IPA Magazine-Luxury Travel Reviews

Soar Like an Eagle: Taku Glacier Flightseeing with Wings Airways

One of the most important modes of transportation in Alaska is the seaplane (also known as floatplane) allowing you to escape into the true Alaskan wilderness within minutes of leaving your ship, hotel or B&B! A floatplane is an aircraft that utilizes water as its runway with the use of floats or pontoons instead of wheels. This is a popular mode of transportation throughout Southeast Alaska for access to remote locations or communities without a land based runway. In downtown Juneau, the Wings Airways floatplane dock is centrally located, easy to find where the large cruise vessels are docked near Marine Park.

Our seaplane exploration began as our aircraft gently took off from Juneau’s historic downtown waterfront carrying us  over Juneau’s mining past. All participants enjoy a window seat for enhanced viewing and a headset for continuous narration. Our 10-passenger DeHavilland Otter floatplane—Alaska’s workhorse bush plane—gave us a lush view of both the city and surrounding mountains as well as 3,000-year-old glaciers.

The Juneau Icefield stretches over 1,500 square miles and is home to over 40 large glaciers and 100 small ones.  We soared over the lush wilderness of the Tongass National Forest until our first glimpse of five distinctly different majestic glaciers that make up the  Juneau Icefield. Gliding over the deep crevasses and azure blue meltwater pools, we viewed Norris, Hole-In-The-Wall, East and West Twin Glaciers, plus the famous five mile wide Taku Glacier. Of the 36 named glaciers comprising the Juneau Icefield the Taku Glacier is the only glacier that is actually advancing, not retreating – one of only a few in the world. It is recognized as the deepest and thickest glacier in the world, and the largest glacier in the Icefield.

Wings Airways has a fleet of 5 De Havilland Otters manufactured between 1951-1967.  Between 2004-2008 their fleet underwent conversions from the original Pratt & Whitney piston engine to the Garrett TPE 331-10 turboprop engine.  With the new 900 horsepower engine the aircraft’s performance and versatility substantially increased.  Today, 350 of 466 produced serve in military organizations around the world, with the US Army being the largest operator with a fleet of 190.  Today, Otters are in high demand worldwide with the vast majority based in Canada and Alaska.

In addition to its 40-minute “5-Glacier Seaplane Exploration,” that we took, the company runs a 3-hour “Flight and Feast Tour” that starts with a 35-minute scenic flight of 5 glaciers as you cruise the air towards the Taku Glacier located on Taku River.  The seaplane lands at the Taku Lodge where guest are allowed 2 full hours to enjoy their meal with free time afterwards. After an amazing Salmon Bake meal at the rustic lodge (built in 1923) and some time to take photos (bears show up frequently!) you cruise back to the conveniently located downtown flight deck.

Wings Airways & the Taku Lodge
2 Marine Way, Suite 175, Juneau, AK, 99801
Telephone: 907-586-6275
Website: www.wingsairways.com
Email: info@wingsairways.com

 

 

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