We are gaining daylight again! Although we have past to darkest part of winter we are not past the coldest, that comes in February.
We are enjoying a warm spell this week but are paying for it with high winds. The forecast calls for 90+mph winds in our area. While we will enjoy the potential +40* temps the wind has us concerned. Usually with this type weather pattern we don’t get the brunt of the winds but this system is forecasted to be a record breaker. My guess, from 20+years of watching our weather, is that we will get at least 40mph winds and most likely not get the full 90mph here in Nenana.
The hangar is rated for 100mph winds but only when the hangar door is installed. The hangar has the potential to be like a parachute in the wind with one wall still open. Pray with us that it will hold and that the forecasted winds do not develop!
Just a reminder that we update the TMM Alaska Facebook page with pictures and short bits about daily life and ministry in Alaska.
The Hangar Project has had a minor setback. On Sunday 7/12/2015 a dust devil came through the worksite and threw around a few building panels and damaged them. One panel hit the outside wall and tore it open. Another panel was thrown into the hangar and swirled around like it was in a drain. Thankfully I had just taken the Maule out of the hangar the day before.
Here is a video of the mayhem taken from some of the security cameras.
The Maule is back in the air, thanks to Missionary Aviation Repair Center (MARC) in Soldotna. The flight home went great (for the most part) and I plan to put the skis on soon. Maybe before Christmas but with the lack of snow and cold we will see.
After having so much work done at this annual inspection (new crankshaft, new Emergency Locator Transmitter, cleaning up some of the preheater wiring, fixing the auto pilot… the list goes on and on) we decided to do a “return to service” flight before I headed across the wilds of Alaska. Everything checked out and the trip home was uneventful, well almost…
Mechanically things went great. The weather was, well the weather was typical, it was difficult. I was able to get on top of a fog layer that had all of South Central Alaska socked in. It was clear above and the Alaska Range was out and beautiful. The Interior was covered by a thick blanket of weather too and I wasn’t going to be able to get down without picking up a clearance from Anchorage Center.
It took a little back and forth over the radio but I was able to get my clearance and start the process of shooting the instrument approach (RNAV 4L). By this time it was dark (4:15pm) and there was some light snow falling. This is where I really appreciated having the auto pilot issues resolved. I knew that I would pop out under the cloud layer in plenty of time to set up for a normal landing but I was curious about the runway conditions. When I left home the day before the city hadn’t completed the snow removal.
As I entered the holding pattern to descend to the initial approach fix I started picking up ice on the airframe and windshield. I mentioned it to Center and asked if I could expedite my decent to get out of the clouds. They gave me the latitude to do what I needed to get out of the ice. When I popped out of the clouds I could only see out of two 3″ holes in the windshield. The heater/defroster in the Maule is more suited for the tropics than the arctic. No problem, the auto pilot was doing a great job keeping me on the approach and I knew that I could keep it lined up on landing because of the runway edge lighting.
At this point I am remembering again that the runway wasn’t completely cleared when I left the day before and I knew that the ski strip was too soft to land on without skis and I was not sure what I was going to find when I needed to land. I was carrying a little extra speed (70 knots vs 50 knots) because of the ice accumulation and I could only see through what were essentially peep holes. I quickly found out what I was dealing with as I disengaged the auto pilot and started the landing sequence. You guessed it, the runway had not been finished and it appeared to have quite a bit of new snow on it. As I flared to land the runway edge lighting disappeared. It took me a bit to realize that 3′ snow berms were blocking me from seeing the only reference I had to keep moving in a straight line. I could only see two red dots (a portion of the threshold lighting) at the far end of the runway. I was dancing very lightly on the rudder pedals to keep those red lights in the center of the peep holes. My efforts to brake resulted in the tires skidding on the new snow so I had to coast to a stop. Talk about nerve-racking… I got stopped and turned around on the runway and started to taxi back to my parking area. I could only follow my tracks in the snow until the defroster started to overcome the ice on the windshield. When I got out of the airplane my knees were a little wobbly and I finished the prayer that I had been in for quite some time.
