A Misty tale… The adventures of David "Buck" Wilson
A flightsim story
By Bryan Kirk

February…
Buck taxied out to a safe distance from the Hyder dock and pushed in the throttles while Junior was announcing their departure on the Unicomm frequency. Taking-off north, the Maule briefly entered Canadian airspace and flew right over Stewart while Buck continued climbing and turning to the south.

They settled at 3000' and followed Portland Canal at a nice airspeed of 125 KIAS. Junior seemed to have totally recuperated from his confrontation with Buck, and was now speaking non-stop.

"That's Raptor Lake", he said while pointing to a small plateau in the middle of the Rousseau Range. "Ol' Joe lives there year-round in a small cabin. I usually fly stuff in for him. He's a hermit, quite eccentric."

The young man also explained to Buck that many cabins of the Forest Service were located deep in the Tongass National Forest. "But that's for another day."

The day was splendid. Unlimited visibility, a few puffs of clouds here and there, limited wind. A perfect day in paradise Buck told himself. It was probably the best way for him to get things going. He was still somewhat buzzed by his busy day of yesterday. After all, he had got out of bed in Wakefield and got to bed in Thorne! But this is what he wanted. He already had the feeling that things would never be routine around here. It was a bit much to absorb all at once, but he had been in places far… far worst then here.

They were approaching Maple Bay when Junior indicated they would soon be turning in-land, towards the Peabodies. "You can actually start descending. It's up to you, but you can fly down the valley at a pretty low altitude."

As usual, Buck elected to play it safe and entered the valley at 1800'. Once again, he let the scenery sink in as the Maule cruised in between the tall mountains.

"I have to admit this has been quite the ride so far", he finally told Junior.

"And it's just your first day!"

Still cruising at over 120 KIAS, they rapidly reached Marten Arm and then the Boca de Quadra. "I have an idea, said Junior. Frenchie packed us some sandwiches. Why don't we land in a bay and soak in some sun?"

Okay, this kid might not be too bad after all!

"Any good spots around here?"

"Yeah. There's a nice cabin in Alava Bay. It's very close to here. It's probably locked, but we can just sit on the dock."

"Okay, sounds like a plan", Buck said while turning to a heading of 330 degrees and starting a slow descent. "We should have brought some sun tan lotion!"

***

Now more and more familiar with the Maule, David decided to try a steeper descent. The plane responded flawlessly, and he quickly spotted the little cabin and beached the Maule right next to the dock, on the small gravel beach.

"I hope you like chunky smoked salmon sandwiches, 'cause you'll be eating many of those around here! It's one of Frenchie's specialties. We pick-up the smoked salmon in Hyder a few times a week in the summer months." Not bad at all, Buck told himself while wiping off some homemade basil dijonaise from his lips.

They stayed at the Alava Bay cabin for 45 minutes, and Junior barely stopped talking. At least, Buck now had a pretty clear picture of the daily life at Misty's Place.

"My biggest job is the supply run for Frenchie. I fly the Commander every Thursday morning to Harvey Field, near Seattle. In the summer, I even fly there twice a week."

"Harvey Field?"

"It's just north of Seattle. Frenchie's supplier lives not far from there, in Redmond. And it's a lot easier to get in and out of there than at KSEA or Bremerton. It's a private GA field, but the Harvey's come up to Misty's every summer, so they have no prob with us using their strip. And they serve a damn good steak at the airport restaurant! Basically, Frenchie's guy comes in with his refrigerated truck and we stack everything in the plane. I usually leave Misty's with a full load of fuel, and don't refuel at Harvey's. Based on the winds, I sometime stop on the way back for just enough fuel to get me back. Let's just say the Commander is quite loaded when we leave Harvey!"

"That's sounds like fun."

"It's one of the only flights Ms. Misty allows me to do. She says I can't offend fresh produce and sides of beef and pork!"

They finished the sandwiches and decided it was time to go. Although the weather was almost too perfect, Junior reminded Buck that things change pretty fast in this small part of the world. "And never get too comfortable!"

They pushed the Maule out to sea, and paddled a hundred yards out before boarding and starting the engines.

"Let's fly to the tip of Prince of Wales Island and then up Klakas Inlet. I would not mind having a look at the inside passage of the island, especially with this visibility", explained Buck

"Fine with me. That's some pretty straight forward flying."

