Perspectives on Business and Economics, Vol. 40

Perspectives on Business and Economics, Vol. 40, 2022 87 Introduction On October 16, 1972, a small airplane carrying four passengers departed Anchorage for Juneau. After waiting at the Juneau airport far longer than expected, the people who had come to pick up these passengers became worried. When it became clear that the plane was not coming, a major search and rescue effort began, lasting 39 days before being suspended and the passengers declared dead. While tragic, this event was hardly a unique occurrence in Alaska and, in fact, gained national attention only because of who the passengers were. Among the dead were Congressman Nick Begich of Alaska and House Majority Leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana, the former heading to his own re-election campaign event. Begich’s death resulted in a runoff election for the now vacant seat, ultimately leading to the election of Congressman Don Young, who would go on to serve as Alaska’s congressman for 49 years (Kleefeld, 2010). This story sounds remarkable, but the sad reality is that if it were not for the high-profile casualties, this accident would have simply been another in a long line of deadly small aircraft crashes in Alaska. Alaskans rely heavily on small planes to transport goods and people throughout a vast area where a sizable number of people live off the road system. Alaska is also the single most dangerous place in the United States to fly small aircraft. Sudden extreme weather events, the abundance of dangerous mountain passes, a lack of critical infrastructure both on the ground and in the planes, and a lack of information available to pilots all contribute to the problem. Despite accidents being a persistent and devastating problem for Alaska, small planes are essential for life in many parts of Alaska, and there are things that can be done to make Alaskan aviation safer for all. This article lays out the principal risk factors contributing to the problems and dangers facing Alaska aviation as well as a variety of proposed solutions and the challenges that so far have halted their implementation. Finally, I discuss two DEADLY SKIES: AVIATION IN ALASKA Griffin Alexander Fox Alaska relies on small aircraft to move both people and essential goods and services around the vast state. Despite aviation’s importance and ubiquity, it is an incredibly risky endeavor. Alaska is one of the most dangerous states to fly in, with a disproportionately high percentage of crashes and deaths. This article explores the challenges of Alaskan aviation and what can be done to improve safety and save lives.