Monday, August 16, 2010

Mail delivery in Kodiak

With so many remote villages and fish camps scattered around the island of Kodiak, the US Mail must be delivered to them via private contract float planes. We recently decided to book seats on the daily flight to view some areas of Kodiak that we cannot reach by land. The flight company allows a limited number of seats on these flights (usually a maximum of 4) and there is a strict weight requirement. We had to be honest about our weight since this is critical for the safe performance of small planes in our winds. In fact, weight issues are one of the prime causes of accidents.

"Our's" is a de Havilland Beaver seaplane. These have not been manufactured since about 1959. Luckily, the parts are still readily available and the planes are overhauled regularly. They use them since they were built to WWII military standards. I guess the added strength, endurance, and really powerful engines are necessary to reach the remote areas of Alaska in our heavy winds and low temperatures.

We arrived for our scheduled flight in the afternoon and watched the plane land from its morning run. The pilot exited the plane and proceeded to explain that the mail flight would not take off that afternoon. It seems the winds were about 50 mph in the areas we would be flying. But once you got close to the ground, winds would be whipping through the inlets and fjords causing the gusts to increase to about 70 mph with white caps on the water. We certainly agreed that we didn't want to be flying in those winds or trying to land in the waves.

I guess in this case the USPS slogan of "Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" does not apply. Maybe wind and waves negate all the other weather conditions. In any case, the mail delivery to these remote areas can be very sporadic.

PS....despite the 17 deaths this year on such bush planes (including the former Senator Ted Stephens), we are confident that we will make this trip safely. We'll try again tomorrow. But, if you receive no more blogs, just consider us "undeliverable mail".

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