Cessna 172, well, this may be one of the smallest flying man made bird, but it has some remarkably big feats to its name.
This time it flew to carry the message of peace and friendship and to show that this world is one.
The beautiful bird Cessna 172 flew for three hours from Nome to an airport in Alaska.
This goodwill mission was carried out by two veteran Alaska aviators on June 14th. It took nearly three months for the two to plan this trip and it cost them roughly equivalent to a month on the sunny Mediterranean.
Dan Billman was the passenger and he owns a lodge on Lake Lousie and Marshall Severson was the pilot. Both of them flew an air route that was been pioneered for more than 15 years.
During an interview on Friday, Serveson stated that regardless of what is going on between D.C. And Moscow, things are quite different at Alaska and the Far East of Russia.
From ‘Nyet’ to Fond Farewell
The Provideniya Bay airport in the Chukotka district of Russia is a place which remains otherwise empty most time of the year. The two Americans received a warm, although a bit stern welcome upon their arrival.
As the Cessna 172 started descending, the two passengers saw a striking, mountain-flanked bay. It looked similar to Seward, only a bit darker. In place of green tundra and trees there were black rock rose from the water. The peaks were still coated with snow.
After landing the Cessna 172, the two kept sitting in the aircraft and waited for the green signal from nearly 10 Russians, including border agents, security personnel and others.
The group of men marched almost in formation towards them and were wearing military-style uniforms. All of them looked pretty stern.
A thorough, professional search was carried out by the group of the Cessna 172.
Billman asked these group of men, if he can take a picture of them, and he was denied the permission.
Throughout the trip both of them received a courteous treatment from the Russians. Five hours later, when they started to takeoff for a return flight, there has been a shift in mood.
The sendoff was much warmer than they had expected. Billman extended his arm for a handshake and it turned into a hug from all these folks.
A Friendly Route for the Small Cessna 172
For many aviators flying in Alaska, while flying along the western coast, Russia is tantalizingly close.
It is been around a decade, since Cessna 172 a private aircraft flew a route which was established in 2001 by the Federal Aviation Administration, Alaska Airmen’s Association and Russian officials.
Severson who is 62 years old retired as FAA Flight Service Manager and 66 year old Billman is still working for the agency as a safety program manager.
The Nome-Russia route is an important one as it allows private pilots to fly a visual route without the need to have an instrument rating.
According to Severson, one can fly this route in a small general aviation aircraft such as Cessna 172. What is important to note here is that Russians ask for a Russian speaking navigator on board who can work as a translator, but in case of VFR pilots they provide English-speaking service on this route.
The route has been originally hinged by Russians as they have created a 6 mile wide air corridor for civilian aircraft, and which is surrounded by military airspace. This air path passes through open water for only 39 nautical miles. It is much shorter than previous route which crosses nearly 206 nautical miles of the Bering Sea.
Seven Alaskans have traveled this route, Severson being one of them, in 2002 to mark the end of years of negotiations.
Last Minute Green Light
it required months of preparation to accomplish this trip, said both the men. They had to apply for multiyear visas along with border permits and permissions from air traffic, which came only at 3 am the morning they planned the flight.
The trip was also not cheap, as fuel cost nearly $ 8 a gallon and fees at multiple places which ran into hundreds of dollars. The Cessna 172 was packed with survival gear including raft, dry suits and emergency beacons.
According to Billman, all this preparation and expenditure is worth the biggest adventure of his life.
It is Not a Luxury Trip
The two aviators spent only sometime exploring the area with a local guide, much of which was surrounding the airport area.
The air service provided there was nothing of a luxury. There were limited public restaurants, shopping opportunities, and it sums up the Soviet-style grim warning given on its website.
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