Fairbanks!

Fairbanks Travel Blog

 › entry 35 of 38 › view all entries
The ride to Fairbanks
   

After a hearty breakfast, we loaded Sun Camp's devoted Cessna 180 bush-plane with the gear that I hauled and that of a driller who was heading home. Our flight south was sunny and smooth. High above mountain lakes, nameless streams, the green and golden hills along the mighty Yukon River, and wild Alaska to all horizons, the flight presented a pleasant time and place to reflect on another season coming to a close. We arrived in Fairbanks just before noon.

 

Fairbanks International Airport is a rare gem as far as flying goes. Besides the lengthy runway to handle passenger and cargo jumbo jets, the field incorporates two general aviation runways. One is paved and the other  gravel - which serves as a ski strip in late fall, winter, and early spring.

Final glance at Sun Camp
These two lay end-to-end and both are active. Between the runway and airstrips, a long, wide float pond accommodates amphibian airplanes. The ramp resembles a Disneyland parking lot but with airplanes of all makes, models, colors, and age. Bush pilots loading, fueling, or tinkering with their flying machines would all have amazing tales to tell if they weren't committed to reach a remote destination, beat a weather front, or get back on the ground by dark. An aviation buff could spend days exploring FAI like a sprawling museum where the past is very much alive both on the ground and in the air.

 

The 180 pilot taxied to his parked van near the float pond and we quickly unloaded the plane. He gave me a ride to an air-freight company where the loose tools would be packaged and shipped to Anchorage along with the transmission.

The Yukon River
Fairbanks had been my favorite Alaska stomping grounds since 1973. A couple of days (and nights) here would have been well worth a hotel and rental car out of my own pocket but I had less than two hours until check-in for my own Air Alaska flight to Anchorage. I went to the Boatel.

 

The neighborhood bar sits on the south bank of the Chena River, not far from the airport. The small establishment has decades of character and sometimes labeled itself 'the sleazy waterfront bar'. The daytime crowd was primarily retirees and I was fortunate to find a stool. I was sad to find that Elaine no longer worked there. She was a spunky bartender with a dynamic personality that could warm a heart on the coldest of days. The Boatel had always maintained a brotherly atmosphere. Two familiar faces stood out - one from the pool and dart leagues in February of three years ago; the other, a retired aviator.

The FAI float pond.
Paul had flown C-130s and our flight paths had crisscrossed since the booming days of building the haul road to Prudhoe Bay and the Alaska Pipeline. I was saddened again to learn that another mutual acquaintance had died in an airplane crash.

 

The flight to Anchorage is only about half an hour in a Boeing 737. We flew too high to stir wildlife and Mount McKinley was hidden in cloud cover. Sometimes when those Denali  skies are clear, airliners will descend for a spectacular fly-by of the wind-swept summit.

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
The ride to Fairbanks
The ride to Fairbanks
Final glance at Sun Camp
Final glance at Sun Camp
The Yukon River
The Yukon River
The FAI float pond.
The FAI float pond.
Old airplanes at Fairbanks Interna…
Old airplanes at Fairbanks Intern…
Unloaded at Fairbanks.
Unloaded at Fairbanks.
Sun Camp take-off
Sun Camp take-off
Brooks Range mountain lake.
Brooks Range mountain lake.
Airfield outside Fairbanks.
'Airfield' outside Fairbanks.
Landing at Fairbanks
Landing at Fairbanks
Fairbanks
photo by: Hummingbird