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Angoon may get a place for planes to land, not just splash down.
With 650 people, Angoon is the largest community in Southeast without access to an airport, said Verne Skagerberg, airport planner for the state Department of Transportation.
That's partly by choice. DOT planned to put an airport in years ago, and was stalled when Angoon residents voted against it. At the time residents were concerned about where the airport would be and who would own it, said Mayor Floyd Kookesh.
But the community has changed, he said.
``As time went by we eventually realized that we needed an airport,'' Kookesh said. ``Especially with the cost of flying going up.''
In 1998 a new vote favored an airport, so DOT is making plans again. A $350,000 federal grant will pay for planners to determine how large an airport is needed and where it could go.
Angoon, about 60 miles south of Juneau on Admiralty Island, has about 3,500 acres on the Angoon Peninsula. If some of that land is suitable for an airport it could be built in several years. If not, officials would have to negotiate an agreement with the Forest Service to put an airport in the Admiralty Island National Monument, which surrounds Angoon. That could take decades, Kookesh said.
``Then we might have to go to the Forest Service and get on both knees and beg,'' Kookesh said. ``That monument status puts extra problems in.''
Until an airport is built, Angoon will continue to rely on a single float dock, where Wings of Alaska lands and takes off three times a day.
``Certainly a land-based airport can be more reliable in some circumstances,'' said Skagerberg. ``It provides the potential for more consistent service.''
A landing strip would allow for cheaper tickets to Angoon, currently $82 one way, said Matt Croasmun, a Wings of Alaska employee in Angoon. Floatplanes are more expensive to use and maintain than wheeled planes, because of the cost of the floats, Croasmun said.
``It would bring fare costs down, because that would allow us to use wheeled planes,'' Croasmun said. ``That would open the way for anybody to come in.''
Currently only Wings of Alaska provides regularly scheduled service to Angoon, though Ward Air and other air services offer chartered flights, said Croasmun. The competition is limited because only floatplanes can land there, he said.
Kookesh looks forward to freight costs also dropping if air service becomes more competitive.