Sun, Oct 02, 2011
Some Calling The $77 Million Project 'The Airport For No
An airport planned for a remote island between the Bearing Sea
and the Pacific Ocean is being ridiculed by some as an "airport for
no one," because it will be accessible only by helicopters or
Alaska DOT Map Showing Hovercraft
The $77 million project is planned for the isolated community of
Akutan located near the end of the Aleutian Island chain, but the
runway is not on the same island as the village. It will be
separated from the people it serves by six miles of open water that
is often described as "turbulent."
The cost of the planned airport is about $64 million, according
to a report in the
Alaska Dispatch, but the total cost
of the project, which includes a hovercraft shuttle for passengers
and airport workers adds $13 million, bringing the total price tag
to $77 million. But officials are not sure that the hovercraft
solution is practical, meaning that the airport would be accessible
only by helicopter.
The runway would accommodate airplanes up to 40 passengers.
Currently, the only access to Akutan is through a seaplane base,
but the only aircraft that has been consistently reliable in terms
of range and ability to handle the rough conditions is the Grumman
Goose, which is becoming scarce and difficult to maintain.
Peninsula Airways, the primary carrier into Akutan, says they won't
be able to sustain the aircraft for much longer.
The primary employer in the region is a fish processing plant
which has a seasonal workforce of as many as a thousand. The
airport would help those workers get close, but not all the way to
their jobs. The permanent population is about 100, according to CNN.
Peninsula Airways is currently the beneficiary of about $700,000
in subsidies through the Essential Air Service program. Company
vice president Brian Carricaburu says that could be substantially
reduced by using larger aircraft at the new airport.
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