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Tom Madsen Airport Will Soon Welcome A New Pair Of Wings To Its Runway

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Hope McKenney/KUCB
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Ravn Alaska announced this week that it's upgrading its fleet to offer nonstop flights between Anchorage and Unalaska. 

The regional airline's DeHavilland Dash 8-300 aircraft isn't much different from the current 100 series that seat around 30 passengers and fly between Anchorage and Unalaska daily, according to Ravn Alaska CEO Rob McKinney. The new model has a larger fuel tank and can seat about 50 passengers. Most importantly, though, McKinney says it has longer range. 

"The big advantage is it has extended range tanks," he said. "So there'll be no more fuel stops on the way to Unalaska. So no matter what the winds are doing, we'll be able to go from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor nonstop, all the time." 

McKinney says the Dash 8-300 has roughly the same safety margin as the current fleet of Dash 8-100s, meaning it doesn't need extra runway for take offs or landings. 

"That's the beauty of it," he said. "It's a little bit larger, a little bit more speed, consistently nonstop, but still has the same margin of safety." 

In October of 2019, a Saab 2000 plane operated by Ravn Alaska's predecessor crashed while landing at Unalaska's airport, killing one passenger and injuring more than a dozen others.

The island has since been without access to regularly scheduled, consistently nonstop commercial air service.

Even after Ravn returned with commercial service on its DeHavilland Dash 8-100 aircraft late last year, passengers couldn't bank on nonstop trips to Anchorage, as the 100 series often require a stop for refueling along the way.

McKinney said he thinks the new Dash 8-300 aircraft will be a great fit for island residents.

"One of the things that we heard consistently, that people liked about the [Saab 2000] — despite the accident that it had — was that it was faster, and it could always make it nonstop," he said. "So even from the beginning of the startup, we were looking for a solution that really checked all the boxes." 

 

Ravn Alaska has been working on adding the 300 series to its fleet since about December, shortly after the airline began offering scheduled service to the island, according to McKinney.

 

The company said the new Dash 8 series will arrive in early August. For now, the aircraft will only serve Unalaska and the Aleutian area, and fares will remain unchanged, McKinney said. 

 

Correction: This story previously misstated the amount of time Unalaska had been without access to regularly scheduled, consistently nonstop commercial air service since the fatal crash in October of 2019.

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