The Adventures of David "Buck"
A flightsim story
By Bryan Kirk
David was not sure what woke him up
first. The distant sound of a foghorn blowing? The close-by
sound of dishes crashing on the floor? Or the very attractive
smell of double-smoked belly bacon that was floating in the
slapped on some jeans, a cotton shirt and proceeded downstairs,
to find the dining room already quite busy, even if it was
- "You're lucky Buck, I decided
to let you sleep this morning!", yelled out Ms. Misty,
who had her hands full with three plates of what seemed to
be eggs served with quite a large load of meat!
- "Sorry, I guess I was jet-lagged."
- "It's okay! Just go in the back
and put on an apron. You can pick-up the five tables in the
And that's how David Wilson learned
that upon his many "and all other duties" were included
waiter/busboy duties during the breakfast rush!
And what a rush it was
thought a little lost place in Alaska could attract so many
patrons. But then again, those plates did look quite appetizing!
While running in and out of the kitchen,
he had been puzzled by the loud swearing coming from the cooking
plate. Nothing particular about that in a kitchen, but the
fact that it was in French was quite surprising!
And so at around 9:00am, once the dining
room was almost empty and the tables all cleaned, David Wilson
met "Frenchie", Misty's Place infamous cook (although
he preferred to be called "chef").
His real name was François Dumais.
He had arrived unannounced in the Misty Fjords six years ago,
with a bag full of pots and pans. No one really knew where
he was from, but his very limited English speaking skills
sure hinted he was not from anywhere close!
fact, he was the ex-owner and chef of a highly acclaimed bistro,
in the southwest of France. His "cuisine du terroir
nouveau genre" and his well stocked wine cellar had
received numerous awards through the years, including a much
sought "3 stars" rating in the famous Guide Michelin,
the bible of French Restaurants.
In 1997, the review board of the Guide
Michelin had surprisingly decided to drop his rating by one
star. It may not sound like such a big drama to some, but
a few French chefs have killed themselves for such a drop
in the rating!
Instead François decided to disappear.
He sold the restaurant, and decided to travel the world, with
no real purpose. Then one day, he had landed in Ketchikan.
Like many Europeans he was attracted by the "great frontier"
and the wilderness. And of course, the Ketchikan self-proclaimed
title of "Salmon capital of the world" intrigued
He had enjoyed himself there, met a
local girl that fell in love with him, and he with her, and
decided to stay. He had somehow ended up as boss of the kitchen
at Misty's Place, and the rest was history.
Or actually, more than history! His
first few years at Misty's Place had remained quite uneventful.
The locals and the few tourists that either flew in or visited
by boat were often amazed by the cooking, but it did remain
in 2002, totally unannounced, the famous magazine Wine Spectator
had rated Misty's Place in the no. 5 spot of their "top
25 most exotic places to dine in North America". That
rating had created quite a shock to everyone in the Misty
Fjords, and Frenchie was back in the headlines. So much for
the quiet remote life!
In 2003, the restaurant had been featured
on Food TV and in several trendy magazines. With all the hype,
a meal at Misty's was now on the "must do" list
of many of the cruise ships tourists, and of the rich and
famous from all over North America.
Of course, Misty Fletcher and not missed
the occasion. From May to October, she had exclusive deals
with a few of the cruise ship operators, and offered different
packages. Some of the more wealthy visitors would fly directly
from down south to Ketchikan International, and then get an
airlift to Misty's and spend the weekend. Even the small community
of Thorne, on the other side of the bay, had benefited.
A meal at Misty's was somewhat of an
experience. While some customers enjoyed a "saumon
tartare with balsamic vinegar glazed scallops" served
with a glass of Riesling, right next to them can be two fishermen
chewing on a "Misty BLT" and drinking Pepsi. And
of course, they were always a few lumberjacks spending their
pay checks at the bar, or on a "friendly" game of
Frenchie stood tall in the kitchen
and was sipping coffee from a small expresso cup. No doubt it,
this guy was NOT from around here.
- "You must be the new guy
Welcome to our little piece of heaven!" he said, and
then burst out laughing. "Come, it's time for you to
meet all the crew. We usually all sit down for a few minutes
once the breakfast rush is done."
They walked back together towards the
dining room and the large corner table, which overlooked Thorne
Bay and the main dock. Misty sat at one end, while members
of the kitchen staff were pulling up a few chairs and sitting
down as well. Buck and Frenchie poured themselves some fresh
coffee, and turned their heads when Hank and his apprentice,
Junior, walked in from outside.
- "Okay everyone; here's our new
chief pilot. I heard his real name is David, but he mostly
goes around as Buck. So Buck it will be!" proclaimed
Misty, in between a pull on her cigarette and a sip of coffee.
And Ms. Misty went on.
