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We Build Alaska

Wild day on Alaska Airlines flights to Juneau ends with postponement of State of the State address

We all have that one nightmare airline story where just nothing seems to go right. Today was that day for several state officials heading to Juneau for Governor Mike Dunleavy’s (R – Alaska) annual State of the State address. It was supposed to be held tonight at 7 pm. But after a nightmare of a day, it was postponed to tomorrow night. Here is what happened.

While the ordeal was bad for me, it was a much worse for several people who were scheduled on the early flight from Anchorage to Juneau. I was originally supposed to fly back tonight, but I changed my ticket to the 11 am flight so I could watch the State of the State. The 11 am was initially delayed so 12:30 pm. I got to the airport at 11:30 am and quickly learned the 7:30 am flight had not made it to Juneau yet. This was just the beginning.

Turns out the winds in Juneau earlier today were blowing over 70 mph. The 7:30 am flight was delayed a few hours, but eventually took off to Juneau with several state commissioners and legislators on board. That flight circled Juneau and made a few attempts to land. But wind sheer on one such attempt resulted in a cockpit alarm and an abort. A lobbyist who was on that flight told me they were less than one thousand feet above the runway when the pilot aborted. They then headed back to Anchorage!

Meanwhile, my original 11 am flight had now been pushed back to 2:30 pm. I finally bit the bullet and bought a membership to the Alaska Lounge (the price goes up on February 1). I noticed First Lady Rose Dunleavy in the lounge as soon as I walked in. I figured she was also headed to Juneau. After relaxing in the lounge for a bit, half a dozen of Dunleavy’s commissioners from the early morning flight to Juneau walked in. They had arrived at the Anchorage airport around 6:30 am and were now back seven hours later.

The lounge was absolutely packed. Many of the people on the first flight were trying to get on the one scheduled for 11 am we were all waiting for. The 11 am finally started boarding just before 3 pm after being moved gates several times. The last change was from C8 to C1.

The flight included First Lady Rose Dunleavy, Senator Bill Wielechowski (D – Juneau), Representative David Eastman (R – Wasilla), Representative Donna Mears (D – Anchorage), Attorney General Treg Taylor, Health Commissioner Heidi Hedberg, Family Services Commissioner Kim Kovol, Administration Commissioner Paula Vrana, Revenue Commissioner Adam Crum, Natural Resources Commissioner John Boyle, Public Safety Commissioner Jim Cockrell, Education Commissioner Deena Bishop, Transportation Commissioner Ryan Anderson, and Environmental Conservation Commissioner-designee Emma Pokon. That’s ten of Dunleavy’s 15 commissioners. Alaska must not have any kind of executive branch policy for continuity of government…

About 20 minutes before 4 pm, the pilot informed us he had to be wheels up by 3:58 pm to avoid getting timed out. He said he had been working since early in the morning and there are federal laws about how long pilots can work. We had still not pushed from the gate and we had to de-ice. I think we all knew.

Not long after the pilot made his announcement, he told us he was in fact timed out and that we would need a new crew. They opened the door so he could get off. The crew announced another pilot would be coming soon from another flight that just landed. We waited. The other pilot showed up about 30 minutes later. But before we could get going, the crew announced other staff had also timed out. We were all ordered to deplane until a crew could arrive. Back to the lounge!

Before the deplaning I thought we would make it for the State of the State. After I knew there was no way. Shortly after getting back to the lounge a source told me the State of the State had been postponed. I quickly confirmed that and posted a tweet (or an X or whatever it’s called now). Several of the commissioners said they learned of the postponement from the Landmine! I later learned from a source in Dunleavy’s office that the reason for the postponement was because five of his six guests for his State of the State address were on that plane.

After a few hours in the lounge it looked like we would finally be leaving around 6:30 pm. Everyone got back on the plane to try again. We had to wait a while for another crew member but we were finally ready to go. The doors were closed and we pushed back to de-ice. This was the longest de-icing I had ever experienced. We just kept sitting there. Eventually the pilot came on and said the nose wheel was not working and a mechanic was needed. Better the wheel than the door! After another wait, we were finally wheels up at 7:36 pm.

