Aviation touches all aspects of life in rural Alaska, and is a basic mode of transportation because Alaska is huge and approximately 82% of Alaskan communities are not served by roads. Most of the time there is no practical alternative. So Alaska has six times as many pilots per capita and 16 times as many aircraft per capita when compared to the rest of the United States.
Rural Aviation covers all Alaskan airports except the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and Fairbanks International Airport. The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities owns 252 rural airports, and the Division of Statewide Aviation prepares policies, procedures, and programs to develop, construct, operate, and manage these rural public airports.
Airports in Alaska have ICAO airport codes that begin with PA (P is the Eastern North Pacific region, and PA is for Alaska), such as Juneau International Airport (PAJN / JNU) and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Anchorage (PANC / ANC).
Several FARs treat Alaska as a special exception:
- §91.157 allows Special VFR operations in Alaska under the same pre-sunset terms, when the sun is up to but less than 6 degrees below the horizon.
- §91.209 does not require lighted position lights in Alaska until the period that a prominent unlighted object cannot be seen from a distance of 3 statute miles or the sun is more than 6 degrees below the horizon.
- §91.323 Increased maximum certificated weights for certain airplanes operated in Alaska
- §61.89 prohibits students from making international flights, except that a student pilot may make solo training flights from Haines, Gustavus, or Juneau, Alaska, to White Horse, Yukon, Canada, and return over the province of British Columbia;
- §99.45 defines the boundaries of the Alaska ADIZ.
- The presence of Automatic Flight Information Service and Transcribed Weather Broadcasts.
- Alaska is surrounded by the Distant Early Warning Identification Zone (DEWIZ), an ADIZ over the coastal waters of Alaska.
- Sunset and Sunrise are defined, within Alaska, as the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight, as defined for each locality, rather than the mean solar times of sunset and sunrise as published in the Nautical Almanac.