Akutan Airport is an airport located in Alaska, on the uninhabited island of Akun, six miles from the community of Akutan. Akutan Island, with a population of 1000 people, all living in the town of Akutan, is a rugged island, even by the standards of the Aleutian Islands, and has no place for ground-based planes to land. Despite being the home to only 1000 people, it is also the home of an important seafood processing plant. Since there had to be some way to access the island, the solution was to build an airport on the adjacent, slightly flatter Akun Island, and then move the passengers to Akutan by helicopter.

Prior to 2013, service to Akutan Island was by flying boat, specifically the Grumman Goose, a flying boat that was designed in the 1930s and has remained in service since that time. Akutan has a sizable and well-sheltered harbor, so this worked fine. But since the Grumman Goose is aging, an alternative was planned: a land-based airplane, landing on an adjacent island, and then connected via hovercraft or Bell 206 helicopter to Akutan.

To say this is an unwieldy system is an understatement. The airport, built on an uninhabited island, cost around 77 million dollars to build. The two airports, subsidized by the Essential Air Service program, with a combined subsidy of 1.9 million dollars per year. The heliport in Akutan is the only heliport that is covered by Essential Air Service in the United States. The airport is also vulnerable to strong weather, something that is quite common in the Aleutian Islands. It is an expensive and complicated solution of how to serve a small community. However, for various reasons, this type of development is common in Alaska (if not to this extent). For political reasons, funding small communities' infrastructure projects is a top priority for Alaskan politicians, whatever their stated ideology is. There are also some objective reasons why the airport is more useful than its current use: it provides another base for Coast Guard aircraft if needed, as well as to other government agencies. It also could provide an emergency runway for at least some of the planes that pass through this air corridor. So despite the complications and expense, the Akutan Airport does make sense in context.

As a final note, it was somewhat difficult to find information about this airport, starting with the fact that the FAA refers to both the airplane runway on Akun, and the heliport on Akutan, as "Akutan Airport", seemingly considering them one entity despite their different locations. Google maps doesn't seem to have aerial photos of the Akutan airport on Akun.


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