Opening Remarks of Senator Ted Stevens
Good Morning, I want to thank everyone for being here.
Secretary Mineta and Administrator Blakey, thank you for making the trip. It is an honor to have both of you testifying today.
Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state. More than 70 percent of our cities, towns, and villages can be reached only by air.
Instead of cars and buses, we have airplanes. Alaska has seven times more licensed pilots than the national average, about 21,000 active pilots and nearly 10,000 registered aircraft.
Alaska alone represents 20 percent of our national airspace.
As our skies become more and more congested it is important we utilize our airspace effectively and efficiently.
I am proud to say Alaska is the test site for technologies and safety programs that set the foundation for the next generation of safety and air traffic management technology.
Working closely with the FAA, Alaskans are testing the Capstone program in all industry sectors and flying conditions. Our industry created the Five Star Medallion Program when one size fits all federal mandates weren't working in Alaska.
Capstone and Medallion provide pilots with the technology and safety tools necessary for the next generation aviation system.
In fact, Capstone has done more for safety in our State than all the federal mandates we have seen in the last ten years.
From 2000 to 2003, the accident rate for Capstone-equipped aircraft in Western Alaska dropped 40 percent. The acccident rate in the region is at the lowest level since 1990.
In villages with Capstone instrument approaches, the fraction of the time weather makes air travel unavailable has been reduced by 50 percent.
Advances in airspace management alone do not make for an efficient system. For a robust aviation system we also need adequate infrastructure and access.
Maintaining service to smal and rural communities through the E.A.S. program was a key element of deregulation. These communities rely on E.A.S. for access to hospitals, mail service, food, and basic supplies.
Another success in Alaska has ben the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). Since its inception in 1982, AIP has provided $1.3 billion for airport construction, development and planning in our State. $221 million was distributed just last year. When we talk access we also have to mention lighting. I have been working hard to provide necessary funding for rural Alaskan airport lighting.
In the last four years Congress appropriated $35 million toward the program. However, there remains a need for 20 million in additional infrastructure in nearly 50 communities.
Our commitment to developing new technologies, safety programs, and infrastructure will help Alaska evolve in the new era of global commerce.
I have spent countless hours educating my colleagues in Congress and my friends at the DOT and FAA on Alaska's unique dependence on aviation and I am excited to continue the effort today.
Thank you again and I look forward to the testimony.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Norman Y. MinetaSecretaryUnited States Department of Transportation
The Honorable Marion BlakeyAdministratorFederal Aviation Administration
STATEMENT OF MARION C. BLAKEY, ADMINISTRATOR,
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION,
BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE
AND TRANSPORTATION, IN ANCHORAGE, ALASKA,
ON AVIATION SAFETY IN ALASKA
JULY 5, 2005
Good Morning, Chairman Stevens and Members of the Committee. It is a great pleasure to be here today in Alaska to testify, along with Secretary Mineta and Regional Administrator Poe. Improving aviation safety and lowering accident rates in Alaska, have been a major focus of efforts by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over the last decade, and I’m proud to acknowledge, also by the aviation community in Alaska. The aviation community here has demonstrated a strong commitment to safety. After all, the aviation system is what connects Alaska’s cities, towns, villages, businesses and families. I believe we in the FAA have a good news story to tell about improvements in aviation safety in recent years, and an even better story to tell about future efforts to expand and build upon the successes already achieved. Today I would like to highlight a few areas of interest to the Committee: the Capstone and Medallion programs, the growing use of weather cameras, particularly in remote locations, and the very practical benefits of the Rural Alaska Lighting program. As I’ve often said, aviation safety will always be the first priority at the FAA. Every decision we make is with the safety of the flying public in mind. Let me begin this morning by describing how serious the FAA is in pursuing the goal of increased aviation safety in Alaska. When I first came to the FAA, we put in place a strategic business plan – we call it our Flight Plan – with specific objectives and performance targets. The FAA’s Flight Plan for 2004-2008 lists among the safety objectives for the next five years a specific objective, “Reduce Accidents in Alaska.” The stated strategy is to expand and accelerate the implementation of safety and air navigation improvements programs here. It is noteworthy because no other state was listed individually, only Alaska. Why, you might ask, does the FAA Flight Plan have a specific objective of improving aviation safety in Alaska? The answer is simple, Alaska has been called the “flyingest state in the union.” It is a place where schoolchildren board aircraft to travel to school, instead of a bus. When someone in a village is ill and needs medical attention, they will most likely be transported to the hospital via aircraft. As an essential mode of everyday transportation, aviation must be a safe mode. A 1999 study by the National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) ranked being a commercial airline pilot as the most hazardous occupation in Alaska. Clearly, a focused, dedicated, multifaceted, approach to improving aviation safety in Alaska was needed. I am happy to say the approach we are taking, one that represents the collective efforts of aviators, the State of Alaska, and the FAA, is working. The most promising initiative with potential for broad application to a range of hazards, including terrain, other airborne traffic, and weather, is the Capstone demonstration program in the Alaska Region. Capstone is a technology-focused safety program in Alaska that seeks near term safety and efficiency gains in aviation by accelerating implementation and use of modern technology, in both avionics and ground system infrastructure. The key enabling technology on which Capstone is based is Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). ADS-B gives an aircraft with the requisite data uplink/downlink and cockpit display capabilities the same information about other aircraft in the vicinity as air traffic control now receives. Capstone Phase I, which began in 1999, included the installation of government-furnished Global Positioning System (GPS) driven avionics suites in 200 commercial aircraft serving the region around Bethel, Alaska, known as the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region (YK Delta), consisting of over 160,000 square miles. One of the two approved datalink technologies for ADS-B, the Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) also provides an uplink for weather information via Flight Information Services-Broadcast (FIS-B). The weather data is displayed on the same multifunction cockpit display used for the ADS-B display of traffic, and for terrain data. Through 2004 the FAA Alaskan Region Capstone Program has achieved significant safety and efficiency results. Capstone equipped aircraft have had a consistently lower accident rate than non-equipped aircraft. From 2000 through 2004, the rate of accidents for Capstone-equipped aircraft dropped significantly--by 47 percent. Also, the rate of accidents for Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region-based air carriers has been falling since 2001, and is now at the lowest rate since 1990. Historically, the rate of air taxi accidents within the YK Delta has been two to four times the rest of Alaska, but in 2003 the accident rate for the region was below the rest of the state for the first time. That is real progress. Phase II of Capstone will expand the coverage to southeast Alaska, in the Juneau area, and Phase III contemplates expanding the program to cover the entire state. Also as part of Phase II, additional technology infrastructure will be deployed. New Area Navigation (RNAV) and Required Navigation Procedure (RNP) arrival and departure procedures will continue to be developed for the airports recommended by the industry for upgrade to Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) access. RNAV procedures provide flight path guidance incorporated in taxi procedures, with minimal instructions required during departure by air traffic controllers. RNP is on-board technology that promises to add to capacity by allowing pilots to fly more direct point-to-point routes reliably and accurately. Key benefits of RNAV and RNP include more efficient use of airspace, with improved flight profiles, resulting in