The flight to Juneau was non-eventful. But when we were close to landing I got a text that said because of the timeout laws, the plane would be skipping Petersburg, Wrangell, and Ketchikan and heading directly to Seattle after Juneau. The people sitting behind me were going to Petersburg and had been up since 5 am. When we finally landed all the people going to the now-skipped stops were told to deplane and that they would be given hotel vouchers. I immediately said, “DO NOT stay at the Driftwood!”

We finally made it to Juneau at 9 pm. For some people that was the end of a 15-plus hour day of flying. For the people like me on what was supposed to be the 11 am, it was just ten hours. I have to give some love to Alaska Airlines. They can’t control the weather. And good on the pilot of the morning flight for aborting and not attempting a dangerous landing. Immediately after landing I got a message from Alaska Airlines with an apology and a $150 travel voucher.

Like it or not, this is the reality of the capital being located in Juneau. Don’t forget that in 1976 voters passed an initiative to move the capital to Willow. The state acquired land there for the new capital they still own. But it was railroaded by entrenched Juneau interests, and voters later declined to fund the move. The political reality is that the capital is not going to be moved. The Alaska Constitution says the capital shall be in Juneau. As one person in the airport told me when I was talking about the history of moving the capital to Willow, “Shut the fuck up about that!” I asked him if he was from Juneau.

Make sure to tune into Governor Dunleavy’s State of the State tomorrow night at 7 pm. Or check the Landmine X for live updates!

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4 months ago

How come foul language is getting past the checkers? Is the “f” word really necessary, it makes the writer appear unintelligent and there are other more appropriate adjectives to use. Very unprofessional.

4 months ago
Reply to  Cathy

It was a quote. Also, “fuck” is far more than just an adjective. It’s dynamic and full of life.

4 months ago
Reply to  Bob

In my house the ef-word isn’t banned but you can’t thaw the Lord’s name in vain.

4 months ago
Reply to  Cathy

I’m dumping the Alaska Landmine. Do we really need to let profanity creep into the news? And, it should not be ok just because it is a quote. If so, I guess ANYTHING can be in the media as a quote = no limits.

Eric Troyer
4 months ago

That’s a pretty incredible story. Sheesh.

4 months ago

Just to be clear, voters did approve a capitol move in 1974 (in 1976 they only voted on where). This was after rejecting a move in 1960, 1962 and 1968. In 1978 voters required that the move wouldn’t happen without voters approving a budget. Again, in 1994 we passed an initiative similar to 1978, and seperately rejected a move to Wasilla. In 2002 we rejected moving the legislative session to the MatSu. MatSu/Anchorage beat the Capitol Move Drum for 42 years. Voters approved one such ballot initiative in the middle of the campaign, and rejected 5 moves before and after… Read more »

4 months ago
Reply to  Dan

Legislative sessions in Juneau is the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and execting a different result.

4 months ago

You may want to start a special section where these (while entertaining) “borderline rants” can live free from being categorized as news.

Some Guy
4 months ago

Does Anyone realize that most of the Alaska Landmine is Jeff Landfield’s take on what’s going on in Alaska? Most of it is about what’s going on in state and Anchorage politics, so yes there is some news but it’s also filled with his opinions. I also would like to remind you folks that he writes pieces that are intended to be shocking (you know, “EXPLOSIVE NEWS FROM THE LAST FRONTIER”) so as to entice people to read his blog so that he can sell advertising. Landfield is kind of a shock jock. It’s kind of like how Howard Stern… Read more »

Keith A.
4 months ago

Flights delayed while travelling in Alaska…………happens almost weekly during the winter when flying to Dutch Harbor and other Western Alaska airports. Not uncommon for Juneau either since it can be a challenging landing in the best of conditions.

4 months ago

Would be nice to view live.