- "Things are a bit quieter around
here in the winter. So you'll have time to get to know everyone
and to find your way around the Fjords before the boats start
- "And not to get lost!" added
Frenchie, once again bursting out laughing.
- "From what I've been told, that
should not be a problem", quickly added Misty.
just smiled, and was glad she had not, as they had agreed,
talked about his military past.
- "So what's the plan for today?"
- "Well, the weather is pretty
good again. I think you should get to know The Frog. Junior,
why don't you go show him around? Fly to Hyder by the mountains."
- "The Frog?" Buck said looking
- "Ms. Misty has a name for all
the planes in her fleet, added Frenchie. The Frog is an amphib
Maule we use for almost everything. We also have The Fridge,
that's the Commander cargo plane that we use to fly supplies
from down south. We call it The Fridge because we mostly use
it to go get my fresh supplies in Seattle. And of course,
we got The Beaver."
- "That's my father's plane, Misty
added. It's not in the best of shape anymore and we haven't
used it in a few years. But Hank promised he would bring her
back to life this summer."
- "And he will", pointed out
Junior, always looking to be in the good graces of his boss.
- "And then there's The Bee!"
laughed out Christy, one of the kitchen staff.
- "The Bee?"
- "We'll talk about that one later",
While Buck, Junior, Misty and Hank stayed
at the table and continued chatting (at least for the first
three of them) the rest of the Misty's Place crew went about
to continue their daily routines.
- "Junior will be a good guide.
He might still be young, but he's a top-notch pilot."
- "And I can get you in an' out
of any of those valleys Flyboy."
Flyboy? Had he just called him Flyboy?
Buck told himself.
- "Well, I am here to fly so I
might as well get started today!" David tried to sound
enthusiast, but in his eyes Junior looked a lot more like
a "grease monkey" than a skilled pilot.
- "You just be careful with that
plane son. Around here, you fix what you break. I am quite
busy", mumbled Hank. He then filled his mug again and
left to go back to his hangar.
While Buck went back upstairs to get
his coat, Junior rushed outside to catch up with his mentor.
- "That guy sure looks like a city
slicker to me Chief!"
- "I don't like him. He looks way
too comfortable if you ask me. Why don't you give him a "nice"
- "Count on me. He'll be on the
next flight to Vancouver once I am done!"
- "Just make sure you don't crash
The Frog. It's our best plane."
Walking toward the hangar, Buck took
a few seconds to let the surroundings sink in. Misty's Place
was well tucked into a small part of Thorne Bay. He had to
admit to himself that the place was impressive. And by some
of the pictures Ms. Misty had showed him the night before,
this place was indeed quite busy in the summer/fall seasons.
the hangar, he saw Junior and Hank getting The Frog ready.
He had heard about Maules in the past, but had yet to fly
one. It had quite a reputation and he figured it was probably
one of the best suited planes for this area. What he had not
expected, was how beat-up the plane actually looked like.
- "Don't let her looks fool you
son. She's a great bird. This ain't no fancy air show we have
up here in the bush. Our planes get abused", Hank snorted
Ignoring the sarcasm, he started to
inspect the plane closely. It was darn dirty, but he had to
admit to himself that it was in top shape. He and Junior climbed
aboard at the same time, and the apprentice rapidly gave him
a description of the instruments.
- "Not much to deal with actually.
Nothing fancy here except the GPS. She flies pretty smooth.
We use her a lot. Hank fixed the back seats so we can remove
them to haul more stuff when we need to. The only tricky thing
is that she's a bit tough to trim. You got to play with the
wheel a lot to settle her down."
- We'll see about that", Buck replied
as he called the "prop" and fired up the Lycoming
While Junior tuned the radio to the
Misty Fjords UNICOMM (122.90), he released the parking brake
and started taxiing towards the end of runway 12.
- "Let's take her up to 2500' and
fly east. We'll cross the Strait and then go towards Behm
Canal. I'll show you some of the hot spots, and then we'll
cut across the mountains to get to Hyder. Should be great
today with the weather", proposed Junior over the intercom.
"Fine with me, just hold on tight", he said as he
pushed in the throttle and got the plane off the ground quick
real quick! Junior just had time to grab the holding bar as
the Maule rapidly climbed and Buck started turning towards
- "You crazy? I almost broke my
neck! I just hope Hank was not watching. He REALLY does not
like it when we put extra stress on the planes for nothing.
- "What? Nothing crazy there. You
want me to learn about this plane or not? Just a standard
wet grass takeoff practice. I need to know what this plane
can do when I am gonna' need it for real."
The two of them remained silent for
a few minutes. Buck played with the controls and experienced
with the trim wheel. They were now well over Clarence Strait,
and heading towards Meyers Chuck.
