Re: Fracturing the Pacific

Date:         20 Aug 97 02:38:36 
From: (Mary Shafer)
Organization: NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards CA
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On 19 Aug 97 04:14:03 , said:

m> kls@ohare.Chicago.COM (Karl Swartz) wrote:

m> I've never been to Barrow, but I have been north of Fairbanks, and
m> I suspect that keeping the runway clear at Barrow would be quite an
m> undertaking.

I've been to Barrow.  That's Wiley Post International (I think)
Airport.  Post and Rogers took off from there on their last flight.
The airport runway and ramp were the only bit of paving around;
everything else was gravel.  There was no taxiway parallel to the
runway.  Instead, we back-taxied.

> Deeper routes pose a greater challenge.  Barrow, Alaska (BRW) is
> well- positioned, but the longest runway is only 6,500' long.
> Weather is likely a problem, though the presence of ILS helps.
> Assuming BRW is a suitable alternate, JFK-HKG is well within 180
> minute rules using FAI, BRW, UHMM, and SEL as alternates.

I believe the runway is weight-limited, by the way.  The ramp may be
even more limited.  If so, the airport would be effectively closed
until the heavy was flown out.  Then they'd bring in the 737s and
L-100s (civilian C-130s) to ferry the passengers out.  Somehow, I
don't see the pax as wildly happy about spending so much time in
Barrow, although it's a great place if you're a birder interested in
ducks and loons and it's summer.  Maybe the Inuit would do the blanket
dance, though.

m> The greatest challenge at BRW is likely to be keeping the runway
m> clear of snow. We can be confident that there will be a significant
m> number of days each year when BRW will not be available due to
m> weather. Will any airline schedule such a service if they don't
m> have the range to divert around BRW on such days? If (as is likely)
m> not then the route must be operated with equipment having the range
m> to fly farther south on a longer course against typically greater
m> headwinds (westbound).

Actually, the problem isn't snow.  It's fog.  Or so the Markair pilot
and the hotel manager both told me.  Apparently, the airport closes
quite frequently.  Barrow itself is right on the water and the airport
isn't very far inland.

We were there for the Summer Solstice, 21 June.  It was a warm summer
day, reaching a high of about 29 degF (-2 degC).  We flew in and out
OK, but the airport had been closed by fog for a day or two a couple
of days before we got there.

m> Also, in the unlikely event of a B777 or A330 diversion to BRW, the
m> aircraft might have to depart empty due to the short runway. Then
m> smaller aircraft would need to be brought in to collect the pax. I
m> don't think BRW has hotel rooms for 300 stranded pax. There might
m> be some old Army barracks available.  Sleeping outside would be
m> unadvisable.

There's one hotel in Barrow.  It has about a dozen rooms.  However,
the people used the oil money to build a very nice school complex and
I imagine that stranded passengers could be put up in the gym.
Another thing they did with the money was to put in a fabulous utility
tunnel system that everyone uses to get around in the winter (the
system helps keep the permafrost frozen, which is really why they put
it in).  No more getting lost in the white-outs getting around town.
And the mosquitos don't like tunnels, so the danger of anemia is
greatly reduced.

There are four places to eat--the snack bar at the airport, a Mexican
restaurant (serving the best Mexican food north of the Arctic circle),
a Chinese restaurant, and a diner.

> Dropping BRW requires a more significant diversion, but might not be
> untenable.

Based on my observations I do not believe that BRW is a viable
alternative.  It's a good L-100 and 737 airport, but that's pretty
much the limit.  The town also lacks the infrastructure to handle the
number of passengers carried B777s and A330s for any significant
length of time.  I imagine that they'd use it as an alternate one time
and then word of mouth would send passengers to any flight that would
guarantee not to stop in Barrow.

Mary Shafer               NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA
SR-71 Flying Qualities Lead Engineer     Of course I don't speak for NASA                               DoD #362 KotFR
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