Scheduled Air Service Company Utilizes New IFR Technology In Southeast Alaska

By Southeast Alaska's Island News staff

Southeast Alaskas Island News of Thorne Bay, Alaska

Island Air Express, based on Prince of Wales Island, began its 2010 scheduled IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) service between Klawock, Sitka, & Ketchikan on May 1st. Providing a new concept for air travel in Southern Southeast Alaska, Island Air Express is the only com-pany based in this region that is FAA certified to provide scheduled air transportation service utilizing the FAA developed Capstone IFR infrastructure. The Capstone IFR program was implemented in Southeast Alaska in 2002 but has not been utilized by many operators up to this point. The system employs Synthetic Vision technology to deliver never-before-possible situational awareness and ground-breaking automated flight management capabilities. The system combines advanced "Heads Up Display" symbology with real-time forward-looking 3-D terrain to create a primary flight display with capabilities unmatched by any other product in the world. The result is tremendously enhanced awareness, unprecedented safety, and dramatically reduced pilot workload. Additionally, the system will overlay real time traffic and weather on both screens & is able to receive text forecasts, pilot reports, & current weather conditions for any aviation reporting location.

IFR is a very common method of flying in just about every corner of the world, but has not been very common in Southeast Alaska due to the lack of ground based Nav aids and available airports, as well as the cost to acquire aircraft that can safely fly IFR using the Capstone system. But with the availability of the FAA implemented 'Capstone Program" and proven reliability of GPS (Global Positioning System), the FAA has authorized special approaches and routes throughout southeast Alaska available only to operators that have the IFR version of the "Synthetic Navigation System" installed in their aircraft and have met the stringent maintenance and pilot training required. The capstone system eliminates the need for the traditional land based Nav aids of the past and makes IFR flight a safe, realistic option to operators in the Southeast Alaska region There are only 3 other operators in southeast that have met the FAA requirements to operate aircraft IFR using this special system; 2 based in Juneau, one based in Sitka, and now Island Air Express based in Klawock on Prince of Wales Island.

"We truly understand the challenges of traveling to and from the Island (especially in the winter) as we have personally faced these challenges for the past two decades just like everyone else. We are introducing a level of service that will substantially increase the reliability rate of air transportation to and from the Island using modern aircraft with state-of-the art navigation systems. This type of service (IFR) is rare in Southeast Alaska due to the type of aircraft most operators currently use which don't meet the requirements for IFR flight nor were ever intended to fly IFR.

The largest limiting factor for operators wanting to upgrade to this type of IFR service is the cost. Our Caravan, as equipped with the upgraded jet-prop engine, de-icing system, and synthetic flight vision navigation system, will cost an operator about five times what a De Havilland Beaver will. It is understandably hard for an operator who has successfully flown Beavers for many years to commit to purchasing one Caravan at a cost of 5 additional Beavers. In Island Air's case, we never intended to compete with other existing operations; there isn't a need for another company to be added to the mix of VFR Beavers or Otters in this market area. We wanted to break away from the typical "if it isn't broken don't fix it" standard of air transportation, which has been the norm for many decades now. We feel it's time to offer a new concept and finally provide passengers with a superior level of reliable scheduled air transportation even during times of inclement weather. The only major factors that will prevent our ability to operate scheduled flights on a reliable basis will be extreme wind conditions & ground fog. We feel we have chosen the right aircraft for the right job and are excited to bring an improved level of service to Island travelers on a year-round basis." - Owner Scott Van Valin

About Island Air Express

Island Air Express was started in 2009 by Scott & Nani Van Valin & pro-vides scheduled passenger & freight service as well as charter flights throughout southeast Alaska. Island Air Express is based at the Klawock airport and currently operates three daily flights between Ketchikan & Klawock and 2 flights weekly between Ketchikan, Klawock, & Sitka. For more information contact Heidi Van Valin, 360-850-1204, or visit

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