Iditarod Air Force Keeps Race Flying.

I.A.F. one of the keys to race sucess.

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by Mike Ford

Each musher on Iditarod forty will average 1,758 pounds of food for their athletes.The Iditarod Air Force will be flying out a total of 3,203 bags of food and according to I.A.F. logistics coordinator Brittany Hanson most of that is done before the race begins. "All the food goes out before the races, all the straw, all of the musher bags that don't go into places like Mcgrath, Unalakleet or Nome has to be moved by small plane to these places" Hanson says the I.A.F. has grown from very humble beginnings."It started with one airplane, now we have thirty"

Hanson and crew contend with weather issues and a list of "I needs " make up most of their race days."We're out of coffee, we're out of fuel, we need some bleach, we're sick and need some Gatoraid"

This year Hanson says the first part of the race has been relatively quiet for transporting the Iditarod athletes back to Anchorage."In the past we've pulled sixty dogs out of Rainy pass, this year we've pulled six"

The volunteers that fly for the I.A.F. may get fuel and oil for their aircraft but the doctors,mechanics and construction managers fly because of their love for the last great race. Hanson is impressed with the experience of her pilots."You know these guys are donating their airplanes and their time um, some of them are taking off from work and and just the amount of the experience that my guys have is huge"

Some people with the I.A.F. come from far away and take the race home to share their experiences. Dr. Jodie Guest M.D. has traveled from Georgia to be part of the race for the last five years in a row."The really neat thing for me is i live in Atlanta and people don't really know much about the Iditarod there. I do a lot of talking at schools and so i get to help the school children learn about what this is about. What these dogs are like and what the mushers go through while they're training. They get very excited and start following the race so it's neat to see the schools doing that"