The Value of an Airport: Lake Hood Seaplane Base

Float planes line the shore at Lake Hood, in Anchorage, AK

Float planes line the shore at Lake Hood, in Anchorage, AK

Those of us lucky enough to fly airplanes know the value of an airport: priceless!  Some of our non-aviation friends and neighbors may not have the same warm, fuzzy feeling.  Across the country  population centers have expanded, and started to encroach on our airports—even though the airport has been there decades ahead of the subdivisions, schools, and other community infrastructure.  One of the tools the aviation community uses to help communicate the value an airport brings to the community is to quantify its economic benefits.  This was recently done for the seaplane base at Lake Hood.  And the numbers are impressive!

Based on a September, 2013 study, the Lake Hood Seaplane Base (LHD) is responsible for an overall economic impact estimated at $42 million for 2012.  Employment associated with the facility is estimated at 230 jobs during the same time period.  With approaching 800 aircraft based at the facility, Lake Hood not only supports a world-class crop of seaplanes, the 2,200 gravel runway is heavily used by a host of wheel planes. During the winter, many of the aircraft trade wheels and floats for skis, making good use of the lake surface after the water is firmly frozen.

Next time you look at the Lake Hood airport diagram, think "230 jobs and $42 million economic impact."

Next time you look at the Lake Hood airport diagram, think “230 jobs and $42 million economic impact.”

Like many other general aviation airports, Lake Hood is home to a variety of aviation related businesses: air taxis that take residents and tourists to remote locations, maintenance and repair facilities, flight schools, etc.  Government agencies base aircraft and maintenance facilities at LHD (state and federal), in addition to the Civil Air Patrol. Other aviation related tenants include the Alaska Airmen’s Association and the Alaska Aviation Museum.  Seasonally, the Iditarod Air Force uses the lake as a base of operations in support of the famous 1,049 mile race to Nome.

The recently released report, authored by the McDowell Group, acknowledges that there are additional economic benefits not captured in their study. Jobs and income associated with remote businesses that rely on Lake Hood operations are not included in their estimates.  The numbers also don’t take into account the jobs that result from capital projects, funded principally by the FAA. Those projects totaled almost $35 million over the past twenty years or so.  There were more than a few jobs and supplies purchased to make those improvements happen!

So in addition to the benefit we pilots get either from keeping our airplane at Lake Hood, or flying in for business or pleasure, the base adds a significant number of jobs and dollars to the economy of the local area. Don’t hesitate to point that out to your non-aviation friends and neighbors when they ask how the airport might matter to them.

Seaplane pilots need to speak up to preserve access in Whitehorse

Seaplane base at Whitehorse on Schwatka Lake, a section of the Yukon River.

Seaplane base at Whitehorse on Schwatka Lake, a section of the Yukon River.

Seaplane pilots who fly to and from Alaska through Canada need to speak up if they want to continue to use Schwatka Lake, the seaplane base at Whitehorse, Yukon Territories.  While the facility directory indicates there are tiedowns and fuel available, pilots often have a difficult time getting access to either one.

The City of Whitehorse is conducting an Area Plan for Schwatka Lake that will impact the future of the lake for aviation as well as marine users.  Planners are conducting an online survey, which only runs through November 5th.  Pilots who have, or plan to use this facility need to speak up, to counter non-aviation interests.

The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association’s Yukon Chapter is asking Alaskan and other U.S. seaplane pilots to participate in the survey to help the planners understand the importance of this facility—the only suitable float plane lake in the city.  COPA Yukon Chapter Director Jean-Michel Sauve says that support from pilots outside Whitehorse is critical to helping them explain the value of the seaplane base to pilots transiting along the Alaska Highway.  Sauve was one of the organizers of the highly successful Atlin Flyin in 2012, which attracted pilots from across Canada, Alaska and even a few western US states.  If seaplane pilots need more information on the Whitehorse Seaplane Base, they may contact him directly.

Please take the survey today to help protect this seaplane facility!