A6M Zero – Los Angeles to Alaska – Canadian Border
Adventure does not even begin to explain this trip. Today started out as a beautiful day in Seattle with our plan being, fly to Abbotsford BC, clear customs and then fly North over some mountains to Prince George for fuel. From there we would continue North to Fort Nelson for some more fuel then continue on to Watson Lake. If everything worked perfectly we were going to finish the day by pushing to Whitehorse, but we ran out of steam and have stopped at Watson Lake.
I have flown into Canada 6 times in the last couple years and every time Customs has been exceptionally nice to me, today that streak was to end. We landed at Abbotsford expecting a 30 min stop, boy were we wrong. Two custom agents showed up to inspect us and neither of them were nice. The one agent leading the show wasn’t even cordial for our introduction, I said good morning, she said “Do you have identification”. I handed her my California drivers license and she barked back, “do you have something that shows your country of residence”?. OK, I now know exactly how this is going to go, welcome to the beginning of our 1.5 hour inspection and tongue lashing. The agents separated the three of us and asked us each a barrage of questions, “where are you going, what for, do you have weapons, is this for work, how long are you going to be in Canada…..” I immediately thought “not very long if this is how we are going to be treated”. It also turns out that if you are flying a 1942 WWII Japanese Zero with decommissioned guns and you answer “no” to “are you carrying any weapons, you are lying. The agent actually said to Jason, “if you took the mechanisms out of a gun and pointed it at me, I would still think it was a gun”. Ok Jason, leave the 50 caliber guns mounted to the airplane at all times and please no strafing custom agents. Anyway, we bit our tongues, said “yes ma’am” and were finally cleared on our trip. We quickly saddled up and headed North.
Oh my goodness, if you have never seen the mountains of British Columbia from 8500 feet, you have no idea what a rugged mountain range looks like. We penetrated the mountain range and my heartbeat immediately went up 40 BPM. I started feeling phantom vibrations in my airplane, I kept checking the oil pressure gauge, that I knew was going to fail me any moment. We flew over 100+ miles of terrain that left few if any options if something was to go wrong. I can tell you one thing though, I will never forget the beauty of that flight.
We are now sitting in a hotel in the town of Watson Lake, a community of 400, hoping that the weather is good enough in the morning to continue this journey. We have already covered 1600 miles with another 800 to go. If the experience so far is any indication of the future, we are surely in for some surprises tomorrow.