Barter Island Airport
Location: Barter Island, AK
> Engineering Planning & Design
> Geotechnical Investigation & Design Recommendations
> Environmental Services & Permitting
> Survey & Mapping
> Public Involvement
> Construction Administration
> Material Testing & Inspection
In July 1947, the United States Air Force arrived on Barter Island, located in the Arctic Ocean, to build a 5,000-foot airplane runway and hangar on a small land spit. This was during the early stages of the Cold War, and the U.S. military was looking to establish strategic airfields in remote locations to protect the country from potential Soviet attacks. The Barter Island Airfield was strategically located to provide a refueling and maintenance stop for military aircraft heading to and from Alaska and the Russian Far East.
For decades, the Barter Island Airfield served as a vital transportation hub for the North Slope region. However, over the years, it became clear that the airport’s location was not ideal. The airport was prone to flooding due to its location on a small land spit, and this created significant safety concerns for pilots and passengers. The flooding was not just an inconvenience; it posed a real danger to aircraft landing and taking off from the airport.
Two major storms in 1986 and 2000 highlighted the flooding issues at the airport. The 1986 storm completely submerged the airstrip, while the 2000 storm covered over half of the runway with water. This flooding was an alarming sign that something needed to be done to address the airport’s safety concerns.
In 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) determined that it was necessary to relocate the airport. This decision was not taken lightly, as it involved significant planning and investment to move the airport to a new location. To assist the North Slope Borough with the relocation, HDL studied various alternatives to either improve the existing airport or move it to a new location.
After careful consideration, it was decided that the best course of action was to move the airport to the mainland of Kaktovik. HDL was then tasked with leading the planning and design of the new airport. This work included completing a Master Plan, an Environmental Assessment, an Airport Layout Plan, an Engineering Design Report, and creating the design for this $38 million airport. HDL also provided construction administration services during construction.
The new airport, known as the Kaktovik Airport, was completed in 2014 and has been a significant improvement over the old Barter Island Airfield. The new airport is located on stable ground, eliminating the safety concerns that came with the previous location. Additionally, the new airport is larger and can accommodate larger aircraft, which has improved transportation in the North Slope region. The Kaktovik Airport has also opened up economic opportunities for the region by allowing for increased tourism and resource development.