Ketchikan (International) Airport

Ketchikan, Alaska is not a large town, with perhaps 8 or 9 thousand within the city itself with another 7 thousand living outside it but on the same island.  Though you have to take a boat or plane to reach Ketchikan (as you cannot drive there by car), you can imagine that the airport at Ketchikan is not all that big.

As I mentioned in my prior post, I’ve been to Ketchikan twice.  During my visit this June, our tour guide pointed out that the locals get to brag that their airport is an “international”  airport.  The story of the “international” designation dates back to September 11, 2001, the day 4 commercial passenger jets were hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in the Virginia suburbs of DC, and a farm field in Pennsylvania.

All planes were ordered to be grounded across the USA and Canada that day.  International flights bound for the USA that day were re-routed to Canada.  A Canadian commercial passenger jet en-route between two Canadian locations happened to be closer to Ketchikan’s airport, so when the plane was ordered to be grounded, the plane was told to land in Ketchikan.  The pilot looked down at the relatively short runway in relation to the size of the aircraft he was flying.  Reportedly, his reaction was, “I have to land THIS on THAT????”  The plane landed safely.  That’s the story of Ketchikan’s first international flight arriving and departing from their humble airport.

Since that time, the runway has been lengthened for purposes of homeland security in case jets have to make emergency landings there in the future.

The Ketchikan airport is not located on the island that the city of Ketchikan is on.  Instead, the airport is located on an island populated by 50 persons, but the airport’s island is close to Ketchikan’s island.  There is just a narrow channel of water separating the two islands.  People going back and forth between the airport and Ketchikan must take a ferry across that channel.  There once was some talk of building a bridge to link the two islands, but that idea was shot down, as that proposed bridge was the infamous “bridge to nowhere.”

Perhaps that story might offer a slight idea of why certain politicians might have been for the bridge before they were against the bridge.

One Response to “Ketchikan (International) Airport”

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