FAA adds two passes in Brooks Range to charts

The addition comes as part of a push by FAA for improved aviation safety in Alaska.

The Naqsralugiaq Pass in the Brooks Range is one of two passes added to FAA charts in a recent update after consulting with Alaskan aviators. (Courtesy photo / FAA)

The Naqsralugiaq Pass in the Brooks Range is one of two passes added to FAA charts in a recent update after consulting with Alaskan aviators. (Courtesy photo / FAA)

The Federal Aviation Administration, responding to aviators in Alaska, has added two new passes to its charts in the Brooks Range.

The Naqsralugiaq and Carter passes were added for fliers, improving access to the region for visual flight rules flying, said an FAA news release.

“For years, pilots used routes known primarily to local fliers to navigate these passes,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson in a news release. “Now, all pilots will have the critical terrain information they need to fly safely.”

The move comes as part of the FAA Alaska Safety Initiative, said Kiiva Williams, an FAA media relations specialist. The initiative, which was announced last October, identified five areas of improvement to focus on, one of which was improved charting of passes. There are more than 60 mountain passes charted in Alaska.

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“Naqsralugiaq Pass: that pass in particular is wider and lower than the commonly used pass on the charts in that in the area. Wider and lower is safer, generally,” said Andy McClure, a flight service specialist with the FAA who helped get the charts changed. “If we’re talking about VFR pilots, staying out of the clouds is important. Staying out of freezing weather is important. It gives pilots more options for staying out of the clouds and avoiding the weather. There’s more room to make a U-turn if necessary. All of that contributes to safer flying.”

The data on the passes was known to local pilots in many cases, McClure said, but perhaps not to those unfamiliar with Alaska’s vast and rugged ranges.

“The formal work group was in response to some pilots in Alaska noticing that some names of the charts that never get flown through, or that some passes were perhaps even better than the ones we were flying through,” McClure said. “It’s about finding out where people are actually flying because they’re telling us. Most pilots are not terribly shy about telling us what they want.”

The FAA also announced the installation of eight new automated weather observing systems across Alaska, primarily in the west of the state. The installation and upgrade of the AWOS stations was another of the five recommendations. Others include adapting existing programs for better safety and expanding some services to areas that currently don’t have the capability, the Empire reported previously.

“Adding these Brooks Range mountain passes is beneficial, especially to pilots not familiar with these areas,” said the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Alaska regional manager Tom George in the news release. “This is part of a larger joint industry/FAA effort to improve aviation safety by providing additional information on visual charts related to mountain passes. While currently focusing on Alaska, these processes will eventually extend to other mountainous parts of the country.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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