significant fuel efficiencies to the airlines. An airport-to-airport Global Positioning System (GPS)/Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) based route structure will be mapped between all IFR airports. Aircraft avionics equipage is key to an accelerated implementation strategy; therefore Capstone will continue to pursue affordable avionics so that aircraft owners will have a range of choices appropriate to their operational needs. This includes both creating options for equipage and a strategy to ensure that all aircraft in Alaska are equipped. In addition to technology improvements, the FAA has also undertaken safety management and training efforts in partnership with the aviation community here to increase safety awareness and reduce aircraft accidents. In joint efforts with the Medallion Foundation, a non-profit aviation safety organization that provides management resources, training and support to the Alaskan aviation community, the FAA is funding a program known as the Five Star Shield program, which is an enhanced safety management system. The Medallion Five Star Shield program takes a business-like approach to safety, providing for the setting of goals as well as planning and measuring performance in specific areas through the use of system safety concepts. The program is voluntary, and focuses on establishing and sustaining an elevated level of safety performance through: the development of a safety culture that holds safety as a core value; continuous professional development of individual skills and competence; proactive sharing of operational control responsibilities; hazard identification and risk management; and management practices that support the organization’s safety objectives. The Five Stars in the Medallion Five Star Shield program include numerous methods for improving safety. To earn the First Star, each air carrier must establish a safety program which, at a minimum, should include safety meetings and audits, the use of root-cause analysis, hazard identification, incident investigations, and a viable emergency response plan. The Five Star program also requires a classroom training program for pilots, mechanics and ground service personnel, as well as required training on a PC-based computer simulator. Two annual check rides are required to receive this second Star, and annual pilot proficiency check rides are required to keep the Star. The Third Star involves operational risk management. A dynamic system that provides analytical tools as well as a system of checks and balances to proactively identify hazards and manage risks is required. The carrier must have an operational risk management system that quantifies the risks for each flight, including weather, airport, and crew readiness. The total risk score determines if the flight is conducted normally, if more management evaluation is required for release of the flight, or if the flight is cancelled. The Fourth Star concerns maintenance and ground service operations, requiring specific training and manning levels. The Fifth Star is an internal audit program, which requires incorporation of a proactive internal audit system that focuses on the use of systems safety principles, as well as regulatory compliance. This is a comprehensive audit program requirement intended to allow the operator to continuously monitor their operating systems and provide for continuous improvement. Medallion has specific detailed requirements. The FAA is supporting the Medallion Foundation in the implementation of this program. Once an applicant has received all five Stars, and passed an independent audit, they may be certified for the Medallion Shield, which is attested to by a decal displayed on the aircraft, and can be used on uniforms and promotional materials. In order to maintain shield status, the operator must successfully pass an audit each year. If the operator fails to pass the audit, or Medallion on-site inspectors notice that a specific activity represented by a star is not being properly addressed on a continuing basis, the star and shield may be revoked. A direct benefit of the Shield program for operators is that the insurance industry has agreed to provide favorable rates for Shield carriers. It’s worth noting here that the FAA and the Medallion Foundation are not just focused on improving safety in commercial operations, but are also targeting improvements to safety in the general aviation (GA) community as well. Our efforts in this area are coordinated through the Medallion Flyer General Aviation Program, which is proving to be quite popular among the GA community. Interested pilots begin by submitting an application to the Medallion Foundation, which will then issue the pilot a free copy of the FAA “Back to Basics – Runway Safety” CD. After that, the pilot is invited to attend the FLYER Step II course, which provides access to free usage of Medallion state-of-the-art flight training devices. During this course, pilots are provided with tools designed to help establish a personal safety program. They are also introduced to hazard assessment and risk management techniques. Pilots also receive important information on flying in “white out” and “flat” light conditions, risk assessment, pilot/ATC communications, and Alaska flying tips. The Capstone and Medallion programs clearly demonstrate that better information, better training, and better risk-management procedures can contribute significantly to reductions in aviation accidents and save lives. People here in Alaska can be very proud of the progress they’ve made. Alaska has set an example for the rest of the country. The on-going and increasing deployment of weather cameras in numerous parts of Alaska is another beneficial use of technology that can dramatically improve aviation safety by providing near real-time information to help with pilot decision making and risk management. There are currently 55 operational locations for weather cameras, which stretch into every region of the state, and 12 more operational sites will be available in 2005. Many of these weather cameras are positioned in or near mountain passes and other geographical features which are often used by pilots to navigate on their flights. The other feature of these cameras that is so beneficial to pilots is that they are often located at rural airports where there are no weather observers, and no other means to find out what current weather conditions are prior to deciding to take off. They are also co-located with automated weather systems, providing additional visual information previously only available at those few sites with a weather observer. These cameras, all of which can be viewed at one website, http://akweathercams.faa.gov, provide two images from each camera located at the site. One image is a file photo of the area within the camera’s range on a clear, sunny day. The other image is a real-time photo, which is refreshed every 10 minutes, of the exact same view as the file photo. This provides an instant visual comparison of weather conditions, precipitation, cloud cover, ceiling, and visibility. The real value in these weather cameras is that they help pilots decide whether to even begin their flight, based on weather conditions, rather than have the pilots have to make difficult and hazardous decisions once they have encountered the deteriorating weather conditions in flight. Flight service specialists also have access to the weather camera images, and routinely brief pilots on the weather camera images when they call for a pre-flight briefing and during their flight, providing the most up-to-date information on the weather camera images to help pilots make that “go or no-go” decision. During an independent study conducted between December 2002 and March 2003 by Parker Associates, Inc., 68 percent of the reported decisions made based on weather cameras were to cancel or delay a flight due to weather. Air carriers, commercial operators, and general aviation pilots can avoid the cost of fuel from flights that must be diverted or repeated due to bad weather. Cameras have a positive financial impact on an industry undergoing economic challenges. Our website for the cameras has received 1.3 million “hits” in 2003, 2.3 million “hits” in 2004, and we expect the number of “hits” to increase by another 1 million this fiscal year—a real testament to how important real time knowledge of weather conditions is for pilots. Turning now to another area of interest to this Committee, I would like to briefly highlight the FAA’s Rural Alaska Lighting Program (RALP). The goal of the Rural Alaska Lighting Program is to install airport lighting in communities with limited access to 24-hour medical facilities, to provide better access and improved lighting for aeromedical services. The Program is comprised of three tiers. Tier One is Medium Intensity Runway Lighting (MIRLs) or permanent edge lighting at those airports that meet minimum safety requirements. Tier Two is portable, battery-powered lights for communities or airports that are unable to accommodate permanent edge lights. Tier Three is Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) and Runway End Identifier Lights (REILs) to support approach procedures at airports. This program