- "That's Rainbow Lake over there
in the distance, Junior pointed out as they reached the Cleveland
Peninsula. There's a really nice cabin there. We don't fly
there much, but it's a really great spot. Good fishing also.
That big mountain is Mount Burnett."
- "Where do WE fly to exactly?"
Buck asked. That's one thing he had not really figured out
- "Well, we stay pretty busy. We
don't do a lot of charters to the cabins or the fishing lodges.
There are a lot of guys in Ketchikan who do that, and the
BFU bullies have that market nailed down. You should see them
hover around the tourists when the boats arrive in the harbour.
Junior went on to explain that Misty's
Place did however fly many "special" flights. "The
problem with Ms. Misty is that she just can't say "no."
We end up flying all sorts of people and stuff all over the
place. And I am not that convinced they all pay her for it.
At least, that's what Hank thinks."
- "So we basically are like cab
- "We do some good contracts. The
biggest one is the 'Fly and Dine'."
- "The what?"
- "That will be your main thing
I presume. From Monday to Saturday, we pick-up tourists coming
off the boats in Ketchikan Harbour. They actually reserve
in advance for this, 'cause it's pretty popular. We do a sightseeing
flight. If the weather is good, we bring them to Last Chance
Lake and they can go hiking or for a Jeep trip in the glaciers.
After that, we bring them to Misty's for one of Frenchie's
fancy meal. Sometimes, they sleep over, or you fly them back
- "How long does that last?"
- "Usually from May to October."
- "And we use The Frog for that?"
- "Hell no! We got a bigger plane.
Told you, it's a pretty popular thing. Ms. Misty owes 50%
of a Twin Otter with Todd Simmons. He's a local who hates
the winter. So he and his wife work in a small resort in some
island in the Caribbean during winter. They fly back in April
and then run Klinkwan Fish Camp until the fall. So we use
the Twotter for the tours. We also fly patrons in and out
of Klinkwan on Sundays with The Bee."
- "So you fly any of those?"
David asked, while the Maule was flying over Spacious Bay
towards Behm Canal.
- "Not much. Ms. Misty says I'm
short on 'people skills'. Don't see what she means, but I
Buck was slowly starting to get a clearer
picture of his new job. No doubt about it, he would be flying
a lot. And he had to admit this Maule was not a bad plane
at all. But what the heck was that "Bee" they all
"That's Yes Bay over there. There's a big lodge, quite
popular, but we don't do much flying there either. They have
charter deals with BFU and with Promech. Right over there
is Bell Island Hot Springs. That's another hot spot. Now that's
a place for sightseeing when the ladies decide to go outside!"
Junior added, with a deep laugh and almost scary look in his
As the plane reached Whaley Point (the
northeast point of Revillagigedo Island), they turned south
to follow Behm Canal. Junior kept peeking at his map, while
Buck absorbed the scenery.
- "You can start descending a bit;
we'll turn west in one of those valleys in a few minutes.
From there, we'll reach Hyder through the glaciers. You see
those rapids on the right? That leads you to Spotted Lake
Retreat. It's a great fishing spot. We got a few contracts
he slowly descended towards the entrance of the Chickamin
River, Buck continued to play with the trim wheel to get a
"comfort zone". "You got the sectional close-by?
I want to take a peek at the route we are going to follow."
- "Don't worry. I could guide you
through those valleys with my eyes closed! Just keep your
eyes out for birds
Buck didn't like the idea, but decided
to thrust the kid. "Okay then. Just make sure we don't
slam in a mountain!"
The thought of some "tree top"
valley flying reminded Buck of some pretty hairy rides in
his Herc not that long ago.
"Just follow the river and then we'll hug that mountain
ahead to the right, following the Chickamin. On the left,
it's the Leduc River. We'll slowly get closer to the glaciers
and with this weather, it's 'gonna be a real treat",
added Junior (who was keeping a close eye on his map, and
figuring out where he might take a "wrong" turn).
This guy is good Junior repeated
himself. Can't believe how smooth he is with this plane!
Buck was about to turn left, still following
the Chickamin, when Junior corrected him. "Just keep
going straight, it's the safest way".
- "You sure about that", he
asked, noticing that the mountains were getting closer and
that the valley looked more and more like a dead-end.
- "Yup. No sweat."
They kept flying for another 5 minutes
in silence, while getting closer and closer to what sure looked
like a "wall of trees".
- "Buck, I think we have a problem",
Junior said, trying his best to sound concerned. "I might
have missed a turn back there."
- "I know that kid! I was just
wondering how long you would wait until you told me",
Buck replied dryly. The tone he used would have frozen the
blood of anyone at this moment.
- "Listen. I don't know what game
your playing but next time, make sure you don't leave under
the seat this handy 'cheat sheet' I've been following since
we left! Now just shut up, hold on tight, and give me those
sectional and topo maps!" ordered Buck quite directly.
