At the end of the mining season, my dad had travelled to Hawaii to help out my uncle who was running a construction company. He’d gotten hurt on the job and needed someone to step in and foreman the end of the job.
It was only supposed to be a month, but when my uncle fell during recovery and hurt himself again, dad thought it would be a good idea to come to Hawaii for the coldest part of the year. We winterized the house and planned to join him on January 17th, but the temperature plunged to -50º and when it gets that cold, things don’t move.
We knew that the airlines didn’t fly when it got to -40º because it was hard on the planes and the fuel would start to congeal, so we waited in Fairbanks, checking the weather and flight status. On January 19th, the forecast promised the temperature would get up to -36º and the airline said that we would be on standby.
They towed the jet into a hanger and loaded the luggage there and we waited for nearly two hours. We were all elated when the airport sign displayed a temperature of -39º, but we still hadn’t received a call to load.
As we approached the third hour, one of the gate attendants announced that we had gotten a green light to load the plane, but we were going to do a “quick” load. They lined us up by row from the back of the plane to the front and instructed people to quickly find a spot for any carryons. If they couldn’t find a place, to sit down and the flight attendant would come and get their stuff while we taxied and would find a place to store it.
The doors to the hanger opened and as they backed the plane out, the pilot was already starting the engines. As the jet approached the gate, the gate attendant had people start filing down the boarding bridge to start boarding as soon as the plane was close enough.
The bridge’s walls had ice crystals and we all shivered as the blast of cold air hit us, many of us dressed for a long flight and a warmer climate. Many people, most complete strangers, passed coats back and forth to those that didn’t have one.
The plane was loaded in record time, less than fifteen minutes, before we were pushed away and taxiing down the runway. Flight attendants scurried about putting people’s things away and we all cheered, despite being able to see our breath in the cabin, as we got the go ahead to take off.
The flight was long and it eventually warmed up and I slept. Seven and a half hours later, we touched down in Oahu where the captain announced that it was a balmy 63 degrees and raining. That meant it was over a hundred degree temperature change during that flight.
When we exited the airport in jeans and a t-shirt, I could not help but be amazed to see people greeting family wearing the same kinds of coats we’d been wearing less than 12 hours prior. I am sure we got a few stares too, but it was so nice to be warm.