began in 2001 with a study that identified 63 communities needing the improved lighting. Federal funding began in FY02. In addition to the $35 million that has been appropriated for this effort so far under the FAA’s Facilities and Equipment program, the Airport Improvement Program has provided the funding for necessary runway pavement or runway safety area improvements. All of the 63 communities have received at least an interim solution to provide for 24 hour VFR aeromedical access. Twenty-six of the 63 communities have also received permanent lighting solutions. An additional 19 communities will have permanent lighting solutions by 2010. The final 18 communities have complicated land and/or environmental issues, but we will continue to work with the State of Alaska to resolve all outstanding issues. Finally, Mr. Chairman, I want to take a moment to mention the great contributions to aviation safety in Alaska made by a true visionary, Tom Wardleigh. Mr. Wardleigh shared his vision for the future of aviation in Alaska with you and all Alaskan aviators in testimony to this body in 1999. That vision is now part of Mr. Wardleigh’s legacy. The FAA is pleased to announce the creation of a new National safety award in honor of the late Thomas Wardleigh, Master Pilot, Master Mechanic, elder statesman of aviation. As with so many of this region’s innovations, Mr. Wardleigh’s contribution to aviation safety is now a national asset. Tom urged the FAA to strive for exceptional customer service and to be a proving ground for new ideas. He was a visionary who knew that if we could make an idea work in Alaska with all of its challenges, it would benefit all of aviation. Mr. Wardleigh’s wife, Jan, is with us today. I hope she is pleased with our memorial to him. I know that this award has special meaning for you, Mr. Chairman, as I have been told that you received your floatplane rating from Tom just a few years ago In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, let me reiterate what I said at the outset of my testimony today – aviation safety is, and always will be, the first priority at the FAA. These programs I have discussed are the leading edge of efforts to improve aviation safety for everyone, and Alaska is once again showing the way. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to testify today on such an important topic. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Witness Panel 2
Mr. Mike BartonCommissionerAlaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities
Testimony of Mike Barton, Commissioner
Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Aviation Field Hearing
Loussac Library – Anchorage, Alaska
July 5, 2005
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We in Alaska appreciate that you have convened this field hearing to gain a better understanding of the many issues unique to Alaska aviation. I will confine my remarks primarily to those issues that impact our rural communities and the 256 rural airports that the state owns and operates. I would start by expressing our thanks to the FAA for its ongoing, cooperative relationship with the state over the years. We have found that our agencies share a common mission of providing the infrastructure for air transportation in a very large, difficult, and often inhospitable area. The willingness of the staff at FAA to face these challenges together with their state counterparts continues to produce mutual benefits. ESSENTIAL AIR SERVICE This government program remains a critical support for safe, scheduled passenger service to 34 Alaska communities, out of a total of 216 communities that are eligible. In some cases, the service made possible by this program is the only way that many Alaskans can get the medical help and other vital services that they need. The state, in developing our comments on each subsidy offer, gives careful consideration to the efficacy of the route subsidized, the carriers competing, and the impact to the community, all with an eye towards funding the most effective program. RUNWAY LIGHTING The state has a strategic goal to improve runways to a 24-hour VFR standard in communities that depend on air medical evacuation. A Congressional study conducted in 1999 identified 63 communities that did not have 24-hour VFR capability. That list is our target. Runway edge lights, end identifier lights, and precision approach path indicators, when installed on a 3,300-foot runway, allow 24-hour VFR access. Congress has also made special appropriations of $38 million to the FAA for this program. We have worked cooperatively with the FAA to apply these monies to the communities on the list of deficient airports to install lighting and navigation systems. With the special appropriations, we have temporarily improved medical access by deploying portable emergency lights for helicopter landing zones at all 63 communities. These lights facilitate safer evacuation by Coast Guard and National Guard helicopters in life and death situations. A few civilian operators have also become certified to use these portable lights. Since 1999 we have improved 26 of the 63 airports to 24-hour standards, and will complete another 14 by the end of 2008. Twenty-three more communities will await a permanent solution. There is a plan in place for them. Realistically, the entire list of 63 communities should have 24-hour medical access by 2015. At that time, more than $500 million will have been invested in these communities, including the $38 million and more than $470 million we are dedicating from the AIP program to bring those airports up to required standards. The continuing support of Congress is greatly appreciated. SAFETY The FAA and all of those in the aviation community in Alaska should be commended for their efforts in aviation safety. The reduction in incidents/accidents that has been achieved in Alaska is remarkable. The Capstone program has contributed to this reduction, as well a achieving a large improvement in access for aviation in Alaska. This improved access results from the fact that better weather reporting means better IFR success rate, and therefore more completed flights. Enough has been or will be said about this program, but please know that the State of Alaska fully supports an accelerated transition to a new national airspace system using space-based navigational aids. Also, the Medallion program has made a significant contribution to aviation safety. You will hear much about the good this program has done, but simply stated, since many state employees fly to all corners of the state, we all look for the Medallion logo on each airplane we board. WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT Although we are blessed with natural bounty, we never like to see migratory birds on our airports. In fact, we spend an inordinate amount of time and money managing this federal resource at our certified airports. Ironically, we dedicate state resources to hire federal employees (USDA) to keep federal birds off state airports. Recent interpretation of the Migratory Bird Act of 1918 requires that we cease construction activities if birds are found to be nesting on the airports. This creates undue hardships, delays, and increased costs during our abbreviated summer construction season. We clearly support more federal participation in the management of those federal resources. WETLANDS The application of the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 (49 U.S.C. 303(c)), to all airports, including rural airports, needs to be clarified. At some point in time a decision was made to designate a piece of ground as an airport. It seems that designation identifies the dominant use, and clearly specifies the objective for the designated land. I am not advocating running roughshod over the environment as these airports are developed. I am advocating common sense application of NEPA, Sec. 4(f), and other environmental laws to lands that have been long designated for airport purposes. A great deal of time and money is spent on living up to the letter of the law. Stringent application of these laws results in added cost and protracted delays in needed projects. Recognition of the primary purpose of lands designated as airports should be incorporated into the implementation of environmental laws at airports. We believe that the small footprints of disturbance from our rural airport construction should allow us to conduct environmental analyses, rather than a full NEPA statement. AIP PROGRAM With the help of Congress and FAA, the AIP program has grown from $61 million to $205 million in the last five years. Alaska has benefited tremendously from the AIP program, particularly in our rural communities, where airports are our highways, and we are grateful. This is not to say that we don’t have unmet needs. The cost of construction in rural Alaska is expensive. At most locations, the materials and equipment needed to construct an airport must be barged in from hundreds of miles away during a very short summer construction season. As communities grow and everyone focuses on improved levels of service such as those identified in the 1999 medical access study, we could easily double our AIP spending and still find ourselves behind. I urge Congress to more