ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - *Editor's note: This article originally stated that initial charter flights were blocked by the Alaska Department of Transportation. Changes have been made to clarify that those legal concerns came from officials at the federal level (US DOT).
On Thursday, two Ravn flights left Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, headed for Unalaska.
The first flight was a charter that had been delayed by weather on Wednesday evening; the second was the first regularly scheduled flight to Dutch Harbor since a fatal accident occurred there on October 17.
Last week, Ravn President Dave Pflieger announced that flights to Dutch Harbor would resume with smaller, DeHavilland "Dash-8" aircraft, while Ravn continues to evaluate the usage of Saab 2000 aircraft at the airport in question.
Pflieger's statement included this acknowledgment of the incident:
“I also want to express our great appreciation to City officials, Alaska Airlines, our business partners, and the residents of Unalaska. This has been a difficult and challenging time and our thoughts and prayers are with all of the passengers and families whose lives have been affected by the Oct 17th tragedy.”
In the time since Ravn grounded flights to Unalaska, the city has taken several measures to ease the impact of losing three daily flights in and out of the Aleutian Island hub. Initial charter attempts were blocked by the US Department of Transportation, until the city resorted to declaring a state of emergency over the lack of options for getting to and from the island. The city council also held a special meeting on November 1, approving bonds worth $352,000 to assist with funding the "Emergency Air Charter Program."
A white paper published by the city estimates that 58,000 people rely on the flights that would normally serve the community of Unalaska.
City Manager Erin Reinders spoke with KTUU by phone on Thursday about the uncertainty that still lies ahead for Unalaska.
"I do think it's huge that commercial flights have resumed," she said. "It looks different and is very different than what we have known and been used to ... We don't really know what the future holds."
Ravn air has remained in contact with Unalaska city leaders since the incident. According to Reinders, the airline plans to hold a community meeting sometime in the beginning of December.
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