Perspectives on Business and Economics, Vol. 40

89 including Alaska’s challenging geography and weather, a lack of information gathering and communication equipment, and ambiguity surrounding proper routes and geographic information. Alaska possesses a unique geographic and meteorological situation. This massive state is mountainous and subject to rocky terrain, resulting from intense seismic activity. The state also regularly experiences extreme weather phenomena like severe fog, winter storms, and brutal rainstorms. When combined, these circumstances prove overwhelmingly challenging for any pilot, however experienced. Alaska’s imposing mountains are difficult to navigate around and through because of numerous sudden twists and turns in the landscape, requiring sudden drops and ascents in relative aircraft altitude. Pilots easily can become disoriented and confused, causing them to have a significantly greater risk of crashing into a suddenly appearing rock formation or side of a mountain. On top of that, pilots regularly encounter violent and disruptive weather like storms, rain, and fog. Weather like this rarely is the sole reason for accidents, but it has a negative impact on aviation safety by adding to pilots’ stress and workload as they attempt to navigate this tough terrain and by making landings, even those at well-maintained airports, more challenging (Phelps, 2010). Beyond the routine challenges of terrain and poor weather, the process of gathering information about topography and weather (including updates about incoming storms, air pressure, and wind speeds), the communication and availability of these data, and the accuracy of the information leave much to be desired. The inadequate number of weather-monitoring stations whose data are available to pilots hampers the gathering and distribution of weather information. In the Lower 48, weather data often are taken for granted, and for good reason: having accurate, timely, and clear weather data is essential for anyone who seeks to fly. In Alaska, this information is very much a privilege, with the small amounts of data that are available just covering the busiest and most populous parts of the state. Given that most pilots fly far off the road systems and away from population hubs, they often are left to work with small in-plane radars, which are expensive and heavy, thus making them rare. Pilots therefore must rely on incomplete weather information or, as a last resort, simply their own eyes and senses (Maguire, 2021). Pilots having inaccurate weather data is not the only information- and communication-related problem with aviation in Alaska. Another glaring issue is the unreliability and inaccuracy of the FAA’s aeronautical sectional charts, essentially the maps that pilots use to understand the airspace around them and along their routes. Some of the information these sectional charts show includes the classification of different airspaces, the locations of regular hazards, where flight paths head and cross, and the locations of natural hazards and features. Even though these charts usually are a pilot’s best friend, they regularly prove less than helpful in Alaska because many of these charts have little information, often are incomplete, and generally are out of date or even inaccurate. The issue is so bad that in 2012 most map data used were already more than 50 years old (Alaska Department…, 2012). This means that Alaskan pilots have significantly less information than they need to perform their duties safely, at the same time having no reliable source to turn to for proper guidance. As a result of this glaring hole in knowledge, pilots frequently are left on their own to decide the best course of action or flight path to follow when attempting to navigate tough terrain. Combined with the lack of reliable weather data, this means that pilots often are flying with a fraction of the geographic and mapping data that they need to navigate the state and its mountain passes safely (Halter, 2017). In addition, a lack of surveillance and aircraft tracking infrastructure leads to a significant decrease in pilot situational awareness in two ways. First, there is little ground support for pilots from air traffic controllers (ATCs). The cause is obvious: there are few ATCs in Alaska. As a result of this lack of ATCs, most pilots work independently to coordinate their own takeoffs and landings, and they might never radio in to let someone know where they are going. Furthermore, because there are few people capable of communicating with these pilots from the ground, pilots may have little idea what conditions are like on the ground, especially on the runway. For instance, if a runway