fully fund FAA operations from sources other than the trust fund, so that more of the trust fund can be invested in airport improvements. I suggest, too, that the primary passenger entitlement formula be reviewed and possibly modified. In this fiscal year, Alaska’s rural primary airports will earn $29 million in passenger entitlements. Our identified needs list for primary airports totals $535 million. TSA We in Alaska are as concerned about transportation security as any state in the nation. We fully support the efforts to protect the traveler and our nation’s security. We have many transportation assets, such as the oil pipeline and terminal, the Port of Anchorage, the oil fields, and others, the loss or disruption of which would be a severe blow to our state and the country. As it is currently structured, the TSA has three separate organizations in Alaska. We believe that the three organizations could be streamlined into one to provide consistent security oversight within Alaska. We believe, also, that at Alaska’s rural airports, transportation security can be achieved in a more efficient manner than at present. Transportation security programs at these airports should be based on threat analysis. As transportation security is presently implemented at Alaska’s rural airports, oftentimes the number of TSA employees outnumbers other airport employees. If a threat-based approach were used, security interests in Alaska could be met with considerably less investment. CLOSING In closing, I want to emphasize how important air travel, and the infrastructure that supports aviation, is to Alaska. From our international airports on down to the smallest village strip, our airport system is simply crucial to the state’s economy, local economies, and the health and well being of all Alaskans. Across the far reaches of Alaska, our air transportation infrastructure has become the glue that holds our communities together. Alaskans appreciate the continuing support of the FAA and the Congress for aviation in Alaska. This recognition of the importance of aviation to Alaska is gratifying to all of us. I thank you for the opportunity today, and will answer any questions the members may have for me.
Mr. Patrick N. PoeRegional AdministratorFederal Aviation Administration - Alaska Region
Mr. Poe did not testify from written remarks.
Witness Panel 3
Ms. Karen CasanovasExecutive DirectorAlaska Air Carriers Association
Testimony of Karen E Casanovas, Executive Director for the
Alaska Air Carriers Association
U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
July 5, 2005
Good morning Chairman Stevens and members of the Committee. My name is Karen Casanovas and I am the Executive Director for the Alaska Air Carriers Association. It is an honor to speak before you today concerning crucial issues facing aviation commerce. Since air travel is a way of life for Alaskans, I’ll address the issues and challenges facing commercial air carriers in our state. Our organization’s mission is to provide educational training, advocate for the interests of aviation in the public process, and act as a facilitator of aviation-related information. Additionally, we provide resources for insurance, security, safety, air-space, or weather reporting issues and act as a conduit between government and industry leaders. Our Association (AACA) was founded in 1966 and represents over 160 commercial air carriers and businesses throughout the nation. As a pilot yourself, Senator Stevens, you are aware of the wide variety of services provided by the aviation industry in our state. With a current grim economic situation for several of our members, the Alaska Air Carriers Association membership firmly believes that the federal government officials in high level decision-making positions should support aviation businesses not hinder them. Air carriers performing services around the state are fulfilling essential roles in Alaska’s transportation infrastructure and are already strapped by rising fuel costs and security demands. Prior to my current management position, I served in various capacities for Alaskan air carriers, having spent over 30 years in this industry, and can attest to the existing widely diverse types of operations in Alaska. There are many different and unique aviation companies that are conducted under parts 121 and 135 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). They are single engine airplanes to turbo prop equipped aircraft or rotorcraft and float plane operators. Some current proposals, however, would ignore these differences in operating requirements. Key issues for air carriers are throughput, resource utilization, reliability, availability, maintainability and scheduling. Without government staff to check-off mandated federal requirements, an air carrier is not able to utilize their aircraft. This in turn causes lack of reliability to meet customer needs, and therefore affects their bottom line by not being able to maintain the demand for their services. One challenge facing the industry today is the FAA’s unavailability for manual reviews, equipment approvals or maintenance checks. Operating conditions continue to be frustrating for airline operators and something must be done to stop the downward spiral in service to the industry. Solutions include an evaluation of pending manual approvals or aircraft certifications, and the creation of a process that utilizes timelines for review with quantifiable goals for completing these projects. In some locations, financial backing is needed to staff additional positions. Next, since seventy percent of our communities are not connected to the outside world or even each other, our concerns are with certain proposed changes to 49 CFR Part 175, which are not practical and accrue from the fundamental nature of routine air transportation in Alaska. The restriction of only one lighter to remote destinations where survival mandates reliable fire-starting equipment is not enough for passengers traveling for hunting, fishing, wilderness recreation, surveying or construction work. Carrying of more than one lighter on one’s person can be accomplished with the same level of safety provided when a passenger is limited to only one lighter. Many rural Alaskans rely on subsistence hunting as part of their lifestyle and restricting them to 11 pounds of ammunition when traveling to remote locations and where there are no regular options for purchasing small arms ammunition is not practical. The existing exception has a demonstrated need in Alaskan air transportation with no adverse safety concerns or history. To further address the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) 02-11654, previously described, transportation to locations where there is no phone service it is not realistic to require all air carriers to have personnel monitoring telephones. Requiring these operators to employ staff to monitor phones is not practical and we suggest language exempting this requirement for small aircraft operated with the State of Alaska. Moreover, an obligation to remain in constant communication between a non-certificated airport and the Pilot-in-Command is not achievable and this rule will likely be violated simply because commercial operators will not have the means to comply. On the topic of the proposed National Air Tour Safety Standards, (FAA-1998-4521) our association believes the objective to reduce accidents in the sightseeing industry will affect scheduled operators who conduct air tours as part of their business. These changes will trickle-down to other tourism related commerce, as well as impact employees of these companies as they reduce service or go out of business. An estimated three quarters of our membership would see a fall out of between 15-18 million dollars over a ten-year period. Air tours provide higher yields for certificate holders, which subsidize the flat, less profitable margins of essential air service. Since tourism is the second largest private sector employer in the state, our proposal would be to continue to increase safety through programs such as Capstone and the Medallion Foundation. Results in improved safety lie in projects such as further analysis of the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) to achieve weather reporting and training in use of navigational aids, rather than more regulatory constraints. We recommend that this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) be withdrawn and that funding continue for both the Medallion and Capstone programs. Senator Stevens, the Alaska Air Carriers Association appreciates your co-sponsorship with Senator Inouye of Senate Bill 84, which would exempt certain sightseeing flights from taxes on air transportation. We also appreciate your continued support of the Medallion Foundation, a program that is changing the culture of aviation in Alaska. In order to continue to improve aviation safety, however, we need monies directed toward weather access and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and those specific projects outlined in the Alaska Aviation Coordination Council’s strategic plan. Thank you for the opportunity to comment today and do not hesitate to call on the AACA as a resource for aviation issues in the future.
