FAIRBANKS -- Anchorage's airport planners are considering Fairbanks as a possible outlet for the expected growth in air cargo volume in Alaska's largest city.
Anchorage handles the second-highest volume of cargo among airports in the U.S. But continued growth between North America and Asia is expected to outstrip capacity at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in the future, which could mean more delays.
Planners at the state's largest commercial airport released a draft plan recently for addressing that growth, with one of the alternatives being to send many of those additional cargo planes to Fairbanks to ease congestion in Anchorage while keeping those flights in Alaska, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Fairbanks currently serves as an alternate airport for Anchorage-bound cargo planes occasionally rerouted for weather or congestion.
The plan would provide capacity for another 23,000 flights to Anchorage before Fairbanks was needed as a secondary destination. Anchorage Airport Manager John Parrott said that scenario would probably be at least several years away.
The Fairbanks International Airport would be designated for some "gas-n-go" cargo flights that don't transfer or offload cargo before departing.
"From Fairbanks' perspective, that's an awesome alternative," said Fairbanks International Airport spokeswoman Angie Spear. "It leverages the system and uses both airports without new construction."
Changes required for the Fairbanks alternative would be the least expensive for Anchorage, costing roughly $47 million. That doesn't include airport improvements in Fairbanks.
But there are some complications with that option, including that airlines can't be forced to land at a specific airport. Parrott said such a move would likely require incentives, since airlines could also opt for stopovers in places like Vancouver, British Columbia.
Parrott said the master plan for the Anchorage airport could be finalized by early next year. Fairbanks, which is also in the midst of planning, hopes to have its master plan completed next summer.