In a state full of remote places, Little Diomede is among the most isolated. A tiny island 135 miles from Nome and a mere 2.5 miles from the Russian island of Big Diomede, Little Diomede has long struggled to connect itself to the rest of the world. Now, the community of about 100 people will take a step in that direction as helicopters will soon shuttle passengers on regularly scheduled service between the mainland and the rocky little island in the Bering Strait.
Previously, residents of Diomede had to hope that they could hitch a ride on the once-weekly mail delivery flights to and from Nome -- an iffy proposition, since the amount of mail could prevent more than one passenger from tagging along.
But thanks to $200,000 written into the state’s budget and matched by a federal subsidy program called Essential Air Service (EAS) -- which provides government dollars for air service providers to maintain regular passenger service to qualifying remote communities -- that’s about to change.
EAS already subsidizes travel to 43 Alaska communities, to a total tune of more than $14 million. Some, like Icy Bay and Minto, get less than $50,000 annually. Others, like Yakutat and Cordova, see more than $2 million to ensure that the communities’ residents can come and go at regular intervals.
But Diomede has its own unique challenge, too: the community boasts a runway only a few months out of the year, carved into the sea ice of the frigid Bering Strait. The rest of the time, the community relies on helicopters for their goods from the outside world.
Read more about Diomede's hopes for better air travel, here.