Mr. Richard HardingPresidentPenAir
STATEMENT OF RICHARD HARDING, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT
OF PENAIR, A REGIONAL AIRLINE OPERATING IN ALASKA,
BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE
AND TRANSPORTATION IN ANCHORAGE, ALASKA,
ON AVIATION SAFETY IN ALASKA
JULY 5, 2005
Good morning, Chairman Stevens, Senator Inoue and members of the Committee. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to testify today with regard to my experience with the Capstone program. The successes described by Administrator Blakey could not have been achieved without the combined efforts of the FAA and the aviation community working closely together -- A feat in itself -- in any other place, but the Alaska Region. I came to Alaska as a young pilot in 1970, with a fresh ATP pilot certificate in my pocket after learning to fly in California. I believe, at that time, there were more VORs in the Los Angeles bowl area than in the entire state of Alaska. The transition was like going to a foreign country. There were few navigational aids and many of the runways were what one would expect to find in a third world country. In 1997, a group of air carrier operators met with the FAA and some representatives of UPS Technologies in my office to discuss what could be done to improve navigation and communication in Alaska. We were told that with the new technology, they could produce almost anything we could conceive. Everything we see today in Capstone is what we dreamed of then. ADSB stands for Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast. ADSB is automatic, no pilot input is necessary. It is dependent on a series of satellites, rather than high maintenance ground based facilities. It gives us surveillance capability by our operations centers, other aircraft, and Air Traffic Control. The unit in the aircraft also has the ability to broadcast, as well as receive. A pilot can select any of the three displays in the cockpit, weather, traffic or terrain. Our passengers love it. Our pilots don't want to fly without it. I know that other operators feel the same way. Most of the flying in rural Alaska is done with small aircraft servicing more than 200 communities that are not on any road system. Aircraft have to fly at low altitudes in visual conditions because there are no low altitude airways connecting them, nor approaches to the runways upon arrival. The Capstone program has provided a means with its emerging technology to address both these issues, making aviation in rural Alaska safer and more efficient for the traveling public. The latest independent safety analysis by the University of Alaska Anchorage and the MITRE Corporation reports accidents in the Capstone demonstration area have been reduced by 47 percent. Capstone has initiated the installation of more than 40 GPS approaches at communities that have no other instrument approach procedures. In Southeast Alaska, they have been instrumental in designing and creating low altitude airways, outside of icing areas that allow aircraft to utilize airspace that was never available before. Capstone was the first to use the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) that congress had previously funded. When the FAA completes WAAS testing in the rest of Alaska, communities will have all weather access, with precision approaches, that were not previously available to them. Many of the communities that have instrument approaches do not have radar coverage at altitudes below 5,000 feet. With Capstone equipment on board, Air Traffic Control can see traffic on the same screen they see high-flying radar targets. This technology enables controllers to merge traffic safely, as they do in the rest of the country. All the progress accomplished to date is in accordance with the FAA concepts for the future NAS (National Airspace System). The Capstone Program is demonstrating how a rapid transition to the new NAS can be accomplished. The government surely cannot afford to operate dual systems side-by-side for an indefinite transition period, so it is essential that government and industry continue to work together. During the time I have been flying in Alaska, we have gone from the oldest, most outdated navigation system, to cutting edge navigational equipment. From the Capstone project emerged a council of industry leaders such as members of air carriers, manufactures, government organizations and aviation groups such as the Air Carriers Association. This new group, the Alaska Aviation Coordination Council developed a five-year strategic plan that includes all of the areas FAA Administrator Blakey had previously mentioned. As a result of the latest safety and benefits findings, the Alaska Aviation Coordinating Council is supporting the spread of ADSB technology statewide. We are all working toward the same goal, to improve aviation safety in Alaska. The Medallion program addresses the culture by providing guidance in getting pilots and management involved in the safety process. The Capstone program is the technology side of the partnership. It is necessary to have both working together to make the difference. We, in Alaskan aviation, have been fortunate to have the relentless support of Senator Stevens. We have also had the backing of the FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. Together, we have reduced the Alaskan aviation accident rate and are providing an example of what can be done in the National Airspace System.
Mr. Jerry DennisExecutive DirectorMedallion Foundation Inc.
STATEMENT OF JERRY T. DENNIS
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MEDALLION FOUNDATION, INC.
BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND
TRANSPORTATION, IN ANCHORAGE, ALASKA,
ON THE MEDALLION FOUNDATION
JULY 5, 2005
Good Morning, Chairman Stevens, Senator Inouye and Members of the Committee. I appreciate the fact that the Committee has chosen to hold these hearings on Aviation issues in Alaska. Specifically I would like to thank you for inviting me to talk about the Medallion Foundation. More than 32 years ago I came to Alaska as an NTSB investigator. At that time the aircraft accident rate was much higher. In fact, during my time with the Safety Board I averaged 110 investigations a year which is more than the total number of mishaps in Alaska this past year. When you consider that we had three investigators all averaging about the same you can see that there has been considerable improvement. However, flying in Alaska in the 70’s and 80’s is not like flying in Alaska today – or is it? In 1979 I was part of the NTSB Special Study on Air Taxi Safety in Alaska. Except for the advancements in technology, almost every item we discussed in that study has been echoed in succeeding studies including the one referenced by the FAA Administrator in her testimony today. It is significant that the same problems were identified not by one additional study, but four separate studies. How can this be? I believe it is because we are a highly regulated industry and have been doing the same things over and over again, all the time using the FAA regulations as our safety net. Einstein had an interesting definition for insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. I believe that the Medallion Foundation has broken that mold and the key is not additional regulations or another “Safety Program” but instead it is dedicated people armed with lessons learned in the industry and educating others using a back to basics one-on-one training philosophy. A quick review will show that every major reduction in aircraft accidents has resulted from a change in technology. It is because of these improvements that the focus has not been on human factors, but on the more tangible technological solutions. However, the accidents are still occurring and the pilot is still cited as a causal factor in more than 70-75% of the mishaps. The Capstone technology being discussed here today has reduced accidents and is a wonderful tool. I am here to say that the Medallion Foundation Five Star Shield program is also a very valuable tool that is focused on human factors and the organization. It has also reduced accidents throughout Alaska. This program is unique in that it was developed by the industry, not the Government. It is based on the belief that the individuals doing the job usually know more about what is wrong than anyone else, and nine times out of ten they also know the answer to the problem. The Medallion Programs are based on this concept and are a step above the regulations; a voluntary process that has higher safety goals yet can be tailored to each operator based on their needs and requirements. Why is this program working? One of the primary reasons is because it is good business and demonstrates that safety can be a profit center. The Senior Vice President of PenAir, Mr. Richard Harding, has stated on numerous occasions that the Shield program has reduced their occupational exposure by as much as 60%. When you look at the cost of workers compensation today, that equates to real dollars. Another reason, and a big one, is that the program is proactive not reactive – it is based on what people do right, not on how to prevent the last accident. Another important part of this success story is the relationship we have with the FAA. This type of program would have been difficult if not impossible just ten years ago, and even with this “partnership” approach it still took well over a year to get the inspectors to acknowledge that we had something to offer. One other very important advantage that we have over any government agency is flexibility!! We can change things as we see fit and do it now; in the past three years we have instituted six improvements to the programs. We still have oversight from the FAA, as our monthly meetings and quarterly reports will attest, but I believe that the FAA now looks on the Medallion Foundation as a tool they can use as well. I firmly believe that given the current evolution of the program, in the next six to nine months the FAA will be able to use the Medallion Programs to assist in their evaluation of an operator and will then be able to focus their resources on more “troubled” carriers. I also believe that using our process based approach and a viable internal evaluation program will be the basis for a limited form of self regulation which may change the nature of government oversight. The Administrator has been very generous in her praise of our program, we certainly appreciate her comments. Given that, I would like to provide some additional detail about the programs and how we implement them. The Five Stars are: (1) the Safety Star – this Star is in essence a Safety Management System as it requires management commitment, a trained safety officer, a viable safety program including safety committees with proactive risk management program, an incident investigation process and a viable emergency response program. Required tools are an operational risk assessment program, a non-punitive safety reporting system, a method for trend analysis and reporting, a root cause analysis program, and a distribution system which provides a timely free-flow of safety related information. (2) The CFIT Avoidance Star – this star focuses on the reduction of Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT) mishaps which amount to only 15% of our mishaps but more than 60% of our fatalities. We recently expanded this program to include additional phases of flight and not just the typical Alaskan weather related enroute CFIT. (3) The Operational Control Star – this is a dynamic system that provides analytical tools as well as a system of checks and balances to proactively manage flight risks and hazards. The program requires the use of flight coordinators, a flight risk assessment program, a written weight and balance program, and participation in Capstone where it is available. (4) The Maintenance and Ground Service Star is focused on the development of a quality assurance program that includes a modified surveillance program with documented management involvement. The program also focuses on standardization of ground services such as fueling, marshalling, ramp operations and baggage handling. (5) The last of the Five Stars is the Internal Audit Star. This process incorporates a dynamic internal evaluation program that focuses on the use of System Safety principles as well as regulatory compliance. This program assists management in the detection and correction of safety related issues. It must be pointed out that each of the Five Stars not only uses the System Safety Process including Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment, but incorporates the six System Safety Attributes as well. One of the goals of the Foundation is to enhance the Aviation Safety Culture in Alaska. For the operator that is the Medallion Shield. This process focuses on Management as well as the Corporate Safety Culture and determines if the concepts associated with the stars are woven into the fabric of the organization. Only after completing all Five Stars and undergoing a Shield Evaluation is the applicant entitled to be called a Medallion Shield Carrier. The Shield Carrier must be reevaluated each year and 20% of the Shield Carriers are then evaluated by an outside auditor. In furtherance of this goal to enhance the Safety Culture in Alaska, the Foundation has gone public, so to speak. We have a supporting membership program that encourages the use of Medallion Star or Shield Carriers as well as a public relations program that is focused on the education of the passengers. In this area we work closely with the FAA in their Circle-of-Safety program. We have several other programs that have evolved in the past two years, one is the General Aviation Flyer Program, another is the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) and a third is the Certified Flight Instructor/Designated Pilot Examiner (CFI/DPE) Program. The most involved is the GA Flyer Program, so we shall save that one for last. The ASAP program is a modification of the Voluntary Disclosure ASAP for Part 121 Air Carriers. In this case we as a Foundation are facilitating the Process and bringing in smaller carriers into the program. This process took approximately 18 months to develop the Memorandum of Understanding with the FAA, Medallion and the first operator. It has been in place for only a few weeks now but has generated enough interest that three other operators have now asked to participate. We believe this will be a very valuable program in