Junior followed the order without a
word and watched in amazement as Buck pushed in the throttles
and pitched up the nose of the Maule.
- "We'll fly to the end of Barrier
Creek while climbing. I figure we have enough room to clear
that mountain ahead and then we'll get 'on top' until we reach
the glaciers. Then, I'll decide what I am going to do with
This Maule has some power. We are
goin' to make it. Come on
airspeed was decreasing as the plane kept creeping up, but
Buck figured they'd made it. He reduced the rate of climb,
and started to trim the plane back to their new cruise altitude.
They were now at 4500', over the Davis River.
God, he didn't even break a sweat
doing this. This guy is for real.
As they approached the Soulé
Glacier, Buck was astonished by what he was seeing. With all
the glaciers now in sight, and well above any dangerous mountain,
he settled at 6000' and kept flying north. "We'll turn
towards that glacier there. I think it's the Thumb."
Pointing at the map, he turned to Junior. "What's that
river that goes down the valley?"
"It's Thumb Creek. That's Last Chance Lake just down
there. That's where we stop on the 'Fly & Dine' tours.
That valley over there will bring us to the Salmon River and
we can just follow it south to Hyder."
- "Okay. We'll stop there for a
and a nice little chat."
They reached the Salmon River in just
a few minutes, and Buck started a slow descent towards Portland
Canal and Hyder. He tried real hard to look mad, but he was
actually having the time of his life.
As the Maule came out of the valley
and onto Portland Canal, he turned south to prepare his approach
to the Hyder seaplane base. This would his first water landing
with the Maule, and he decided it was not the time for fancy
So he played it safe and gently let
the Maule settle on the water and then turned towards the
huge dock that reached out in Portland Canal.
"You hungry?" asked Junior as they walked on the
dock toward the small town.
- "Not that much. Those Frenchie
breakfasts sure can fill a stomach!"
- "We'll go grab a coffee at the
Sealaska Inn. It's right up there", replied Junior while
pointing at a building just at the end of the dock.
They walked in the hotel and headed
for the seating area. Buck picked a small table near the windows,
while Junior ordered a coffee and a Coke at the bar.
Buck lost no time to confront him. "Okay
boy. Don't know what the heck you tried to pull off back there,
but I am not impressed. Like or not, I am the new chief pilot
and you better get use to it."
Junior didn't say a word, but kept shaking
his left leg and was now sweating like if it was 100 degrees.
Okay, this guy is frightened, Buck told himself.
- "If that was Misty's idea of
an initiation, it wasn't funny. You don't play games when
you are flying. Anything could have gone wrong in that dead-end
valley and we could have slammed in the mountain", Buck
told him in his most military tone.
"It wasn't her", Junior whispered. "I
Okay, time for the kill!
- "Forget about it! Just go in
the washroom and freshen up. I think I see some tears rollin'
down your cheek. I don't have time for this bull
That should do it!
Junior stood and walked to the back
of the room while David sipped on his coffee and observed
the locals. Nothing seemed to be in a rush here.
He still had in mind all the scenery
he had observed while coming in. He was thinking of Todd Hunter.
The ol' fool was right. I have never seen anything like
this. That one hour flight was probably the best one of my
Junior came back ten minutes later and
- "I am sorry Buck. I just
- "I told you to forget about it.
I'll deal with this myself when we get back."
They finished their drinks and walked
back towards the Hyder dock.
- "This place is great!" said
- "Oh yes. Very busy in the summer.
It's mostly a fishing town. You can eat some darn good halibut
here. That's the Canadian border over there, and that's Stewart.
We try not to go there too much."
- "Why not?"
- "Hank says those Canadians are
all Communists! We have to watch ourselves around them."
It became quite obvious to Buck that Misty had REALLY not
told anyone about his background.
Oh yes, Hank
- "That might be a bit far fetched!"
- "No no! There just a bunch of
tree huggin' pot smokin' pacifists. They have all those environmental
freaks watching the glaciers and trying to block the Alaskan
pipeline. Heck they don't even want to join the missile shield
thing. Go figure that out!"
Calm down big guy!
- "Or maybe they just realized
we'd shoot down the missiles anyway, whether they like or
not. And so they just saved a bunch of money!" That put
an end to the discussion.
They approached the Maule and did a
thorough pre-flight inspection. "You sure are meticulous
about these things Buck!"
- "I told you. You can't afford
to cut corners up there kid. If you learn only one thing from
me, I hope it's that. So, where do you want to go now?"
- "Well, Ms. Misty did ask me to
show you around. Let's go down Portland Canal. We'll cut across
the Peabody Mountains and reach Revillagigedo Canal and stop
for lunch somewhere. Frenchie packed up a few sandwiches for
- "Okay. Sounds like a plan. Let's
TO BE CONTINUED