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Fri, Jul 11, 2014

Federal, State Authorities Suspend Alaskan Helicopter Flights

Funding For Service To Little Diomede Island Expired June 30

Residents of Alaska's Little Diomede Island, which is just two miles east of Russia's Big Diomede Island (yes, they can see Russia from there), have lost their weekly helicopter service to the mainland, at least temporarily.

The problem is that funding from both the U.S. DOT and the State of Alaska are used to subsidize the flights, which are operated by Erickson Helicopters. That funding ran out June 30, and according to a report in The Alaska Dispatch, while both entities have restored the funding, it did not come in enough time to prevent an interruption of service.

The service costs $337,520 per year, which is split by the DOT and the state of Alaska. The money is disbursed to Erickson through Kawerak Inc., a nonprofit group run by the Bering Straits Native Association.

While it is hoped that the service will resume quickly, there is currently no timeline for that to happen. Kawerak community service vice president Pearl Mikulski told the paper that she has been told that the money is on the way, but it has not yet been electronically transferred. “I would think it would happen soon, within the week, because they realize people are waiting," she said.

(Diomede Islands pictured center in NASA satellite photo. Little Diomede Island is on the right)

FMI: www.dot.gov, http://w3.legis.state.ak.us/

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