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Alaska pilots still dealing with remnants of winter's historic snowfall

Matt Keller
Aerial view of a snowy, silty river snaking through the Talkeetna Mountains.
Courtesy Blue Ice Aviation
Brian and Mike Meekin chat while landed at an airstrip in the Talkeetna Mountains.
Courtesy Blue Ice Aviation
A snowy airstrip in mid-June in the Talkeetna Mountains.
Courtesy Blue Ice Aviation

Last winter was good to us folks living in Anchorage. Snow fell continuously, wind blew less than recent years, and temperatures for the most part stayed between minus-20 and plus-20 degrees. In Palmer and Anchorage we set record snowfall levels; come June and July we are still feeling the effects.

This airstrip north of Anchorage was covered in snow when we needed it in mid-June, so our clients had to wait two days for the snow to melt. Fortunately, the sun came out and did most of the hard work. The snow cover shown in the mountains below was chest deep and made hiking over the higher passes challenging at best.

Brian, a good friend of mine from college (pictured below talking with Mike Meekin), spent five days working with us. Brian flies Cessna 185 Bush planes on nasty strips in the Philippines, and is exploring whether to use bigger tires for landing out there. Between Mike and I, we have all the standard tires and wheels used for 185s in off-field operations. We run the standard 8.50 with 6-inch wheels, the 8.50 with the 10-inch gar aero adapter, 10-by-10 Alaskan bushwheels, and 29-inch Alaskan Bushweels on a 6-inch wheel.  

We were able to flight test different options to help Brian figure out what kind of tires he wants. While we really wanted to simulate the wet grass conditions that so often exist in the Philippines, unfortunately as the photos show below, there was no grass to be had.

Matthew Keller is the owner and operator of Blue Ice Aviation. He was born and raised in Alaska and his office is the cockpit of his Super Cub. His goal is to transport everyone into Alaska's vast wilderness. See more of his videos and writing at Blue Ice Aviation.