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"Overlooking Runway 25 - Right, at Los Angeles International Airport"
A Tale Of The Alaskan Bush
Feature Date: Jan. 30 2010
Event Date: Sept. 26-27 2009
Event Confirmation: Dec. 20 2009
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"Overlooking Runway 25 - Right, at Los Angeles International Airport"
On The Scene -- Gary LaRose's Hunting Lodge In Southwest Alaska
A 2010 Countryman & McDaniel
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"Bear Eats Cub"
On The Scene At
Gary LaRose's Hunting Lodge In Southwest Alaska
September 26-27 2009
The Piper PA-18 150 Super Cub - In Better Days - by Nick Dean
Passenger capacity: 1
Role: Light utility aircraft
Manufacturer: Piper Aircraft
First flight: 1949
Produced: 1949-1983; 1988-1994
Number built: over 9,000
Powerplant: 1? Lycoming O-320 air-cooled flat four, 150 hp (112 kW)
Length: 22 ft 7 in (6.88 m)
Wingspan: 35 ft 2? in (10.73 m)
Height: 6 ft 8? in (2.02 m)
Wing area: 178.5 sq ft (16.58 m?)
Empty weight: 930 lb (422 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 1,750 lb (794 kg)
Range: 399 nmi (735 km, 460 mi)
Maximum speed: 113 knots (208 km/h, 130 mph) at sea level
Service ceiling: 19,000 ft (5,595 m)
A Cargo Nightmare Prize Contender
The Date: September 26-27 2009
The Time: Night
The Place: Gary LaRose's Hunting Lodge In Southwest Alaska
In early Oct. 2009 we received a set of extraordinary photos purporting to depict the story of a bear attack in Alaska. The story was fantastic, but without independent verification of the facts we decided not to publish the feature. By Nov. 2009 the story of "the bear & the airplane" was beginning to look like just another urban legend.
Then in Late Dec. 2009, Jill Burke of the Alaska Dispatch provided an eyewitness account of the actual events at Gary LaRose's hunting lodge In Southwest Alaska on the night of 26-27 Sept. 2009.
We excerpt the Jill Burke article below. It's transport history!McD
There's been a story circulating the Internet for a few months now -- a tale about a pilot in Alaska who had to fly home on a wing, a prayer and a case of duct tape after his plane was mauled by a bear. Some say the bear was after fish. Some say he was just being a jerk. And some don't believe the story at all, chalking it up to Last Frontier fish tales and Internet hype.
Turns out, though, this online "myth" is grounded firmly in reality.
When bush pilot Luke Miller, 28, made an overnight stop at a friend's hunting lodge in Southwest Alaska earlier this year, he had no way to know that a large and very dedicated menace would, under cover of night, chew and claw his plane to shreds.
There are bear tales by the thousands in Alaska, and with this one the pictures alone are worth a thousand words. (Imagine what might result if a model plane made of paper-thin aluminum had a run-in with Edward Scissorhands.) At the request of the pilot, who says the images are copyrighted, we can't show them to you here. They're easy enough to find, though; shortly after the big bad bear left a big bad mess, the images of the aftermath moved through the blogosphere with lightning speed, and with each flash forward the narrative of what must surely have happened kept shifting.
But don't trust us -- have a look for yourself. From a small online newspaper report in South Africa to bulletin boards for Kawasaki motorcycle enthusiasts and Honda Element owners, to a forum on the Discovery Channel Web site and even the mythbusting site Snopes.com, what happened that late September day has become the kind of story legends are made of, plump with colorful details and a few untruths.
We had high hopes we'd get the pilot to dish out the straight story, separating fact from fiction, but he opted to remain silent and keep the mysteries alive.
What follows is the tale of the bear's destruction spree and the plane's revival as told by the pilot's dad, Mark Miller, and family friend and hunting guide Gary LaRose, who first discovered the bear's fabric-eating, metal-bending offense.
Contrary to some reports, it wasn't a fishy aroma that lured the bear in. The plane wasn't full of fish, nor had it just been used to haul fish. The pilot didn't radio for help -- he used a cell phone -- and the incident isn't a hoax dating back nine years; it happened around Sept. 26 and 27, 2009.
And yes, duct tape and plastic wrap saved the day.
LaRose had already had a few run-ins with the brown bruin, which discovered it could use the new meat shed at LaRose's lodge like a McDonald's drive-through. One night, after breaking out a window, the bear grabbed a hindquarter of freshly-butchered moose, feasting on 60 to 70 pounds of it as it dangled through the window, still hanging from the rafters.
LaRose boarded up the window, and after returning from a guided silver salmon trip, butchered the remaining moose meat, put it in the freezer and cleaned and bleached the space to eliminate all traces of the meat.
The next night, the bear pushed out a screen. Two nights later he returned again, got the door open and knocked over a bucket of broken glass collected after the first break-in.
Miller stopped in a day or two later on his way to a piloting job for another guide. A storm was moving through with heavy rain and 25 to 30 mile per hour winds, and LaRose's lodge offered a comfortable place for a night of rest. Offered a choice to tie down the plane out in the open, or about 60 feet from the shed, where it would be better sheltered, he chose the area by the shed.
"I figured the bear situation was done," La Rose said. "The meat had been gone for three or four days and I figured it got the message."
What's Left of Piper PA-18A 150 Tail # N9368D -- Registered To Jonathan L. Miller of Anchorage, Alaska
Early the next morning after a night of howling winds, in the dark before sunrise, a client reported another meat shed break-in to LaRose, who took a walk to check things out and discovered the bear had once again pulled out a window, but otherwise had done no damage.
No damage, that is, until LaRose remembered Miller's plane.
"My headlamp hit Luke's plane and it was literally destroyed," he said. "My heart sank. It was just an unbelievable sight."
