One Last Cast
From Alaska Outdoors Radio Magazine
By Evan Swensen
Charlie’s Missed Moose
The late fall day dawned cold and crisp with more than a hint of winter in the air. The chill didn’t bother Charlie, though. Instead, Charlie’s pilot noticed a little more “spring in Charlie’s step,” as it were, which seemed to translate to a little more eagerness to take to the morning sky.
This flight took place in the 60s when Alaskans could still fly and hunt the same day airborne, back when Alaska was for Alaskans. The trip from Anchorage across Knik Arm had been uneventful except for Charlie’s passenger’s penchant for trying to see as far as possible in every direction. This trait might just come in handy for spotting moose. While the sheer exhilaration of being one with the sky was excuse enough for the flight, the practical reason was that the freezer needed replenishing.
Soon Charlie’s pilot and her would-be hunter found a lake large enough for Charlie to land on. A lake they had spotted moose just on the other side of a brushy hill which ringed the lake’s perimeter. Swooping down to the frozen lake’s surface, Charlie’s pilot felt a sense of satisfaction in landing as Charlie’s tires made fresh tracks in six inches of new snow.
Charlie’s pilot suggested Charlie’s passenger shoulder his rifle and scout out the moose they had seen from the air. Charlie’s pilot would stay behind for a few moments as there was something he wanted to check out.
After Charlie’s passenger disappeared through the brush and over the hill, he could hear Charlie’s engine being reeved repeatedly then brought back to idle. The moose, in the meantime, had moved on to greener pastures. Moving back toward the lake, Charlie’s passenger found Charlie’s pilot standing next to the plane, deep in thought and staring down the lake’s length. The problem he explained to Charlie’s passenger was that one of the craft’s magnetos had gone flat, and Charlie’s pilot was not sure he could take off from the snow-covered lake with both of them on board. However, darkness would be falling soon, and an attempt would have to be tried.
Having little choice, Charlie’s pilot lined up as long and straight a takeoff as was available, and soon Charlie’s tires escaped from the snowy lake. Both Charlie’s pilot and Charlie’s passenger heaved a big sigh of relief as they headed safely for home.
The flight back across the Cook Inlet was without incident, as was the landing back at Anchorage International Airport. Once back at Charlie’s tie-down spot, both her magnetos were pulled out and taken to the magneto repair shop. The shop’s mechanic soon discovered, not only was one completely dead, he found the other one just barely alive. Charlie’s flight would have ended much differently had it decided to fail on takeoff or over Cook Inlet. But, both Charlie’s pilot and Charlie’s passenger agreed, the missed moose could wait for another day. The important part of this whole misadventure was, it ended safely on the ground back at Charlie’s parking place.