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Study examines economics of aviation

By Kirsten Swann 10:50 AM November 19, 2013

Lake Hood Seaplane Base generates hundreds of jobs, millions of dollars annually

ANCHORAGE – The world’s largest seaplane base is a multimillion-dollar economic engine for Anchorage and the surrounding region, a new report concluded.

The Lake Hood Seaplane Base economic impact study was commissioned by the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. McDowell Group researchers interviewed more than two dozen Lake Hood businesses, agencies and other organizations over the course of the study.

They found the seaplane base accounts for 230 jobs and $42 million in economic impact.

“I really didn’t have an idea precisely how big it would be,” said Tim Coons, an airport operations specialist who’s worked at Lake Hood for about a year.

Coons said the economic study laid the groundwork for a master plan update; a process set to begin next year. Besides millions of dollars in direct economic impact through jobs and money spent at the West Anchorage seaplane base, the report also found about $17 million in indirect spending generated by the base.

The seaplane base is the busiest in the world: In 2012, 67,000 planes took off from Lake Hood, which boasts 500 plane tie-downs and 500 floatplane slips. The report found the majority of the 23,000 tourists who took flightseeing trips last year departed from Lake Hood.

The base is so popular, Coons said, there are hundreds of pilots on the waiting list to secure a floatplane slip at the airport. Those at the top of the list have been waiting for ten years, he said.

It could be worth the wait.

Alaskan aviation is a $3.5 billion industry, the report stated. It accounts for 10 percent of employment statewide, and Lake Hood Seaplane Base plays a vital role, doing more aviation-linked business than many regional hubs and major tourist destinations around Alaska. One example: The base generates roughly seven times more economic activity than the Talkeetna airport, “the aviation gateway to Denali National Park.”

Coons said the numbers would all be carefully considered as the airport considered plans for growth over the coming years. Whether they chose to expand Lake Hood or optimize existing facilities, he said the McDowell Group study emphasized the importance of the bustling base to Anchorage’s economy.

“General aviation in particular is really part of the lifeblood of Alaska,” Coons said. “It’s definitely not something to trifle with.”

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