Birchwood Airport Changing Hands from State to City
The state-owned Birchwood Airport in Chugiak could become property of the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA). The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) is discussing the potential transfer, in order to better address local needs.
Attention for a Suburban Airport
The airstrip at Birchwood has been owned and operated by the DOT&PF since 1949, shortly after the US Army transferred it. On average, more than 200 operations a day take place on two paved and lighted runways at this non-towered airport.
Transferring the airport is an opportunity to have more input from general aviation stakeholders who use it the most. “Balancing the needs of a specific airport against the other 234 State-owned airports often leaves some needs unaddressed. Local control allows a community, like the MOA, to give an airport the priority it needs to fully serve and grow the community,” says Deputy Transportation Commissioner John Binder.
The DOT&PF Division of Statewide Aviation, which oversees 235 publicly owned airports, approached the MOA to discuss if a locally controlled Birchwood Airport would benefit the community and the Alaskan aviation system. “With 82 percent of those airports living off the road system, we focus a lot on the airports that are the only transportation link for a community. With so much focus on rural Alaska, Birchwood will not receive the same attention from State’s limited staff to explore the future potential of the airfield. The Municipality of Anchorage is better postured to not only meet the needs of the airport, but they better understand the local culture and desires of the flying community at the airport,” says Division Operations Manager Troy Larue.
The MOA is moving forward with a thorough examination of what the operation of Birchwood would entail. As far as a timeline, Larue says, “We feel it will take around eighteen months of work… This time frame will provide enough time to explore all aspects of the effort before the final transfer is completed.”
“The Birchwood Airport is a unique and cherished part of the Anchorage community that enhances our aviation economy and way of life,” says Mayor Dave Bronson. “I want to thank the DOT&PF for bringing this opportunity to us and look forward to seeing the project to completion. By assuming ownership, we will be able to retain the local characteristics of Birchwood and give the airport the attention it deserves.”
A co-sponsor agreement is currently being drafted that, once finalized, will allow both parties to operate the airport while the transfer discussions take place.
This year the Alaska Railroad is celebrating 100 years of transportation people and cargo around Alaska. While the railroad is one of the states oldest transporters, it certainly isn’t the only one, and in this issue of Alaska Business we also check in on the Marine Highway, Span Alaska, and the White Pass & Yukon Route. For those interested in Southeast, our focus on that region provides updates on Kensington Mine, Tongass FCU, the troll fishery, and Juneau’s growing landfill.