Friday, October 29: The plan had been to go to Grayling the middle of next week, but the weather forecast made that look impossible. We pulled things together to try to make the last possible window out of Fairbanks today. After packing, we drove in to the airport to fuel up the plane and to wait and see if the low clouds would lift enough to allow our VFR flight and to listen to pilot reports of icing conditions, as the temps and clouds were conducive.
While waiting, we admired all the fun “plane prints” the first light snow had made.
Not much sign of improvement in the clouds, so we killed some time at East Ramp Pizza, which overlooks the airport, while James continued to scan the weather reports. There are 3-4 weather systems in the 400 miles between Fairbanks and Grayling, each doing its own thing. The ceiling in Fairbanks finally lifted enough to qualify for marginal VFR, so we high-tailed it to the plane, prayed, and took off at 5:15pm, hoping for enough light before sunset to get us clear of the clouds.
Just stay below the clouds and above the terrain and head for the thin bright line
After an hour at 700 feet, we were so thankful to break past the cloud bank and into this glorious sunset!
As with most arrivals in Grayling, this one was not without the need for flexibility. But the hospitality of friends is amazing!
The Yukon River at the bank in Grayling
Sunday, November 7: After a week in Grayling, on the 3rd day of weather delay for departure, there was again a brief window of a marginal VFR path from Grayling to Fairbanks.
This open patch in the sky was a welcome sight
Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy 🙂
We had flown at 3500 feet between the layers, and about 80 miles out from Fairbanks, they converged. Trying to find a path around or under was futile. The leading edges of the plane were taking on some ice, and following the clearing had pushed us north. We decided to land at the first available runway, which was at Manley Hot Springs on the Tanana River.
Lining up on the runway was a welcome view
Outside air temperature gauge icing
Waiting for rescue…. Providentially, we knew (and had the phone number of) a Christian couple in Manley. After finding a place to park the airplane, I called Jim and told him we were in town. Unknowingly, we had parked right next to his airplane. He came to pick us up, and he and his wife Kathy served us tea and hot chocolate and fed us a dinner of hamburgers. They told us that we could camp out there, or they could drive us into town. Until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to any of us that we’d actually landed at the end of the road system! With the weather forecast not really improving for the next day and pressing needs, we accepted the three-hour ride home.
[Epilogue: About a week and a half later, James took a commercial flight to Manley and flew the plane home. Jim had swept off the snow and plugged in the heat so it was ready for a quick turnaround. It is such a blessing to be part of the Body of Christ!]