They climbed to 3000' and cruised at 110 KIAS, heading for Felice Strait. "That's Annette Island", pointed out Junior. "The BFU guys have there home base over at PANT. There not my best friends, but I have to admit they did quite a nice job at fixing up the old airport. On your side, it's Duke Island. And right ahead, it's the little Percy Islands."

They were now flying over the Clarence Strait, when Buck spotted an incoming Cessna 185 on floats that was also flying towards the tip of Prince of Wales Island.

"He's probably going to the Fleet Bay dock. That's where many of the fishing boats go for parts and supply."

"Let's go take a look", proposed Buck, while descending in direction of the Cape Chacoin lighthouse.

They followed the C-185, and flew right over the base. Buck noticed that there was indeed quite a number of fishing boats in the bay, something he would have to remember if he ever needed to land in the area.

They then turned due north, in direction of the inside passage of the island.

"There's a lot of air traffic around here in the spring and summer. Just over there is Hunter Bay Cannery. Darn good food there. It's hot spot for fishermen. Most bush pilots avoid it 'cause they don't want to mingle with the 'fish heads'. I don't mind them. And they have some cute waitresses!"

"Sure are a lot of small islands down there! It's gotta be dangerous to land?"

"Hank has the place all charted out. You just need to know which ones NOT to land close to. Over there is Klinkwan Fish Camp. That's the spot I told you about. Ms. Misty is part owner of the place. We fly people in and out of there every week. Believe me; you can do some SERIOUS fishing around here! The runway is a bit tricky to approach, but once you get the hang of it…"

While flying north, now over Klakas Inlet, Junior proposed that they climb a bit in order to clear the mountains between the inlet and the south arm of the Cholmondeley Sound. Buck was still looking in all directions, trying to "memorize" as much of the landscape as he could. He was actually happy to have Junior at his side. Maybe the kid was not strong-minded, but he had 'local knowledge' and that was priceless. They were just clearing the last mountain top before reaching the "South Arm" when Junior pointed at the bottom of the bay.

"I guess you can't see it, but Dan Ridgeway's summer place is down there."

"Dan Ridgeway? THE Dan Ridgeway?", Buck asked with a puzzled look.

"The Redskins quarterback and prodigal son of Ketchikan! He had that place built for him a few years ago. He's not a pilot, but he owns a private jet that brings him to PAKT, and he his huge boat is in the harbour. I've been to his "hideaway" of few times. He gets Frenchie to prepare him some special meals when he brings a 'friend' over to spend a few days", he explained while laughing out loud.

***

Hank's head was deep inside the engine of THE Beaver when Misty walked in the hangar. Leaning on the non-functioning Coke machine and wondering if Hank would be able to work his usual magic on her dad's old plane, she was contemplating how to approach her old friend.

"So, will it ever fly again?", she said to break the silence. Hank looked up, and knew right away she had something on her mind. "I told you it will. I've basically rebuilt the entire engine. Got some parts arriving next week, and then we are all set. I want to get it done before the business picks up in the spring."

"We need to talk Hank. I know you don't agree with it, but you'll have to get over the fact that Buck is the new chief pilot. Damn, he's been here for just a day and I already feel you want to rip the guy's head off!"

The old mechanic rose slowly, but avoided the stare of his boss. "Why Misty? Just tell me why? Just from the top of my head, I can think of at least 20 guys around here who would've been great for it. And that's not even counting Junior. Last thing we need here is a city slicker!"

"You know better than that. We have a good business now. I am making good money… WE are making good money. Any bush pilot can do the routine stuff, but we need something more for the Fly'n Dine. People skills have never hurt anyone."

Hank knew better than to lose his cool with Misty. But then again, he just could not get over her latest business decision. "Why all the hush then? All we know is his name, and that he arrived here like a knight on a white horse ferrying a Scout." Good point thought Misty. "That's up to him to discuss. Maybe if you actually took a few seconds to at least say "hi" to him!"

Sensing the discussion would go nowhere, Misty decide to give it a rest, for now. "Just give the guy a break Hank. He's here to stay."

"Whatever you say. Anyways, I have some work to do." And on that, Hank's head plunged back to its favourite place: the inside of a plane engine.


***

The Maule had just reached the junction point of the south and west arm of the Sound Arm when Junior pointed to the northwest. "Head for that mountain. We'll follow Rock Creek to reach Polk Inlet. There's a nice place there, called Goose Bay Cabins. It's owned by my uncle and aunt. It's dead quiet in the winter, but they live there year round."

"You want to go say "hi" to them? I would not mind trying a tight landing."

"Sure. Aunt Mary will be happy to see me!"

