This Featured Flyer is a special one. Not only is this a feature on a female pilot, but Katherine is on a “very long cross-country” trek. She left Anchorage, Alaska, earlier this year and will make multiple stops throughout the lower 48 over a span of one year.
Katherine flew in to Bessie’s for breakfast during her extended stay in Madison and we are so excited to share her story.
What airport (or other location) did you fly in from? That is an ambiguous question… :) That particular day, I flew in from Waunakee, WI, but my home base where this long trip originated is Merrill Field in Anchorage, Alaska (PAMR).
How did you get into aviation and flying? I've wanted to fly since a very young age–from as early as I can remember. I took the plunge to actually take lessons in my late 20's when I was working as a postdoc and finally had enough money saved. I got my Private Certificate the day before my 30th birthday at Hanscom Field in Bedford, MA.
How many years have you been flying? I've been flying for 15 years, punctuated by occasional breaks for a few years here and there. I've lived in Alaska for 14 years and got my Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate last summer.
What made Waunakee, WI, a destination for you? I lived for some years in Madison as a Ph.D. student and still have a lot of research colleagues there. Visiting your colleagues in person is way better than just interacting with them over teleconference or Skype, so the purpose of this trip is to work directly with collaborators all over the lower 48 over a period of a year. Madison was the first of what will be many such destinations on this trip. It's a place I always like returning to.
Tell us a little bit about your plane: It’s a 1972 Cessna 172, which has been "pimped out" with a few modifications, such as a 180-HP engine (O-360), Horton STOL leading-edge cuff and fences, and max gross weight increase. Very handy for getting in and out of short gravel runways in Alaska.
Tell us about your journey from Alaska: It took seven days to get from Anchorage to Waunakee, flying about 400-450 miles a day on average. I logged 27.4 flight hours and covered about 2,500 nautical miles through four time zones in four states, three provinces and one territory. The first part of the trip takes you through some beautiful but inhospitable mountain terrain of the Canadian Rockies, so the standard route is to follow the Alcan Highway through Whitehorse, Watson Lake and Fort Nelson. Then, as you get into "the Prairies" of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the landscape is much flatter, and as you fly south, there are more farms, towns, airports and fuel stops. I landed at 14 airports along the way, either for fuel or to camp for the night or both. (I camped in some interesting places.)
The most difficult thing about the trip was that I was doing everything alone, including making sure that I stayed fed and hydrated and got adequate sleep every day. You get to experience how vast North America really is. Yes, it is a long way to travel, but as I like to say, "A 10,000-mile cross country is just fifty 200-mile cross countries put back to back."
What did you eat while you were here? I had the Eggs Benny. If a restaurant has a breakfast menu, there is generally an 80% chance I order a Benedict of some sort...
What did you enjoy most about flying to and eating at Bessie’s Diner? I loved the panoramic windows with the amazing view; perfect for watching all the variety of different planes at JVL come and go.