It took Thomas Waerner about 9 1/2 days to win this years Iditarod. But going home to his native country of Norway has taken much longer.
Waerner and his 16 dogs have been stuck in Alaska since their race ended March 18 in Nome, stranded by pandemic-caused travel restrictions and flight cancellations. The terms “stuck” and “stranded” don’t seem to fit his vocabulary while being in Nome on his extended stay.
“I like Alaska a lot,” Waerner said. “It’s kind of my dream place. But I have a family.”
Back home in Torpa, Norway, he has a wife, a job, five children and 35 sled dogs that didn’t make the trip to Alaska this year. He missed the celebration when his 9-year-old turned 10. He misses morning coffee with his wife, Guro.
But if everything goes to plan he will begetting a little help from the Alaska Based airlines, Everts.
Everts Air Cargo has sold one of their DC-6 that is parked in Fairbanks and bound for an aviation museum in Sola, Norway.
Then Waerner will get a COVID-19 test, round up his dogs from sprint musher Arleigh Reynolds’ kennel in Salcha, and head home on the DC-6.
“We are hitchhiking,” Waerner said. “The plane is going to Norway and we are going with them. We are so lucky.”
The DC6 has quite a historical record. According to Everts the DC-6 is 64 years old and was once operated by Braathens SAFE from 1962-1973. “It started its career in 1956 at Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong,” according to an English translation of the article, “and after the Norwegian stay has been used both as a water bomb and as a fuel carrier.”
Now it’s ferrying sled dogs. According to Waerner, “they’re painting the dog team on the side of the plane.” Word of the museum’s acquisition, and the championship cargo it intends to deliver, is making the news in Norway, he said.
Everts Still operates the DC-6 along with a fleet of C-46s, AT806 Air Tractors and DC-9s through out Alaska and Mexico.