It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…Oh, It Really Is a Plane!

Since I landed in Port Alsworth, Alaska, I have noticed a major common theme: planes. At all times of the day, planes are coming and going. Hearing the planes come in and out is an almost continuous noise that I began to tune out after about a week. However, after a couple of weeks of being here, I have caught myself snapping my head up at the sounds of certain planes that I am starting to get familiar with. Before coming here, I was not super interested in planes. After riding in them and seeing them at all times, I have acquired quite a fascination for them. 

Not only do planes bring people to Port Alsworth, but they bring everyone’s groceries as well. This has been an interesting adjustment as I am now having to think about a month’s worth of groceries in advance and ordering them online. Essentially, anything that you want to bring into Port Alsworth has to be brought in by plane. On top of that, you have to think about how you are going to take everything out of Port Alsworth once you leave as a plane only holds so much.

Sourdough Fly-in

During my first weekend in Port Alsworth I got to experience one of the community’s annual events. The Sourdough Fly-In celebrates aviation, community, and Alaskan culture. This is their 15th year of bringing pilots together from all over. When I first heard the name “Sourdough Fly-In” I was very confused because the only sourdough that I had ever heard of was the bread. In my mind I was imagining them flying in lots of bread which was very confusing to me. However, I later learned that sourdough can also refer to “a veteran inhabitant and especially an old-time prospector of Alaska or northwestern Canada”. Needless to say, I had my “aha” moment after hearing that definition. 

The flying competition consisted of three main events: shortest takeoff, spot landing, and the pizza drop.  In the first video below, you can see what the shortest takeoff portion looks like. The winner of the shortest takeoff is whoever can lift their plane off the ground in the shortest amount of time. The video in the middle features the spot landing portion of the competition. In the spot landing portion, the winner is whoever can land their plane closest to a designated line. However, if they land before the line, that attempt is scratched. The last video or the video on the right features the pizza drop portion of the competition. Now, I know you will be just as disappointed as me to learn that there is no actual pizza involved in the pizza drop. A pizza box is filled with rocks and the pilot’s passenger has a goal of dropping the box closest to the center of a target. 

Not only did this event feature plane competitions, but it also featured a 5K, scavenger hunt, and a BBQ grill-out. We started off the day by watching our roommates run the 5K. I commend them for doing so because I would have never made it through all the runway gravel and roots sticking out on the trails without coming back with a twisted ankle. In fact, one of our roommates, Lizzie, won the women’s division of the 5K. Throughout the weekend, another roommate, Elizabeth, and I participated in the scavenger hunt. Boy did we take it seriously! We could be spotted running back, forth, and all around to try check as many items off our list as possible. After an eventful weekend of running around, we were declared the winners of the scavenger hunt! It was a great way to get to know the community and practice teamwork. One of the best parts of the weekend was getting to enjoy the grill out. Being in such a remote area means that it is very hard to come by any sort of food that is already made for you. There was no better feeling than being handed a burger without having to cook. 

Petting Kobuk who is a Port Alsworth celebrity that we had to find on our scavenger hunt list.
Sitting in a cub plane that our friend from the visitor center let us sit in for the scavenger hunt.
Posing in front of the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve sign for the scavenger hunt.

Having the chance to watch this event was a super cool experience for me. Before this event, I had no idea that there was such a strong aviation community with events like this. I enjoyed getting to talk to the pilots and hear their stories about flying and how they got into flying. You may notice the orange and silver planes that appear in two of the videos above. I had the pleasure of meeting the owners of those planes in our visitor center. It was so interesting to hear about their aviation adventures and travels to different national parks. The owner even let me sit in his plane as a part of our scavenger hunt adventures. 

I am excited to get to learn more about planes this summer! Who knows…maybe this will even inspire me to get my pilot’s license (sorry mom!). 

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