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"Bad Joke Friday" Dan (moderator emeritus)
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I didn't think much about the "Web Cameras for Alaska Pilots" headline until I read the statement, "Alaska averages an aviation accident a day and a fatal crash every 10 days." Sounds like the big bears are less dangerous than flying?

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Vast distances, rugged terrain and sudden changes in weather have long made flying challenging in Alaska. Now pilots have a system of Web cameras to help them see beyond the horizon.

The Federal Aviation Administration has installed two dozen webcams in mountain passes, on rocky coasts and at remote villages to supplement the agency's aviation weather reports. Real-time images can be viewed by anyone on an FAA Web site.

While weather charts, radar images and tersely worded forecasts provide important data on flying conditions, the cameras can erase any doubts.

"From our standpoint, they're hard to beat," said Bob Hajdukovich, director of operations at Fairbanks-based Frontier Flying Service, which serves many Yukon River villages far from the state's road system. "To us, it's all about reliability and getting into a destination for daily passenger service."

Flying into bad weather is the leading cause of fatal accidents among Alaska's commuter airlines and air taxis. Alaska averages an aviation accident a day and a fatal crash every 10 days.

The FAA wants to reduce aviation accidents in Alaska by 50 percent over the next 10 years, Regional Administrator Pat Poe said. "We've reached the point where we've determined that if we want a different result we need to do different things," Poe said.

The cameras help pilots decide whether to fly.

"There are some summers when we have more foul weather than fair," said Lisa Bern, who operates JimAir with her husband Jim. "It's always a challenge. The weather is constantly changing."

The FAA began initial testing for the $2 million webcam system in 1997 and started posting the images on a Web site in 1999. It has been gradually adding cameras and now has 24, with another dozen to come later this year.
 

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