Troubled Aleutians hovercraft fails at yet another assignment

Hoverlink LLC handout photo

The Aleutians East Borough has again decided a hovercraft is not the right solution for a transportation problem in its turbulent, remote waters. Pressed into service last year to ferry air passengers from the new Akutan airport across a strait to town, the hovercraft "is way too expensive to operate and has problems,"  borough manager Rick Gifford tells The Bristol Bay Times. Years before that, the hovercraft was rejected as a workaround for the borough in giving King Cove residents emergency access to an airport in Cold Bay. (That battle continues in the form of a proposed road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge between King Cove and Cold Bay.)


From The Bristol Bay Times:

The future [for Akutan] is a helicopter or landing craft. The two options are actively under consideration, and a decision should be made soon based on cost, he said. The hovercraft costs $3 million a year to operate and only brings in $500,000.

The borough hopes the replacement transport, helicopter or boat, will get the job done for $1 million a year, Gifford said. As it stands, a $2.5 million borough subsidy is too expensive, he said.

Gifford said the hovercraft has been grounded too often by "wild wind and water," according The Times. Read more: Akutan hovercraft is history

Meanwhile, authorities in the Bering Sea's equally weather-beaten Pribilofs are dreaming of ferry service linking the two main islands of St. Paul and St. George. The islands' main port is on St. Paul, and everything headed to St. George must be flown. Read more at KUCB.