They were still flying pretty high when Junior pointed ahead. "You see that smoke rising over there? It's there place. You might want to start descending. Don't worry, the bay is pretty deep and there's no hidden rock."

"Just sit tight. It's time to find out what this Maule can REALLY do!"

Junior obeyed without a word, but admired how Buck was handling the plane. Descending at a steep rate, Buck banked to his right while extending the flaps. The plane took a sudden drop while he kept it lined-up with the dock that was approaching quickly. Junior was holding on tight, and obviously enjoying himself. Buck touched the water a few hundreds feet in front of the dock and manoeuvred the plane to the moorings.

At the same time, a small man ran out of the main building, shaking his head and waving his hands. "What the hell was that? You want to kill yourself?!... Junior? Is that you? Did you just do that hot shot landing?"

"Hi Uncle Bob! That's Buck Wilson. He's the new chief pilot at Misty's."

"You won't stay there long if you always fly like that! Hank is gonna kill you!"

Hank… him again!

"Relax Uncle Bob! I can tell you this guy is one heck of a pilot. He reminds me of you!"

And on that note, Junior launched in a long explanation of the exploits of his uncle; a retired Navy pilot and legendary bush pilot now grounded because of his ever deteriorating vision.

Buck could see that the old man was not too comfortable with all the compliments.

"This is a nice place you have here sir", Buck said, interrupting the monologue.

"We've been here for more than 20 years. We're not as big as all those new places that are opening up all over the area for the tourists, but we have some regular patrons that come back every year. As long as the fishing stays good, people will come. It's that simple!!" Since Uncle Bob had been outside doing some maintenance on his truck, the trio sat on the front porch of the main cabin.

After 30 minutes of talking and yet a few other cups of coffee, Buck and Junior told Uncle Bob they had to head back to Misty's.

Walking towards the dock, Buck noticed that the clouds were slowly starting to come in from the north. "Yup, time to leave Junior. I had a feeling the weather could not stay this nice for long." They said goodbye to Uncle Bob, and promised to come back for some home cooking when Aunt Mary would be back from visiting her sister in Vancouver.


"We are just a few minutes from Misty's anyways Buck. We won't catch any of the crap that's rollin' in."

For yet another time today, they paddled a bit to line-up the Maule before starting the engines. "Time to head back home. Ms. Misty is probably gettin' nervous that we have been gone that long", noted Junior.

"Really? She doesn't seem to be the 'nervous' type to me."

"You'd be surprised! Once you become part of her 'family', she can get pretty maternal! But by the way she was looking at you this morning; maternal might not be the good word!!"

Buck wisely decided not to comment on that, and instead started to plan his take-off while looking at Junior's topo map. "Winds are pretty calm, I guess we can just fly due north across Kasaan Bay and then to Misty's."

"Yup. The only major elevation is Kasaan Mountain, but we'll fly west of there. We'll radio in once we're 10 miles out to check the weather."

So for the 4th time today, Buck pushed in the throttles and the Maule quickly lifted off the water. They climbed to 2500' and, once again, Junior broke the silence.

"I am really sorry about this morning. It's just that there have been a lot of things going on recently around here…"

"I already told you to forget about it! I'll handle the 'situation' when the time comes. I'm not here to make enemies… but to fly and earn a decent living. Like I told you: like or not, I'm here to stay!"

Thorne Bay was already in view, so the conversation ended on that. Junior was already on the Unicomm and talking to Ms. Misty. "Winds are calm… so far. There's some pretty bad stuff coming in so land on 12 and roll her in the hangar."

"Roger that. Winds calm, land on runway 12."

In just a few minutes, the Maule was flying above Misty's Place and Buck gave it a good visual inspection. All seemed in order, so he started a slow descent while turning base and lowering the flaps.

"Traffic Motel Motel One, this is Maule November 126 Motel Golf on final, runway 12."

As the Maule slammed hard on the grass runway, Junior wondered if Buck decided to land a bit "hard" just to piss off Hank, who was watching from his hangar. He waved at them and guided them towards it. A few minutes later, Buck and Junior were stepping down the plane, both with a big smile.

Jumping out of the airplane, Buck gave a sarcastic wink to Hank and then started walking towards the lounge, while Junior approached his mentor to debrief him.

 

"Well, what happened? He sure doesn't look rattled to me!"

"We need to talk boss. We are dealing with one cool jock here…"

TO BE CONTINUED….

And we wish it could be continued, but "That's all there is Folks!"


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©2005 Bryan Kirk