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Big Lake commuter uses his plane to avoid traffic jams

Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- On his daily commute between Big Lake and Anchorage, Bill Kramer barely has time to finish a cup of coffee.

''I have to drink it fast because it only takes 12 minutes,'' said Kramer, who for the past five years has made the five-day-a-week commute in his Cessna 185 or Super Cub.

By automobile, the 60-mile road trip would take him an hour and a half one-way on a good day.

That's time he'd rather spend with his wife and three children.

Kramer, owner of Industrial Roofing Inc. in Anchorage, said he and his family made the move to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough from Anchorage in 1997. The move was based on the quality of life there and his ability to aviate daily into Anchorage, he said.

''I wouldn't do it if I lost three hours of my day to commuting,'' Kramer said.

His home at Horseshoe Lake, about 3 miles west of Big Lake, has its own runway and lake access.

His Cessna is on floats and wheels and his Super Cub is on skis and wheels, allowing him to fly in nearly any condition. He doesn't have to scrape windows either, since he has a hangar at his home. He simply fires up an airplane, hits the garage door opener and off he goes.

Kramer, 43, said commuting by airplane is not cheap, but it isn't as expensive as most people think. He burns about 10 gallons a day in aviation fuel, which costs about $2.25 a gallon.

That's a bargain, considering the extra time he can spend with family and at the office. Plus, he said, flying is his passion.

He believes it's safer, too, since he does not have to drive on slick roads, dodge moose, or put up with road rage.

''I couldn't handle the fingers flying and the aggressive get-out-of-my-way attitude of drivers,'' he said.

There are a few other airplane commuters, but the only aircraft he normally sees on his daily commute is the radio station's traffic plane, which is sponsored by Matanuska Maid and painted to look like a bovine with wings.

''That old milk cow is about the only one up there I have to miss,'' Kramer said.

Below, along the Glenn Highway, Kramer can see the long line of traffic, which has gotten worse in just the few years he's been commuting by air.

According to state statistics, 8,000 people commuted by automobile between the Mat-Su area and Anchorage in 1999. By 2005, commuters are expected to swell to 9,500.

Another 8,000 folks come in from Eagle River daily, and the study predicts that number to jump to 8,700 in four years.

At Merrill Field, Kramer has a hangar and a truck, which he drives across town to his office, a trip that takes longer than his flight.

Kramer praised Merrill Field for keeping runways open, free of snow and ice.

''I've never not been able to land there,'' he said.

With the skyrocketing growth in the Mat-Su area, Kramer believes more people will begin flying to work.

''As the area builds up, more people will be enticed to do it,'' Kramer said.



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