On the sunny and brisk morning of Dec. 21, Windsor Czeschin and her three young children awaited their milkman as his small plane touched down at the Mammoth Airport to deliver his farm-fresh, raw milk and dairy products to the local buyer's club.
The pilot, Mark McAfee, 52, owns Organic Pastures Dairy Co. in Fresno County. He was wearing a Santa hat in the spirit of the holidays -- and a wetsuit, just in case.
"If you have a safety plan," he said, "you won't need it."
If his plane went down during the flight, he said, he would glide for a while and have plenty of time to find a flat spot to set the plane down -- like a frigid alpine lake.
Hence the wetsuit.
McAfee, also a retired paramedic, has been a pilot since he was 16.
He started flying the milk route to Mammoth last year to answer a call from Czeschin and others:"Eighty thousand people buy and consume OPDC raw milk every week in California from 625 stores," McAfee said, but they hadn't reached Mammoth yet because of its remote location.
On this morning, McAfee flew direct from his farm's airstrip between Kerman and Caruthers to Mammoth in 35 minutes, his small plane full of raw (unpasteurized) milk and dairy products from his farm.
The trip cost him $85 in fuel and a couple hours of his time -- had he driven, he said, it would have been more like $500 in fuel and 15 hours of his time.
Czeschin and her three kids helped McAfee unload, transferring his product from milk crates behind his pilot's seat into coolers in the back of Czeschin's pickup.
McAfee said he didn't need to load his product in coolers: "It's 33 degrees up there, I just kept the heater off!"
This story was written for the weekly Mammoth Times and appeared in the Jan. 2 edition. It is excerpted courtesy of the Times. Read more of this story here.