If you have seen any of the “reality” shows about Alaska I hope you understand that it is “dramatized for TV.” Life in Alaska is not always as dangerous and edge of your seat suspenseful as it is depicted on TV. However, there are times when real life is exponentially more dramatic than “reality” TV. When I first started flying in Alaska (almost 20 years ago) an older gentleman told me that “the day you fly and are not a little nervous will be your last because overconfidence will kill you.” The converse is also true. “A superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid situations that would require the use of his superior skills.” This flight fell somewhere between these two pieces of advice.
It was a very productive summer, wettest on record but it is amazing to see what was accomplished. It has been such a busy summer that we haven’t been updating you as much as we liked. Hopefully you have been watching the progress in pictures on the TMM Hangar page. We have also been updating things regularly on our Facebook page. We are “friends” right?
Now that there is 6″ of snow on the ground and things are done for the construction season, look for more updates coming of how the summer went and what the winter holds.
Thank you for your prayers and support. We serve an incredible God!
That expression means several different things right now depending where you put the exclamation point. We are grateful that winter is loosening it’s grip on Alaska, the rivers have broke up smoothly this year. Although it was a mild winter it is nice to see the sun and feel the warmth that it brings. The expression is also said in a slightly panicked tone too because summer is coming! Ahh! Spring or Ahh Spring! have completely different meanings.
Recently I was able to help a church in Fairbanks go visit three sister churches in western Alaska. It was a great week. Two of the villages are desperately wanting more access to church services. One village hasn’t had an active church in over 15 years and the other is still reeling from a bad split but it seems everyone is wanting reconciliation. It is so neat to be able to help the body of Christ with logistics and other needs.
I (Adam) rolled into Nenana 19 years ago this May and every season someone says “this weather is not normal.” At some point the abnormal weather must become the “new normal.” What this meant for this year was that we were unable to fly out and have our traditional Easter weekend with friends living in “the bush.” The weather had been too warm and the ice conditions too risky for flying Easter weekend. Thankfully I was able to get out the days and weeks before and spend some time with folks individually.
The Hangar Project is officially underway! This is where the slightly panicked tone of “Ahh, Spring!” comes in. It is hard not to panic when you look at the calendar and see how short of a building season we have. I am still working with the State Fire Marshal on building safety concerns. The current plan is to build a completely detached “boiler house” to keep the sources of ignition out of the hangar. This change has simplified a lot of the issues raised but has added complexity and cost to the project. On a more positive note, we were able to find a great source of “repurposed” foam board for the foundation that is saving several thousands of dollars. That savings will more than likely be absorbed in the concrete cost. I had hoped to work with contractors that are on a local bridge project to get a good deal but they ran into a few snags. As a result we will need to pay a fuel surcharge to have it brought down from Fairbanks.
We are looking forward to seeing some old college friends this summer as they come up to help for a week. Others have expressed and interest in coming up to help but so far haven’t committed. There have been several folks here in Alaska that have offered to help, keep an eye on our Facebook page for details of when I could use you.
I will try to keep the pictures coming and keep an eye on the Hangar Page for the progress.
So my plans to work outside today and make progress on the new addition are on hold. It’s -47 outside right now so I’m going to try and get caught up on the mountain of things stacked on my desk.
As we started the addition this summer I had to remove one of our heaters. The addition has not progressed to the stage where I can install it in its new location. So as a result we have one undersized heater for the house, trying its best to keep it 120 degrees warmer than the outside. I must say I’m impressed, it’s holding its own if only with the thinest of margins. It does concern me though that we have no back-up or second heat source other than electric heaters. Heat in an Alaskan winter is not a luxury it is a critical life support system! In aviation we have a phrase that applies here too. “One is none and two is one.” One heater is none if there is a failure, two heaters gives a little safety net. Right now our safety net is electric heat but in a power outage we would be sunk until I could get our generator warmed up enough to run. Call me paranoid or weird; but with all my training as a Pilot, EMT and Firefighter I think about this stuff a lot especially with a wife and three little girls to protect and keep warm.
With the colder weather Lyndy is having to make adjustments to her routine to feed us. Propane won’t boil below -43 so the cook stove is hard to use right now. Time to use the Crockpot! Now I have to concentrate on paper work while the house smells like a gourmet restaurant with the moose stew simmering away downstairs.