Some days are sunny, others have been wet, but there is no denying that summer has arrived. With 21 hours and 21 minutes of sunshine today in Interior Alaska, it is time to brush up your take-off and landing skills–to see if you can still hit the mark, and get stopped in under ???? feet. (You fill in the blank). To confirm you can REALLY do that, why not use one of the practice runways around the state to test your skills? For the past several years I have written about painting marks on the gravel runway (ski strip) at Fairbanks International Airport and other airports around the state (Practice Runway at FAI Ready for Use), however this year a new location joins the mix. For the first time, a volunteer crew led by Adam White, painted the ski strip at Nenana (ENN), with assistance from the Fairbanks General Aviation Association, Midnight Sun Chapter of the Nine-Nines, EAA Chapter 1129 and others. The twist is, unlike the gravel strips at other airports, this runway is turf.
After a rainy period leading up to the evening event, the sun made an appearance, allowing the project to proceed. Adam’s family served pulled pork sandwiches to power the group, and the mosquitoes came out in full force to hasten the work. (In the interest of full disclosure, I arrived after the painting was done, just in time to admire the finished product, and sample the pulled pork and cole slaw—all of which were excellent.)
Try it yourself…
If you want to try something new, motor over to Nenana and give the sky strip a try. Sandwiched between the paved runway and float pond, I would recommend starting by landing to the north (wind permitting) on Runway 4 Right. If all goes well, and you want to up your game, try the other end—but beware there are some swales which make this even more realistic training for true off-field conditions. If you arrive with a light fuel load, and want to see how additional weight impacts your performance, remember that Nenana has self-service fuel. So you can increase your gross-weight, and have enough gas to get home.
Thanks again to the volunteers that devoted their time, talents and resources to create this new practice runway, adding to our ability to hone our skills before heading to the back-country!