The last successful Alaska to Russia (AK2RU) general aviation flight coordinated by the Alaska Airmen’s Association (AKAA) took place in July, 2019. Following his last AK2RU flight in 2018 with Dan Billman, Marshall Severson asked if I would take over his work to continue coordinating this as an annual event open to all interested AKAA pilots and their friends or family. Well as some of you know, I will never again hold a valid 3cl medical certificate long enough to thereafter qualify even for Basic Med. I’m betting the farm that my history of a stroke and 3 heart stoppages in 2021, followed by additional cardiac issues since, would undoubtedly lead to an FAA decision that even I would find myself agreeing with! But for a variety of reasons, all very exciting to me, I said,” Yes” to Marshall’s request without hesitation. 

I remain as passionate about flying today as I first became when I was about knee high to a grasshopper, standing by the ramp fence at Greater Wilmington Airport (KILG – now Wilmington Airport) in Delaware, eagerly waving back to the pilot and then waiting to feel the propwash of whatever Douglas Commercial, Convair, Fairchild, or other airplane my Dad was departing or arriving on for business trips he would frequently take to textile mills up and down the Eastern seaboard.  A couple decades later, I went on to earn my PPL here in Alaska, and managed to log a very modest amount of hours in a 172 before the cost of my wife and I buying a house while both completing college degrees and raising our son sucked the flying budget dry about 40 years ago. But I still continue to feed my passion, and do whatever I can to instill that same passion in young future pilots, by taking on projects like AK2RU for the Alaska Airmen’s Association.  

Though we have been unable to go for the past 4 years, I still receive calls and e-mails asking if we are going to do an AK2RU flight each year. After our 2019 flight, the pandemic pandemonium hit. In the name of public health precautions, we were no longer allowed to enter Russia from the United States, and had to cancel our 2020 AK2RU flight. But what some people don’t realize is that every year that Russia had already been welcoming our general aviation AK2RU flights with open arms, U.S. airspace had remained closed to Russian general aviation pilots wishing to do a similar goodwill flight from Russia to Alaska. The exception was technical flights for repairs, etc. It was for this reason that my vision of a 2019 static display of some Russian GA airplanes alongside an Antonov AN-124 heavy air cargo plane for scale didn’t come to pass. The AN-124 was a regular working visitor at the Papa gates over at PANC; just on the other side of FedEx from the Great Alaskan Aviation Gathering. However, GA pilots from Russia were not allowed to enter Alaska with their private airplanes to participate in the Gathering. But I digress.  

As most recall, the 2020 AK2RU flight was cancelled because both borders were still closed as a result of the pandemic pandemonium. In 2021, Russia was reopening its borders to countries who were reciprocating. Unfortunately, the U.S. wasn’t one of those countries, and the 2021 AK2RU flight had to be cancelled again. Russia did reopen its borders to us, albeit too late in the year to do a 2021 AK2RU flight. But pent-up interest and enthusiasm began to bubble up to do a flight in May or June of 2022.  Everything changed that February when Russian troops began a military invasion into Ukraine that rapidly evolved into full on warfare as the military and citizens of Ukraine fought back to maintain their sovereignty. While the inevitably tragic death and destruction on both sides of this war is taking place about 3,800nm (about the distance from Anchorage, Alaska to Kingston, Jamaica) and nine time zones away from our traditional destination of Provideniya, the concurrent political war has now negated both a 2022 and 2023 AK2RU.  

So, will there ever be another AK2RU general aviation flight from Alaska? This is hardly the most critical issue facing the world, especially the Russian and Ukrainian people right now. But I believe the answer is yes, if there are US general aviation pilots who still want to go once it becomes politically safe to do so again.  

The next best option for a flight from Alaska to the Asian continent is to fly from Adak, in the western Aleutians, to Kushiro, Japan. (Map source: www.nps.gov, with added red route lines by the author). This involves flying non-stop about 1650nm; most of which is over the open water of the northern Pacific Ocean. Most GA pilots I know don’t have an appetite for that kind of flight, even if their plane has adequate fuel capacity for the flight plus reserves. The only two Alaskan airfields closer to Kushiro than Adak are Casco Cove (on Attu Island) and Eareckson Air Station (aka Shemya). Both fields are PPR fields. It is very unlikely you will get authorization for the PPR at Shemya, although I have gathered considerable contact details and information that I will share with anyone on request. My contact information is at the end of this article. Note that neither I personally, nor the Alaska Airmen’s Association, vouches for, advocates for, or represents, any pilot in his or her efforts to obtain an authorized PPR. I will share information with you, but you are on your own to do the actual legwork. Hint: Don’t get too optimistic about Shemya. As for getting the PPR for Casco Cove, know that the airfield is an abandoned Coast Guard station on an abandoned island (read no people, no fuel, no ground transportation, no electricity for runway lighting or other uses, and no other amenities on the island). While I was able to dig up contact names and info for seeking the PPR for Shemya, I had no such luck for Casco Cove after extensive efforts. One Coast Guard person I spoke with had never even heard of the place. The contact info in the Alaska Supplement is useless. So, for all these reasons, I do not foresee us planning to organize this kind of adventure flight.  

On the other hand, I will get right on it as soon as it looks like we can once again organize annual AK2RU group flights to Provideniya or other places of interest in the Russian far east if there is interest among our members.  Do I know when that might be? The answer is unequivocally no. But I will get that information out to interested members when it becomes known. Meanwhile, stay safe and enjoy the summer! And come and say hi if our paths cross at the Great Alaskan Aviation Gathering!  

John Dahlen is an Alaska Airmen’s Association life member, the association’s volunteer US/Russia Liaison, past Vice President, past Ramp Boss, and has been known to play Santa Claus for special events occasionally.  He always welcomes correspondence and other interactions with members, and is available as a free-loading hitchhiker to cover fly-ins or other GA events in 2023! If you have suggestions for future articles, or you want more information about an article already published, he can be reached at OneAlaskanGuy@hotmail.com or by phone/text at (907) 830-5889.  

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