Aviation officials from across the state are visiting runways and airports throughout Western Alaska to gain an eye-witness understanding of rural aviation.
On Tuesday the Alaska Aviation Advisory Board, along with officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation, visited Wales, Port Clarence, and Shishmaref to inspect the areas’ runways and talk with community members about flight concerns.
The outfit also flew over Diomede, Brevig Mission, and Teller to view their air facilities.
Lee Ryan is the Chairman of the Aviation Advisory Board, a body appointed by the governor to provide council on aviation matters across the state.
Ryan said visiting these communities allows the Board to better understand aviation in rural communities and how decisions made in Washington DC and Juneau affect the bush and how they could be amended for rural areas.
One of those amendments might come for Shishmaref. The FAA has threatened to shut down nighttime operations for the community’s airstrip because of the runway’s proximity to a road leading to a nearby dump. The shutdown would almost eliminate flights during the dark winter months, severing the community from necessary goods and services.
Ryan said the trip to Shishmaref allowed officials to see the situation for themselves and find solutions to curtail the issue.
“Being able to do these trips with the FAA officials onboard,” Ryan explained, “they can see issues that happen, and say, ‘Okay, well, the road is way out there. Let’s think of something that can make it usable and feasible to not run into an overnight shutdown.’”
Ryan said the officials with the FAA and DOT will work with personnel in Washington DC to make sure Shishmaref does not experience any “service interruptions.”