I arrived in Alaska yesterday, in Anchorage specifically. I’d posted an appeal for Alaskan geo-oddities before I left and I’d received a number of awesome recommendations from the generous readers of the Twelve Mile Circle. First up was reader "Steve" who sent me an idea by email: "in Anchorage, there is a spot within four miles of the active runways of four different airports." That sounded mighty intriguing to me — easily verifiable and readily accessible. Could I find the spot?
It’s simple enough to find the four airports and indeed they are all within a few miles of each other:
- Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport – the big airport, and the one most people use to get here on regularly-scheduled passenger airlines.
- Elmendorf Air Force Base, home of the 3rd Wing, the principal unit within 11th Air Force. F-15C/D, E-3B, C-17, F-22A and C-12 aircraft fly from this runway.
- Merrill Field, a public-use general aviation airport located barely a mile from downtown Anchorage.
- Lake Hood Seaplane Base – there is no other seaplane base on the planet busier than Lake Hood with its 190 flights per day, with an attached gravel general use runway.
It’s a crazy situation. A contributor on the Pilots of America forum described it in amazement.
I thought Boston’s airspace was complex before I went to San Francisco. I thought San Francisco’s airspace was complex before I came here. This is the craziest airspace I’ve ever seen! Anchorage International has a Class C; about 7 miles away is Elmendorf AFB with a military Class D. Squeezed in between these two are not one but TWO more Class D’s: Lake Hood and Merrill. That’s FOUR airports, each one with MAJOR traffic, each one with its OWN designated airspace! All within about a 7-mile stretch. They all are funny shapes which abut each other, there’s no room even on the terminal chart to see where their boundaries are. The Delaney Park Strip is an 11-block park in the municipality of Anchorage, Alaska. It was originally Anchorage’s airfield.
I created a map to see the spot within four miles of each and I determined that it’s actually a decent swath of downtown Anchorage in a bullet-shaped form.
View Four Runways, Four Miles – twelvemilecircle.com in a larger map
I concluded that finding a location within four miles of four active runways in Anchorage isn’t very difficult. My hotel actually falls within the zone by coincidence so I can experience the oddity by opening the curtains. I could make this more challenging, I thought. I could try to find a "magic spot" that was the closest to the four runways. I believe I found it. I’ve marked it with a blue push-pin: 3.23 miles from Anchorage International and Elmendorf; 3.19 miles from Lake Hood and 1.51 miles from Merrill Field.
It falls in the backyard of a home in the 1300 block of G Street, roughly bound by the square created by G. and H. Streets with West 13 and 14 Avenues. There is a north-south alley running between 13th and 14th that probably passes less than fifty feet from the magic spot.
This photo was taken from the alley behind the spot. It’s probably the closest place to the actual location that doesn’t involve crossing onto private property.
I’m not sure how magical I’d consider this spot in actuality. It’s quite the dubious honor. People complain frequently and vociferously when they live in a flightpath. Imagine having the one house most closely located to all four active runways in Anchorage. I’m sure there are all sorts of noise abatement procedures designed to keep aircraft away from residential areas, but still, there’s bound to be some noise.
Thanks for the suggestion Steve. This one was a great puzzle and a lot of fun.
Random Statement on Geography Awareness
My younger son noticed a U.S. flag waving in the breeze as we left Anchorage airport (the big one) on the way to the hotel and he seemed a little surprised. We’d been telling him that Alaska was very far away from our home and showing him the location on a globe in the days leading up to the trip. We confirmed with him that, yes, Alaska is part of the United States although indeed it is very far away. He asked if people in Alaska spoke English and of course we confirmed for him that English is the standard language here. These are normal curiosity questions one would expect from a four-year-old and we all got a heartwarming chuckle from it.
The shuttle driver then told us he’d ferried a passenger a few days earlier who was very obviously a U.S. citizen (because asking passengers their hometown was part of his shtick). She’s asked him where she could exchange her U.S. Dollars for Alaska Dollars.