Fairbanks is not even halfway across the state from where I live in Homer, but it would be a 12 hour drive in perfect conditions. Even people who attended this conference from Anchorage flew, and they had half that distance to travel.
Some things struck me as I made the flights from Homer to Anchorage to Fairbanks and then back to Anchorage and on to Kenai (I had a meeting there the day after the conference ended, and my daughter had a forensics tournament in town, so that worked out perfectly!):
- The cultural diversity in the Alaskan airports is amazing. I couldn't even begin to list all the different cultures I saw represented in each airport I was in, though there were many different Native Alaskan groups represented (Many people would think Native Alaskans are all Eskimos, but that is only one small slice of native population. Compare Alaskan Natives to what people call "North American Indians" and all the various tribes that make up that category).
- The lack of security is delightful. I actually had to show my ID with my ticket, which is not something all the small airlines require, but that was the extent of it. There were no embarrassing searches, shoe removal, x-ray machines, lines, etc. Coincidentally, as I was reading the paper in the Anchorage airport I came across an opinion piece stating that there are new tightening security regulations on the horizon for these small airlines. It would devastate this means of travel, since the cost of implementing all these security measures would jack up prices, and ultimately the locals would be the ones hurt by it. People from the Outside who can afford to get to Alaska can afford a rate hike, but people who count on these local flights to get them to doctor appointments, sports games, meetings, etc. would be hard hit.
- In one airport an employee casually pulled out a pocketknife and cut up a label before tossing it in the trash--something that most people would grab a pair of scissors to do the same job. I wondered if maybe he was breaking some rule, but he didn't seem to notice it, nor did the employee he was talking to!
- The airline and airport staff were the same on both my outgoing and returning flights, so there was a sense of humanity: Wow! I actually recognized them!
- The dress was decidedly casual: Carhartts, jeans, khakis, baseball caps and bandannas were the norm for men. I consider that "business attire" in Alaska!
- In one flight that wasn't full (the plane in the above picture) the stewardess moved some of the passengers to other seats to "balance the load!"
A fast turnaround surprised me in Fairbanks. When our flight finally came in the passengers disembarked, we loaded, and the plane was back in the air in less than 20 minutes! I picture the puddle jumper pilot job as something like a bus driver or taxi!
And to top off the strangeness of the above incident, the man who sat next to me on the plane from Fairbanks to Anchorage calmly opened a thermodynamics textbook (upsidedown!) and proceeded to take notes (upsidedown)! He read the book upsidedown the entire hour long flight! Hm. It makes me think maybe I'm just too normal!!