Pete Kaiser, Oxygen Run
March 4, 2010
Article by Donna Bach
Press Contact Number: (907) 543?6037 or cell: (907)?545?2262
A federal regulation imposed on the state of Alaska in October of last year is causing quite a
stir among the health and aviation industries.
The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation in partnership Norton Sound Health
Corporation and numerous rural health care providers throughout rural Alaska are hoping
to send a message to the federal Department of Transportation by campaigning for a ”Race
for Oxygen” and sponsoring Pete Kaiser, a longtime Bethel musher in an awareness
The recent Department of Transportation regulation requires that all oxygen tanks
transported aboard airplanes be placed in rigid packaging that can stand up to stringent
heat tests. However, the manufacturer of the rigid packaging has not produced enough
packaging to make it readily available in Alaska. Many air carriers in Alaska’s aviation
industry have applied and received permit exemptions– which are due to expire this
summer. There is a strong sentiment among many in the health care and aviation industry
to allow the state of Alaska a permanent exemption due to the state’s unique geographic
challenges and lack of road infrastructure between it’s rural communities.
The aviation industry in Alaska and health care providers argue that the requirement will
cause unintentional consequences and possible deaths and will lead to a depleted
availability of the life?saving transportable oxygen often used by patients with chronic
bronchial and lung infections, asthma or other breathing related illnesses.
Considered the “Last Great Race on Earth,” the inspiration behind the Iditarod trail race
began in 1925 for a health related cause. A relay of dog teams and mushers were organized
to provide the life?saving diphtheria serum to treat many of the Inuit residents stricken with
the pandemic because blizzard conditions prevented airplanes from landing in the Bering
Strait community of Nome. The Iditarod Trail became a life saving highway for many in
Nome who may have died without the life?saving serum.
“This is another example where federal regulations that may work or be applicable in the
lower 48 states due to their extensive road system network will not work in a state that is
1/3rd the size of the continental U.S. and lacks basic road infrastructure,” said YKHC CEO and
President Gene Peltola.
“We want to support Pete Kaiser’s efforts in his premier Iditarod trail run to simulate that of
the Serum Run in highlighting how difficult the transport of oxygen can be for many of our
rural patients. This is a life and death situation for many patients, and harmful to several
industries throughout Alaska,” Peltola stated.
The regulation changes were first proposed in 2004 by the Pipeline and Hazardous
Materials Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation in
correlation to a ValuJet flight 592 that crashed in Florida in 1996. Improperly stored oxygen