Oddly Enough, The Bear Never Got The Beef Jerky!
LaRose was faced with the unhappy task of waking Miller up to tell him the bear had destroyed the 1958 Piper Cub's wheels by clawing at the rubber, busted out the windows on the plane's left side, and shredded fabric from rear windows to tail.
"He basically ravaged the whole plane," LaRose said, adding that, in his 38 years as a pilot in Alaska, he has never seen anything like it.
Miller had a small amount of vacuum-sealed meat for personal use stored in plastic and stashed in the gear he had brought along for his upcoming job assignment. Despite all the damage done to the plane, the bear missed it. LaRose questions whether the bear was even able to smell it, and said Miller's plane was otherwise clean.
Will Piper PA-18A 150 Tail # N9368D Ever Fly Again?
Miller grew up in a family that owns a remote lodge and learned early on to scrub planes down with bleach, soap and water after hauling meat. He had transported caribou a few weeks earlier, and LaRose said he supposes it's possible there was a hint of blood on board, but he's skeptical, and thinks there's a better explanation -- one having to do with the bear's fondness for the meat shed and its proximity to the plane.
"He was pissed." The Bear Puntured Both Tires.
Miller Used His Cell Phone & Had Another Pilot Bring Him 2 New Tires, 3 Cases of Duct Tape, And A Supply of Sheet Plastic.
"He was pissed," LaRose said. "His easy food source had dried up and he was out for revenge."
If malice was indeed the motivation, the bear knew how drive the point home. It took a dump next to its handiwork near Miller's plane, LaRose said, and left a similar gift not too far away near where other planes were tied down.
On A Wing & A Prayer! Piper PA-18A 150 Tail # N9368D Would Fly Again After Some Imaginative "Field Maintenance."
After a few days of meticulous fix-it work, the plane was airworthy enough to fly back to Anchorage. Miller fitted the windows with plywood and Plexiglas, replaced the tires and the horizontal stabilizer (the bear either leaned on it or sat on it), and, according to Miller's dad, fashioned a makeshift fabric skin out of 25 rolls of duct tape and some industrial-strength plastic wrap.
25 Rolls of Duct Tape Got Her Back To Anchorage -- Keep That Household Remedy Close.
This Proof Again That Both Bear & "Ship Happens! ©"
Bravo Zula Luke!
As for the bear, it hasn't been seen since. It may have been "whacked" during bear hunting season in October, or it may be playing it smart. After all, bears know when it's time "to get the hell out of Dodge," according to the LaRose.
Then again, it may be off enjoying a satisfied rest.
"He's off digesting some fabric right now. He just disappeared into the night. He doesn't know how famous he is," the pilot's father, Mark Miller, said.Thanks to Jill Burke for this great aviation tale. Email your bear tales to Jill Burke at jill_alaskadispatch.com
To Repeat -- No Matter How Careful You Are -- Or Who You Hire ....... "Ship Happens! ©"
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The Dedication of This Feature Is Simple: To The Bush Pilots of Alaska and their families.
SPECIAL NOTE: The historic dangers of carriage by air & sae continue to be quite real. Shippers must be encouraged to purchase high quality marine cargo insurance from their freight forwarder or customs broker.
It's very dangerous out there.
INDEX TO OUR "Bear Eats Cub" PAGE SPECIAL FEATURES:
Alaska Dispatch - todayAlaska Dispatch -- Dec. 20 2009
The Three Aviation Miracles of 2009"Miracle On The Hudson" - 15 Jan. 2009
"Miracle At Schiphol" - 25 Feb. 2009
"Miracle At Kingston" - 22 Dec. 2009
Our Daily Vessel Casualties - stay informed
"Singles Only" - visit our individual moments of transport crisis for more.
The Greatest Container Losses Of All Time - these are the grand fathers -M/V OOCL America
M/V APL China
M/V APL Panama - The EPIC
"Great Misfortune"- M/V Hyundai Fortune - March 2006
SPECIAL NOTE: The historic dangers of carriage by sea continue to be quite real. Shippers must be encouraged to purchase high quality marine cargo insurance from their freight forwarder or customs broker.
It's very dangerous out there.
Thanks To Our Contributors For The "Bear Eats Cub" FeatureOur Contributor for this feature is greatly appreciated:Bruce Lindsay. Esq. -- Countryman & McDanielAnonymous Contributors Must Always Remain Anonymous*
NOTE: Please Provide Us With Your Additional Information For This Loss.
EDITOR'S NOTE FOR SURVEYORS, ATTORNEYS & MARINE ADJUSTERS: The Internet edition effort of The Cargo Letter now celebrates it's 8th Year of Service -- making us quite senior in this segment of the industry. We once estimated container underway losses at about 1,500 per year. Lloyd's put that figure at about 10,000 earlier this year. Quite obviously, the reporting mechanism for these massive losses is not supported by the lines. News of these events is not posted to the maritime community. Our new project is to call upon you -- those handling the claims -- to let us know of each container loss at sea-- in confidentiality. Many of you survey on behalf of cargo interests with no need for confidentiality. Others work for the lines & need to be protected. As a respected Int'l publication, The Cargo Letter enjoys full press privileges & cannot be forced to disclose our sources of information. No successful attempt has ever been made. If a personal notation for your report is desired -- each contributor will be given a "hot link" to your company Website in each & every report. Please take moment & report your "overside" containers to us. If you do not wish attribution, your entry will be "anonymous." This will will benefit our industry -- for obvious reasons! McD
* NOTE: The Cargo Letter wants you to know that by keeping the identity of our contributors 100% Confidential, you are able to view our continuing series of "Cargo Disasters." Our friends send us materials which benefit the industry. The materials are provided to our news publication with complete and enforceable confidentiality for the sender. In turn, we provide these materials to you.
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