A new plane means a new destination for Alaska Seaplanes travelers.
Alaska Seaplanes General Manager Carl Ramseth announced Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon territory will be Seaplanes’ 13th destination, and first international one, during the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at the Wharf Ballroom Thursday.
Making all of this happen was the purchase of the Pilatus PC-12. The plane was purchased in August 2017 and after some modifications landed in Juneau in November.
“I am very excited,” Ramseth said. “It is an amazing airplane.”
The announcement drew a standing ovation and many thanks from those in attendance.
Ramseth described a trip the plane recently traveled. He said the plane was able to fly above the weather going from Ketchikan to Valdez in two hours for the 667-mile trip. The Whitehorse trip will take approximately 45 minutes for the 169-mile trip, Ramseth said. Ramseth added the flight will also act as time-traveling machine because of the time difference.
“People will actually arrive in Juneau before their flight left Whitehorse,” Ramseth joked. “When people are flying back from Whitehorse to Juneau, they can leave at 4 (p.m.) and get back into Juneau at 3:45 (p.m.)”
The plan for traveling to Whitehorse has been a topic at Alaska Seaplanes for two and half years, Ramseth said. Initially there were thoughts of using a caravan plane. While a caravan plane is fully capable of making the trip, having a fully-pressurized plane like the Pilatus provides a higher-quality trip.
Besides being fully-pressurized, Ramseth said the Pilatus PC-12 can travel 300 mph, climb 2,000 feet-per-minute and flies at altitude.
The plane holds nine passengers and can hold approximately 2,700 to 2,800 pounds. The addition of this route will allow Seaplanes to add to its already packed schedule. Ramseth said 70,000 passengers flew last year with a daily peak of 100 flights-per-day during its 360 days of operation. The current schedule will have trips to and from Whitehorse three days out of the week, but that can change.
“We are pretty confident there will be more demand than that,” Ramseth said.
Right now, pilots are being trained to fly the aircraft and the first flights will most likely happen sometime in May, Ramseth said.
“We just want to have our ducks in a row before,” Ramseth said.
A price has not yet been determined for the flight, but Ramseth said it should hover around Seaplanes’ other price points. A roundtrip flight from Juneau to Haines is priced at $125 a person per flight, according to the Alaska Seaplanes website. There will be different taxes associated with flying internationally.
The contract with Whitehorse is three years and while there are no other plans of flying to any other new destinations on the horizon, Ramseth said he hopes this will be the beginning.
“We definitely want to take a flying season in and figure out what works best for us and for our passengers,” he said. “We want to focus on the communities we have right now. This is a good place to start.”
City Manager Rorie Watt said in a phone interview that this really opens up traveling out of Juneau.
“I think it is a big deal to have another option out of town,” Watt said. “Whitehorse has summer service to Europe. I am really excited for Seaplanes. I think this is a really interesting move and there will be a lot of follow-up activity. I think Juneau should be very excited.”
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at email@example.com or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.