Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Juneau technology OK'd for other airlines

JUNEAU -Technology that Alaska Airlines developed to improve runway landings in Juneau is now available to all airlines operating from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C.

The Federal Aviation Administration previously allowed Alaska Airlines on special conditions to use RNP, or Required Navigation Performance, when landing in Washington, D.C. But on Tuesday, the regulatory body made it public for all airlines.

Rather than relying on ground-based navigational aids, an RNP-guided approach uses a combination of onboard navigation technology and the Global Positioning System satellite network. The advantage is that it tailors flight paths to the runway, said Kevin Finan, vice president of Alaska Airlines flight operations.

In 1996, Alaska implemented the technology so that flights landing in Juneau could fly at a much lower altitude and with less visibility, Finan said.

Landing in Juneau is problematic because of the land and water barriers and the weather, Finan said. Reagan National presents similar problems with the Washington Monument and no-fly zones over the White House, he added.

Alaska Airlines has been using RNP for other communities in Southeast Alaska and three destinations in the contiguous United States.

The technology allows Alaska to land 600 flights in Juneau per year that would have been diverted or canceled because of unfavorable conditions, company spokeswoman Amanda Tobin said.

Young says domestic spying was likely OK

ANCHORAGE - Domestic surveillance ordered by President Bush after Sept. 11, 2001, was probably appropriate, according to U.S. Rep. Don Young.

The Alaska Republican, however, said he looked forward to hearings to find out who the targets were.

"If it's who I think it was, it's probably totally justified," he said. "It's probably illegal (residents) that have terrorist connections."

Young has harshly criticized the Patriot Act. Congress passed the terror-fighting law as a rash response to the 2001 attacks, he said.

"I truly don't believe that you need any more laws that will affect the privacy of individuals," he said, in explaining why he hopes the Patriot Act is not renewed.

Law enforcement has the laws it needs to go after potential terrorists, he said.

Young said he was not as concerned about the revelation that Bush ordered a secret eavesdropping program in the United States.

He distinguished that program from the Patriot Act, which he said could be used against anybody.

He said the administration notified leaders in Congress and members of the intelligence committees.

"Like they said, he did everything legally," Young said. "It was a cooperation between the Congress and the executive branch."

Death inquiry turns up marijuana grow

ANCHORAGE - Alaska State Troopers say a 40-year-old man apparently died in his home outside Talkeetna and their investigation turned up another surprise - 1,000 fully grown marijuana plants in the man's garage and basement.

Troopers withheld the man's identity and details of his death until his family could be notified.

Troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson said authorities, including the Alaska Bureau of Investigation, had classified the man's death as "accidental."

The man lived alone, Wilkinson said, and no witnesses to his death were being sought.

"The body was transported to Anchorage for an autopsy," Wilkinson said. "Foul play is not suspected. Initial investigation indicates the cause was most likely accidental."

The man's brother contacted troopers Sunday after not hearing from the man since Thursday night.

Two Talkeetna-based troopers drove to the man's home at Montana Creek Road near Mile 96 Parks Highway and discovered his remains.

A further search of the house found the basement and garage filled with about 1,000 marijuana plants.

Police routinely assign a street value of $2,000 to a fully grown marijuana plant. Recovering 1,000 live plants was a major haul in Alaska.

Democrats question 2004 vote results

ANCHORAGE - Official results from the 2004 general election are riddled with mistakes and discrepancies, according to the Alaska Democratic Party.

The results are impossible for the public to easily read and should be corrected as soon as possible, party officials said.

When district-by-district vote counts were totaled, President Bush received 292,267 votes, according to an analysis by the Democrats. But his official total was 190,889, a difference of more than 100,000 votes.

"The numbers just do not add up, and we'd like to get to the bottom of why," said Kay Brown, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party and a former legislator.

The Democratic Party on Monday filed a request with the state Division of Elections for the electronic data file of voting results, the record of who voted in the 2004 general election, and paper results from machines used in early voting.

Elections officials dispute that vote results published on the state's Web site have mistakes. However, the data are collected and reported in ways that the average person cannot make sense of without help, officials acknowledged.

By the 2006 elections, the state should have a better vote reporting system in place, Whitney Brewster said. She took over as Elections Division director Nov. 1.

"The information is accurate. It is just not being reported in the form the Democratic Party would prefer," Brewster said.

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