Plane service returns to isolated island

Posted: Sunday, February 07, 2010

DIOMEDE - Regular plane service has returned to a tiny Bering Strait village.

Fixed-wing planes began landing last week on a makeshift runway of flat sea ice outside Diomede, on a small island less than three miles from Russia.

The Ingalikmiut Eskimo village became stranded for several months last year when the company that provides mail service by helicopter stopped taking passengers to and from the island. The ice wasn't thick enough to build a runway last year.

The village is so isolated that in November, when many of the 130 residents were stricken with flu-like symptoms, the Alaska Army National Guard stepped in with a Black Hawk helicopter to transport a medical team from Nome 135 miles away.

Passenger service by mail helicopter resumed in December.

To prevent the island from becoming marooned again, Sen. Mark Begich has suggested the federal government and the state split the cost of subsidizing passenger helicopter flights to the village.

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