last 40 minutes on the remaining engine!!!!! Spontaneous applause broke out in the cabin as we all realised that this had been pretty serious and any worries about delays and stuff paled into insignificance......for a while at least.

After being visually inspected, the aircraft was directed to taxi back to the terminal, where we were allowed to get off the aircraft (once US Immigration had agreed that we could do so!) and were greeted with the news that they hoped to get us on to another plane as soon as possible. By this time, it was around 3 pm and they were hoping for a revised departure at 4.40, from the gate we had come in to, namely gate 91. We were given food vouchers for $10 each and we loaded up with snacks to take back on board. I also managed to phone Hertz in Anchorage to advise them of our predicament and put back our collection time for the vehicle - I'm not convinced that I got the message across as I hoped, but we shall see.

However, time dragged on a bit while they were firstly waiting for a plane and then for a new crew and we were then advised that our plane would be leaving from another gate, gate 76 in fact......a lengthy route march across to the other side of the terminal climbing escalators that weren't working and steep sets of stairs where there simply weren't any escalators anyway. But, the general mood amongst the passengers was one of relieved frustration and we were just happy to be getting on our way again. We finally boarded around 5.30, with a new crew to look after us and the chief steward welcomed us on board and then proudly read from his script that Air Canada had been awarded the best service airline in North America for the third year running, without acknowledging or maybe even being aware of what we had experienced these last few hours.

To be fair, we were safe and sound and the original Captain and his crew had done an amazing job, so it would be very churlish to complain and I am most definitely not doing that, although the steward's comments were met with chuckles amongst the passengers this time, rather than applause - relieved laughter methinks.

As a matter of interest, the Captain was there to say goodbye to all the passengers as we left the abortive flight and looking at him, he appeared to be knocking on sixty thank God and was clearly very experienced, enabling him to deal with a very rare occurrence like a true professional. He did, as it happens, have a look of Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger about him, the pilot who had to land his aircraft in the Hudson River some years ago and I was pleased to shake his hand and thank him for today being our very own Sully !!

Our second attempt to get to Anchorage actually went ok and we landed about 7.45, but our troubles were not over yet! As we got to baggage reclaim, the good news was, all our cases had arrived. The bad news was that Mandy's brand new case had been badly damaged by the baggage handlers, having obviously burst open at some point and spilled all her belongings out of the case. It was sitting on the carousel, with a busted zip and wrapped in plastic! Clearly, we will be lodging a claim with Air Canada, not least for the cost of the new case we had to buy from Walmart as soon as we reached our hotel. And talking of our hotel, after collecting our vehicle and getting to our accommodation for the night, we discover that Steve, Lily and Sarah's room booking had been cancelled. It sounds as though this was a mistake by Trailfinders and whilst fortunately, the hotel did have a spare room, Steve and Lily had to pay for it and will have to fight it out with Trailfinders to get a refund!

All in all, a pretty stressful day, but we have made it to Alaska and tomorrow we drive up to Denali, a part of the trip that we are all really looking forward to. And to send us off to bed a little more relaxed, we just had time to visit a bar round the corner called The Moose's Tooth for a soothing pint of beer from their own brewery!

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24th June 2019

Yikes!!!!
Blimey Paul, Mandy, sounds like a horrendous experience all round. Glad you are safe and well. Looks like Mandy may have an excuse to go shopping? Something has bound to have fallen out of the broken case!
24th June 2019

The shopping has started already Chris! All safe and sound and moving on to Denali today, but driving this bit so hopefully will be in control!
25th June 2019

New underwear required!!!!!
OMG, I would have been in trouble if I didn't have any spare knickers on that plane!!!!! Thank God all was ok in the end, and hopefully, the rest of your trip will be ultra relaxing! Enjoy your cruise xxx
25th June 2019

Not quite relaxing yet Gilly!
Nothing like the problems on the plane Gilly, but yesterday had its moments too! Now there's a taster to whet your appetite for the next post in a couple of days!

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