the future and will serve as a prototype for other organizations as well. The CFI/DPE initiative started as a Root Cause Review of General Aviation Part 91 mishaps in Alaska by Medallion personnel. Coincidentally, the FAA Alaska Region 240 System Safety Branch had also initiated a similar review so we combined forces. The results have been very impressive thus far and appear to be applicable nationwide. It was during this process that the flexibility inherent to the Medallion Foundation proved to be a very valuable tool as we could do things that would have required long lead times and possibly a new budget cycle in the normal government process. The GA Flyer Program was developed to assist the FAA in addressing the high General Aviation losses and specifically the requirements for Alaska in the Administrators Flight Plan 2004-2008. Currently the GA Flyer program has three segments: A Safety Program; a Flight Training Device/Simulator Program; and, a Flight Risk Management Program. In the Safety Program the Flyer must: · Attend an entry level Safety Management course · Adopt an individual flight risk management program · Maintain a personal safety log · Attend safety courses and read safety literature · Conduct a semi-annual personal safety audit · Have another Medallion Flyer conduct a safety audit once annually In the FTD/Simulator Program the Flyer: · Must be checked out in the Medallion flight training device and maintain competency standards In the Flight Risk Management Program the Flyer must: · Attend a Medallion sponsored course on Flight Risk Management · Complete a King Risk Management Program CD · Complete a runway risk assessment form for at least three (3) airports into which the pilot operates · Accomplish a weight and balance computation for each flight · Establish a risk assessment methodology for each flight that includes items outlined in the King Risk Management program The programs outlined in this document are intimidating, but we do provide not only the one-on-one mentoring provided by the Program Managers, but formal training and in many instances tools as well. As an example, operators are required to attend courses on: · System Safety Courses · TapRooT (root cause analysis) · Maintenance Resource Management · Internal auditing · Safety Management Systems · Safety Officer Course Every one of these courses and all other courses we have offered are at no cost to the applicant. In addition, we provide the TapRooT software as well as the software to run the Internal Audit program. The only thing we ask for is the commitment of management and their time. Probably the most successful and visible aspect of the program are the flight training devices. The Foundation has developed cutting edge devices that address the unique requirements of Alaskans. These non-motion visual devices can be found in ten locations scattered throughout the state. We are currently in the process of upgrading these devices to accommodate the FAA Industry Training Standards (FITS) programs for advanced aircraft. These upgrades will incorporate scenario based training for Capstone I and II as well as any GPS or WAAS system currently available or planned. The grants provided by Congress through the sponsorship of Senator Stevens have already changed aviation in Alaska. I believe that the programs being developed here, both Medallion and Capstone, will eventually be utilized in the Lower 48 and other parts the world as well. In conclusion I would like to thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to testify on this subject. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Mr. Morton V. Plumb Jr.DirectorTed Stevens International Airport
U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Aviation Field Hearing
July 5, 2005
ANC Development Good morning, Senator Stevens and members of the committee. My name is Mort Plumb and I am the director of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today about development at Anchorage International. Since the beginning of airfield operations more than 50 years ago, Anchorage International has grown into the fourth ranking cargo airport in the world based on cargo tonnage. Anchorage’s air cargo operations have averaged 7% growth over the past 10 years. We expect that trend to continue based on Asia-US trade and new federal legislation authorizing expanded flexibility for foreign and domestic air carriers who use Anchorage as a freight transfer hub. Alaska’s strategic position has been recognized since the days of Billy Mitchell. With today’s high fuel prices, our location becomes even more important not only from a strategic viewpoint but from an economic view as well. Faced with narrowing margins, many carriers are maximizing the benefits of our location. With the option to refuel in Anchorage, carriers can haul more cargo weight per flight without adding significant distance or time to their route. Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the airport’s new C Concourse and plans are currently underway to retrofit the A and B concourses to bring them up to seismic code. In the course of that process, remodeling will be done to match A and B with the new C Concourse—all of which we plan to complete by 2009. The sale of $288 million in bonds to complete the Anchorage projects as well as airfield and terminal improvements at Fairbanks International was approved this last session by the State legislature. In addition to structural improvements, Anchorage International will see upgrades from air carriers. The arrival of FedEx’s A-380’s is projected for 2008 and the airport is already preparing it’s airfield to accommodate them. It was recently announced that a third cargo carrier, Transmile Air, based in Kuala Lumpur, will soon join the Northwest/Korean cargo hub and further diversify Anchorage’s connection to the world. AIP Funding Formula Changes In the most recent budget bill an effort was made to change the funding formula, and ultimately reduce, cargo entitlements in the Airport Improvement Program. The change in funding would reduce cargo entitlements from 3.5 percent of AIP to only 3.0 percent, and reinstate an 8.0 percent limitation on the amount of that smaller share going to any one airport. Based on this formula, Anchorage’s cargo entitlements would be reduced from $14.6 million to $6.8 million, resulting in a loss of $7.8 million per year. Such a reduction in cargo entitlements would directly impact ANC’s ability to provide the infrastructure required to support the substantial growth we are experiencing and in global air cargo traffic. It is critical to Anchorage to maintain 3.5% cargo entitlement rate with no cap. Senator Stevens, you were instrumental in increasing the cargo entitlement rate from 3.0% to 3.5% and removing the cap for total amount of cargo entitlement funding to any one airport. Anchorage is the only airport in the nation that relies so heavily on cargo entitlements; ANC currently accounts for nearly 13% of all cargo traffic in the U.S. Because ANC serves as a critical transit point for a large proportion of international air cargo to and from the Untied States, funding for our cargo support infrastructure is truly a national, and not merely a local concern. Congress has proposed raising the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) rate from $3.50 to $8.00 per enplaned passenger. For some airports, increased PFCs can cover cargo entitlement losses. As an example, Memphis is the 2nd largest cargo airport in the U.S. A formula change would reduce cargo funding for Memphis by $7.4 million but they would be able to increase total airport funding by over $23 million by raising the PFC. In contrast, 50% of ANC’s passengers are exempt from paying the PFC due to the legitimate dependence of Alaskans on in-state air transportation. Together with the loss of passenger entitlements that actually penalizes an airport for increasing its PFC, an increase in the PFC rate would allow ANC to make up only a portion of the loss in cargo entitlements. We advocate for elimination of the passenger entitlement penalty that comes with a PFC increase. But even more importantly, given the importance to the entire U.S. economy of ANC as an effective cargo transit point, it is critical that 3.5% of entitlements continue to be distributed based on cargo, and that there be no artificial cap that impairs ANC’s ability to meet the demands of its role in the national economy. Reinstate TWOV/Air Transport Program The Airport, along with Cathay Pacific, would again ask for your assistance to get the Transit without Visa program reinstated in Anchorage. After being assured many times that DHS would reinstate this vital program, to date its remains suspended. