When the first snow-fall of the season reaches down to the 3000′ elevation, I always hope that we are done using the affected strips … but all too often we are not. I flew up this valley to the one-way airstrip where a doctor and his son were anxiously waiting to be picked up. I found their tent covered with snow and observed the two hunters gazing longingly up towards their only escape. I was unsure about landing because the snow had covered the airstrip so completely that I could no longer tell where it was. One of the most important thing about landing on a bush air strip is knowing where to set your tires on the ground. I dropped down until I was just 5 feet off the ground, and flew down the area where I knew the strip lay, but my eyes could not make it out. The airstrip is so steep it can only be drug flying down hill at an angle across the strip. I circled above thinking about the situation and my options. IF it was sunny I could have seen the definition of the ground, or IF it was a two-way strip I could have gotten a better look, or IF there was not so much snow it would not be a problem. It is an obvious, and proven fact in life, that as difficulties add-up successful outcomes are less likely to follow.
It is difficult to resort to “plan-B”, but I seldom regret it. I grabbed a small scrap of paper and scribbled a note, “mark strip. can’t see ground. kick snow off landing surface. be back later.” I taped it to a granola bar and chucked it out the window when I flew by. I really enjoy flying my Super Cub and I am highly motivated to be very cautious. There is NOTHING good about bending metal on my airplane for any reason, especially if it’s because I am in a hurry. Later that day Mike and I both returned, and I took this picture just seconds before he landed. The hunters had walked to the low end of the strip and put out two markers. They had also kicked as much snow as possible off the strip as they walked back and forth. The lighting had also improved so my eyeballs weren’t straining to see the ground. You can see Mike’s plane is even casting a shadow, that is a good thing. Without a shadow (on snow) the ground tends to sneak up on you, and I don’t like that.
This is a picture of us loading. You can see I am parked where they had their tent set up the night before. Snow is obviously very slippery and braking is utterly useless. Brakes are not needed when the airstrip is climbing and you are plowing through snow. I was down and stopped in 200 feet and I never touched the brakes.