Aircraft diverted by fog from flights to Anchorage or Kodiak — including a trio of Ravn Alaska DeHaviland Dash Eights, two of which are pictured here — sit in front of the Kenai Municipal Airport terminal on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Fog throughout the Cook Inlet region has been hampering flight schedules all week — on Monday and Tuesday it grounded planes at the Kenai airport; shifting northward later in the week, it has prevented landings in Anchorage. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Fog brings traffic through Kenai airport

Fog rolling up and down the Cook Inlet region has been keeping flights on the ground this week, both at the Kenai Municipal Airport and the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

“If it’s not here, it’s in Anchorage; if it’s not in Anchorage, it’s here,” Kenai Municipal Airport manager Mary Bondurant said of the fog.

On Monday, Bondurant was in Anchorage herself, and scheduled to fly back to Kenai. Her flight didn’t depart, however, because fog surrounding the Kenai airport made landing unsafe, and she ended up driving instead.

By Tuesday evening, however, the fog was rolling north. On Wednesday visibility at the fogged-in Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport kept flights from landing there.

Wednesday saw some flights to Anchorage landing in Kenai, “but they weren’t on the ground that long,” Bondurant said. On Thursday, she said the Kenai airport started getting diversions of Anchorage-bound flights around noon, and by around 1:30 p.m. there were seven planes waiting on the apron outside the terminal, where their passengers napped, ate, idled and investigated the option of taking rental cars to Anchorage.

The planes sitting on Kenai’s terminal apron were smaller in-state flights — some bound to Anchorage from Dutch Harbor and Kodiak, Bondurant said, and seating 20–37 passengers. Though Kenai’s apron could accommodate larger aircraft, flights seating more than 60 would have to keep their passengers aboard if diverted to the Kenai airport, which lacks the Transportation Safety Administration screening team legally required to disembark that number of passengers. Larger Anchorage-bound flights were diverted to Fairbanks.

For business owners in the airport, the hungry travelers were a windfall. Co-owner Tammy Olson of the airport restaurant Double O Express said she was “tired but happy” after she and her employees spent the past two days rushing. After a summer tourist season that failed to bring the traffic she’d expected, Olson said those two days had also been the best of the year for Double O Express.

Around 2 p.m., the visibility began improving in Anchorage. Two of the waiting Anchorage-bound flights took off with the hope that conditions would hold until their arrival.

One was able to land in Anchorage, Bondurant said later. The other had to return. However, all the diverted planes had departed by 5 p.m. — around the time fog started creeping back to Kenai.

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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