GA Pilots Fly Alaska-to-Russia Route

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image: ADN/Marshall Severson

image: ADN/Marshall Severson

About 15 years ago, the Alaska Airmen’s Association and local pilots pioneered a VFR route in the remote regions between their state and Russia, just across the Bering Sea. The route was completed in 2001, but it’s challenging, and nobody has flown it in about 10 years. That changed last month, when Marshall Severson and Dan Billman, who both live in Alaska, completed the trip. Severson, 62, retired last year as an FAA flight services manager, and Billman, 66, works for the FAA as a safety program manager, according to the Alaska Dispatch News. Both pilots had worked on the original project to create the route. They prepared for three months before making the flight, according to the newspaper, and said their expenses equaled roughly the cost of “a month on the sunny Mediterranean.”

After landing at Provideniya Bay Airport, they were met by about 10 Russian security personnel, border agents and others, Billman told the Dispatch News. Both travelers said they were treated courteously by the Russians throughout the trip, and after spending about five hours in the country, they got a warm send-off. “We went up to shake their hands and it turned into hugs from all these folks," said Billman. The route mainly skirts the rugged shoreline, requiring only one over-water leg of about 39 miles. Pilots need to carry visas and permits, and must get prior OK from ATC. Fuel stops along the route charge up to $8 per gallon, according to the Dispatch News, and some airports charge high landing fees. The whole route, from Nome to Provideniya, takes about three hours.

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