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PLANE TALK


New York Region. When I moved to western Canada, the FAA regions I worked with were the Great Lakes and Northwest Mountain Regions. Because my region was Prairie and Northern, we also did a lot or work with the Alaska Region. The cooperation was across all aviation disciplines, operations, maintenance, manufacturing and engineering. Pat Poe was the Alaska Regional Administrator for several years while I was the Regional Director of Civil Aviation in Prairie and Northern region. We worked together on many common issues affecting the North. Canada and the United States are part of a circumpolar group which of course had a lot of civil aviation issues relating to flying in the Arctic zones of the member nations. Anyone who has flown or worked in aviation in Alaska and northern Canada knows of the challenges of flying in the north; cold, weather, runways conditions, navigation and so on. We held joint meetings to sort out common northern issues and did a lot of early information gathering for Transport Canada working on the ADS-B system which Alaska Region was pioneering. Many a productive meeting and of course some good social times were had in Whitehorse and Anchorage areas. I have added Pat Poe’s own words


into my account as they give a first- hand view of the challenges in the North. “The great northern lands of this continent demand a people of great heart and adventure. They say that you come for the adventure and stay for the people. And, yes, I do believe that to be true beyond doubt. I arrived in Alaska in 1999 as the FAA Regional Administrator having previously served over a decade for the FAA in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. First in London as the FAA Senior Representative and then the last eight years as Director posted in Brussels.


48 DOMmagazine.com | dec 2017 | jan 2018


Coming to Alaska was an assignment of choice and what I thought at the time to be the last great adventure of my career. The adventure was quickly overshadowed by the challenges of aviation in Alaska. A vast almost unending sky and dependencies of planes to move not only people but the life blood of existence in many remote regions of the state.


What defined my seven years in Alaska was the transition from ground based infrastructure dependencies to space based opportunities. And most important and I say again, most important, was the move of aviators’ trust of FAA as more than a regulating authority to a participating partner in shared concerns for their safety. Losing a plane, a pilot, a passenger became a personal loss not just a professional shortcoming. The enablers: Senator Ted Stevens


who was an aviator and who lost his wife in an aviation accident in Alaska; Tom Wardleight and Ginny Hyatt who created the Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation; Filex Macquire who chaired Alaska Aviation Coordination Committee, and John Hallinan of the FAA Alaskan Region who was the leader and the heart of the Capstone Program which was the FAA’s initiative to adopt space based opportunities. While I could add a hundred names to this list, I am compelled to pause with just these few who were truly “the point of the spear” in moving Alaska and the FAA into the new world of aviation space based opportunities. And let me be clear, the status quo exists because it is the comfort zone of the many but not the home of the solution for the future. The struggle within the FAA was equal to, if not greater in some ways, than the reluctance of Alaska aviation community to trust and move forward in partnership with the FAA.


Perhaps the bottom line is all that is necessary: During the decade preceding the Capstone Program, Alaska averaged an aircraft accident every other day and fatality every nine days. From the introduction of Capstone in 2000 to its transfer in 2006 to FAA Headquarters in Washington D.C and its adoption as an intrical component of the FAA’s Next Generation Plan, Alaska aviation fatalities neared zero and accidents were few. Other extremely critical factors in these achievements were the introduction of Weather Cameras in the passes of Alaska and in cooperation with our Canadian counter parts, installation in Canada’s White Pass. The creation of the Medallion Foundation was solely the initiative of the Alaska’s Aviation community, the University of Alaska, and Alaska’s congressional delegation. The Medallion Foundation is a story well worth telling; but, not by me, but rather those who made it possible and who continue to sustain it today.” The positive first impressions I


had were well supported by working with the very professional FAA Alaska Region staff and of being the recipient of their great hospitality, especially the smoked salmon they treated us to! Our Pacific Region, PNR, Alaska and Northwest Mountain Region met on a yearly basis somewhere in one of the four regions. This helped create a smoothly functioning aviation system. In addition, it allowed many FAA and Transport Canada inspectors and engineers to become familiar with each nation’s regulatory system and technical challenges. This is the kind of work the average Canadian and American citizen never sees but it is vital to our two nations. The cross- border cooperation helped us during and after 9/11 and during such events as state visits. All this work could only happen because of the friendships and


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