Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Alaskan Light Freight Charter Pilots Get New Practice Runways

Moves by FAA to Further Improve Safety for Bush Pilots
Shipping News Feature

ALASKA, USA – As most people are probably aware, Alaska can be somewhat troublesome to get around overland. As the largest state in the USA - and with some of the most remote areas on the planet - the people who live in Alaska have long been reliant on light aircraft for freight shipments and passenger transportation to meet their needs. As a result the state has the highest number of airplanes per capita nationwide and the most pilots per capita in the world, with some 11,000 Alaskans registered pilots.

These 'bush' pilots are expected to deliver their loads onto some the most hair raising air strips in the world, from tidal shingle spits on the coast to slivers of flat ground on mountaintops. As a result, aviation safety is a top priority and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has partnered with the Fairbanks International Airport and Palmer Municipal Airports in Alaska to build practice runways that allow pilots to work on their landing skills in a safe environment.

Two gravel strips, each measuring 25 feet wide by 600 feet long, have been marked onto bigger existing strips so that pilots can practice before the main summer season starts so as to keep their skills up to scratch without risk.

As Tom George, the Alaska regional representative for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, put it: "This way, if you don't get it right the first time, you're not going to screw things up."

The runway construction was undertaken by volunteer help from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Aviation Technology Program, the Ninety-Nines international organization of women pilots, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and the General Aviation Association. And the only expense to the airports was the cost of paint to mark the new strips.

"It's only costing the airport three buckets of paint," George said.

(pic: Keep practising)