A6M Zero – Los Angeles to Alaska – Journey Begins
Today was the start of another amazing adventure. About 4 weeks ago, a good friend came to me to ask my opinion on flying from Los Angeles to Anchorage Alaska. I immediately indicated my desire to go on a flight like this, I have never flown a small single engine piston airplane through Canada and into Alaska and I thought this would be a great adventure. Shortly thereafter he told me that someone asked him to deliver a Japanese Zero to Alaska and asked if I would like to come along for support and safety? I said that if I could film the entire journey, I was in. He accepted and that all led to today.
It started out at Van Nuys airport at 8am this morning, the weather was 1500 foot overcast and we were stuck on the ground until about 11am due to a presidential flight restriction over our area. We started packing all of the equipment for our flight into the Columbia 400, this would be my airplane and essentially the sherpa for our flight and Jason would be flying the Zero. We have 2 tool bags, 5 gallons of oil, 8 cameras, one tripod, 3 duffle bags of clothes, one cooler (packed with water and gatorade), one survival kit and 3 jackets all packed into the back of the Columbia. Jason would take some oil and essentials in the Zero but it was designed for fighting not for transportation.
Soon the flight restriction and the clouds lifted and we were on our way. We departed Van Nuys for the trip North and within minutes Jason had the Zero in tight formation with my Columbia. It is incredible to look out the side window of your airplane to see another airplane 15 feet from your wing and this isn’t just any airplane, it is one of only four flying Zeros in the world. The flight would lead us through the central valley of California, up the central valley of Oregon and continue to Boeing Field for our first overnight. We took off at about 11am local time and were soon at our cruising altitude of 8500 feet, I set the power and the autopilot and started making calculations for flight time and any needed route changes. It was apparent that this was going to be a great day when I checked all of the weather for the entire route and it was blue skies and light winds.
Our first stop was at Yolo County California, just West of Sacramento. Here we would meet up with a couple photographers, Mike Shreeve and Eric Presten, as it is when traveling with an airplane this special, lots of people want to see it. We are happy to share this wonderful airplane and they were gracious about impacting our schedule as little as possible. We briefed our photo mission with their pilot and departed just afternoon towards the North for what I’m sure will turn out to be some great photos of both the Zero and the Columbia, even a few with us in formation.
Our next stop was 300 nautical miles North in the town or Roseburg Oregon, this is a beautiful area covered in evergreen trees and hills in every direction. We have planned most of our stops at smaller airfields because it is quicker getting in and out and generally easier since we are flying as a flight of two instead of single airplanes. What is so great about going into small places is that you would never think that at 4 o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday we would gather a group of a dozen people, that would ask questions and watch as we departed, but this is just what happened in Roseburg, Oregon. Airplanes do something special for people and you become quite aware of it when you are in an airplane that draws attention like the Zero does.
From Roseburg we had a short leg to Boeing field just South of Seattle. This will be our launching point for our first international crossing into Canada. We are planning on following a major portion of the Alcan highway through British Columbia up into Alaska. We will be chasing blue skies and light winds so there will surely be diversions. We have flown roughly 900 miles of our 2500 mile trip and everyday promises new adventures and I can’t wait for tomorrow.