Many people are aware that there has been a push to close Willow Lake to seaplanes. These attempts have failed so far but now DOT has decided to close it to ski operations. Willow lake has allways been a popular ski plane lake and in the spring when the snow is gone from the airport many people move to Willow Lake for spring bear hunting. Willow Lake will now be the only lake in the Mat-Su Valley closed to ski planes, but it is the only lake owned by DOT that is managed for aircraft operations. That is hard to believe but true. Willow Lake is also part of Willow Airport and recieves money from the FAA for all the land it manages including the lake. Something is wrong here.
As for the part 77 surfaces. These are slopes and clearances that are used at airports and very few lakes have these clearances. Willow Lake does not have part 77 surfaces for float operations either. All you have to do is read between the lines and you will see that when the lake is closed for ski operations because of part 77 surfaces it will soon be closed for floats also.
If Willow Lake can be closed how many other Lakes can be closed for the same reason? How many air strips can be closed? This is only the beginning if we let this happen Alaska will become just like the lower 48 where you can only land at airports. If you care about aviation in Alaska help us fight this closure.
I am a commercial operator that leased airport ground off of DOT that was reserved for a commercial carrier only. I was assured Willow Lake would never be closed to summer or winter operations. I have been operating there since 1997 and built a large hanger. I am now out of business in the winter since you can not cross the highway on streight skis. I never thought that the state of Alaska would ever be against aviation but it seems they are leaning that way.
I am enclosing the letter from DOT so everyone will know where to send letters to. Thanks
Thank you for your email. As you know the Willow Winter Carnival organizers recently indicated they plan to hold various recreational events on the lake during the carnival weekends, and advocated constructing an ice airstrip for a winter fly-in during this event. Their application, in combination with your stated intent to build an ice runway on the lake, has prompted us to look into your authority to erect an ice airstrip.
We spoke with the FAA regarding of winter operations on the lake, and it is their recommendation that for clarity’s sake we close the lake for winter operations and update the Supplement and Master Record to reflect its closed status during the winter. Their primary concern is that a ski strip erected on the lake would fall under FAA-regulated Part 77 airspace rules, and airport compliance would take some time to establish. This would include a survey of threshold ends, elevations and coordinates. DOT&PF is not prepared to establish such compliance at this time. However you could apply with the FAA by submitting a FAA Form 7480-1 “Notice of Landing Area Proposal” for a temporary strip to be used in the winter.
Closing the lake for the winter season, when access across the ice is easiest for the public, will help ensure conflicts are minimized and promote a safer environment. We believe this is a necessary safety measure for the current season given the lake’s location in the center of Willow and the high demands for the lake during the winter months. We will be researching and developing a winter use policy for the lake and will consider the possibility of opening an ice airstrip, provided it can be made FAA compliant, in the future.
The Willow Airport is maintained to accommodate ski operations during the winter; therefore the land based airport provides a location for your business to operate in winter months.
Aviation Safety & Security Officer
State of Alaska DOT
Central Region Airports