Perspectives on Business and Economics, Vol. 40

88 solutions that offer the best opportunities for meaningful, long-term change: 1) the installation and revitalization of automated weather observing systems (AWOSs) and 2) outfitting all commercial planes in the state with both GPS and Automatic Dependent Surveillance– Broadcaster (ADS-B) in and out systems. Although these are logistically challenging and expensive endeavors, such changes would dramatically improve aviation safety and save lives. Background Alaska is vast, remote, and sparsely populated, thus posing challenges when it comes to the transportation of goods and people. Exacerbating these challenges, 82% of communities in Alaska, which amounts to around 75,000 people, most of whom live in remote indigenous villages, are situated beyond the reach of the road system (Binder, 2021). In such an environment, many people must look to the skies for an answer. As Bruce Landsberg, then president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Air Safety Foundation, stated, “Travel in Alaska would be impossible without aircraft, and it can’t all be in Boeing 737s going to 6,000-foot paved runways. Just isn’t possible” (Grier, 2010). The significance of small plane aviation therefore is clear: if people want to get around, they need planes. The ubiquity of both commercial operations and private, general aviation in Alaska is significant. Alaskan aviation has a special cultural significance for many families who for several generations have grown up surrounded by, and often supplied by, planes. Although Alaskans’ cultural and familial connections to aviation should not be forgotten, the economic footprint of aviation in Alaska cannot be ignored, as the commercial and private aviation sectors and related industries together amount to a whopping $3.8B (Aviation Appreciation Month, 2020). Aviation in Alaska, while playing an essential role in the lives of thousands, is also incredibly dangerous. On August 5, 2021, six people tragically died on a sightseeing tour over the Misty Fjords National Monument (Hollander, 2021), which brought the number of aviation accidents in Alaska since January 1, 2010, to a total of 53. Astoundingly, the number of deaths over the next five months through the end of 2021 soared by 44 to a total of 97. Even though these recent disasters and deaths are in and of themselves distressing, they may seem small by comparison with highways deaths across the country. Some comparative statistics can aid in understanding just how dangerous aviation is in Alaska. Between January 1, 2010, and the end of December 2021, there have been a total of 447 aviation accidents, accounting for 717 deaths throughout the whole US. Alaskan aviation deaths accounted for about 13.5% of the total aviation deaths in the US (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives, 2021). This absurdly high percentage of US aviation deaths becomes more shocking when the size of Alaska’s population is considered. The 2020 census estimates that Alaska’s approximately 728,900 residents constitute 0.22% of the total US population of nearly 333 million, yet producing well over 10% of aviation deaths. The above said, it might be assumed that the dire situation would have been noticed, acknowledged, and largely addressed. However, only two of these assumptions turn out to be true. The state and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have recognized and expressed concerns about aviation safety in Alaska, but at the time of this writing they have failed to implement any actual policy, infrastructure, or training-based solutions. Instead, the FAA has just issued suggestions for improvements that could and should be made, none of which is enforced or mandated. While these suggestions are pondered, however, Alaska’s aviation safety issue has been getting worse. A ProPublica investigation looked at fatalities from commercial air taxi, charter, and commuter flights, the most prominent and essential types of aviation in Alaska. ProPublica found that, “As deaths in crashes involving these operators have plummeted nationwide, Alaska’s share of fatalities in such crashes has increased from 26% in the early 2000s to 42% since 2016” (Sobel & Philip, 2021). Simply put, the aviation safety issue in Alaska is deteriorating, and at present little is being done to make progress. Risk Factors for Flying in Alaska What makes flying in Alaska so disproportionately dangerous? To answer this question, several key factors must be considered,