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection suspended the Transit without Visa program in August 2003. This program allows passengers traveling from one foreign country to another foreign country to transit the U.S. without obtaining a U.S. visa. To date the program remains suspended. Unlike all other airports in the nation, the passengers on ATP (Air Transport Program) flights through Anchorage arrive and depart on the same aircraft, carrier and flight. As to visa waiver flights, ANC is merely a transit stop, not a transfer stop. Department of Homeland Security was ready to issue an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) in December 2004 as the first step in reinstating ATP. Since the inauguration and the change in leadership at DHS, progress toward reinstating ATP has come to a complete stop. Cathay Pacific has recently returned their flights through Anchorage but are required to keep all passengers on board. Because ANC has a specially designed secure facility to allow these passengers to get off the plane without any real risk of entry into the United States beyond the terminal walls, the requirement that passengers remain on board is inhospitable, if not unkind, and totally unnecessary to U.S. security. To date, we have spent nearly $1 million enhancing our facility to meet DHS’s requirements in order to have this program reinstated. It is Cathay’s desire to offer passenger service between Anchorage and Hong Kong but are unable to do this until the Transit Without Visa program is reinstated, at least for secure facilities such as ours. Reinstatement of this program greatly enhances our ability to secure our borders because our Customs and Border Patrol will be better able to monitor passengers en route to North America, while at the same time will allow Anchorage to generate additional revenue and will open new air service markets for our residents. Flexibility for AIP spending Current FAA regulations are very restrictive on the ability of airports to use their entitlement funding. If the regulations were more flexible, airports would have the ability to use this funding more efficiently. One example, we wanted to use AIP finds to purchase a runway snowblower to be used on the larger runways and taxiways we are building to accommodate the new Airbus A380. This new snowblower, which has clears twice the width of any current equipment, would make our winter operations more efficient, economical and increase safety. The only manufacturer with a proven reliability is a foreign entity. Special condition 9 of the AIP grant agreement does not allow us to purchase this essential piece of equipment using AIP funds. Federal Agency Space Requirements Federal agencies, operating at airports, should be required to pay for space to ensure that space requirements are reasonable and to encourage the agencies to use the space efficiently without duplication. Airports are increasingly asked to reduce to costs to carriers and to find new and creative ways to generate additional non-aeronautical revenues. At the same time, airports are being asked by Federal Agencies (DHS, CBP, TSA, USFWS, CDC, Dept of Ag.) to increase space allocated to the agencies. With the exception of TSA, all agencies have laws in place that requires airports to build and furnish space at no cost to the agencies. Consequently, we have facility requirements that are unrestrained and extremely costly to the airport. ANC currently has 32,000-sq. ft. dedicated to process our 2 international passenger flight arrivals each day. We now have a request from CDC to build them a quarantine facility to house 5 medical officers to meet these same flights. The functions these agencies provide are invaluable to the safety and security of our country, but building extravagant and duplicate facilities for agencies is a waste of scarce resources. So long as the law requires airports to build facilities at no cost to the federal agencies, there is no incentive for the agencies to be practical with their requirements. TSA While we have a very good working relationship with the TSA leadership, Anchorage was promised that new security requirements would be reimbursed by TSA. To date, these commitments have not been fulfilled. In fact Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport’s LOI application is now #23 on the list for funding. To date, ANC has spent $19.6 million to fund TSA-mandated security enhancements in Concourse C and is projected to spend another $15.0 million in Concourse A & B. Float Plane Accommodations Lake Hood takes honors as arguably the largest and busiest seaplane base in the world. Several years ago it took approximately 18 years to obtain a floatplane slip. Management responded to this unreasonably long wait by tightening the rules regarding the wait list, and more aggressively enforced occupancy requirements. The result of management's efforts has been a reduction in wait time from 18 years to approximately six years, but this reduction came at a very high cost to those pilots and aircraft owners who lost their float plane slips. Under your leadership we have maintained the $1 million annual funding for continued support of our vital General Aviation airport. We have undertaken large projects to improve the facilities such as bank stabilization, developing the best GA parking facilities in the state, and have initiated a GA master plan to assist in planning our future developments with the objective to increase the available float slips. Given the critical importance of general aviation to Alaska, we would appreciate any possible support for more or alternate general aviation facilities. Conclusion The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport serves as a critical transit and transfer point for a large proportion of international air cargo to and from the United States. Our airport is not merely a part of the national air transportation system, but a critical international strategic location. Senator, thanks to your relentless efforts we have seen our cargo entitlements increase and new cargo legislation adopted to enhance and maintain our competitive advantage in the global marketplace. We thank you for your continued support. This is truly an important contribution you are making for the future economic well being of our state and the security of our country.
Mr. Rick ThompsonAlaskan Region Vice PresidentNational Air Traffic Controllers Association
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
July 5, 2005
The FAA is facing a nationwide air traffic controller retirement crisis. NATCA has been working for years to secure the much-needed funds to hire and train the next generation of controllers. Unfortunately, the slow pace of hiring has only exacerbated the problem – there are a thousand fewer controllers than two years ago. Anchorage Center is staffed at 88 percent with 15 percent of the workforce eligible to retire within a year. The critical aviation network in Alaska cannot meet the needs of our state if this problem is not addressed. This situation has been exacerbated by the new sector staffing plan at Anchorage Center, the increase in supervisor staffing (hired directly from the controller ranks), and the fact that experienced air traffic controllers are transferring out of the state in order to earn higher retirement benefits. NATCA has a long history of supporting new aviation technology, modernizing and enhancing our nation’s air traffic control system and working to ensure we are prepared to meet the growing demand for aviation services. In Alaska, we have had a number of unique opportunities to be on the cutting edge of new technology. · Regular preventative maintenance of communication, navigation and surveillance systems is needed in Alaska to ensure reliability of the NAS. Before resurrecting a program (RCM, formerly CMP), the agency should hold an open discussion with stakeholders. · Fairbanks Air Traffic Control Tower (FAI) is an instrumental flight rule, 24-hour tower and approach control facility that handles over 927,000 passengers per year. Fairbanks International Airport is the economic, transportation, medical, financial, and government hub of interior Alaska. Eliminating 24-hour air traffic control operations at Fairbanks is not efficient, effective or safe. The cost savings do not justify the safety and economic impact of reduced service. · NATCA has offered several cost savings measure – that do not impact or reduce capacity or safety – to members of Congress and agency officials. · The FAA-NATCA liaison program has routinely demonstrated success and has been commended by FAA management officials and contractors. The involvement of air traffic controllers and technical experts in modernization efforts has resulted in cost savings, on-time deployments and successful implementation of new technology. · NATCA supports the full and complete development of the Capstone initiative to use Automatic Dependent Surveillance (ADS-B) as an air traffic control tool in Alaska. The Capstone Program has enhanced the safety of visual flight rule operations in Alaska’s difficult terrain and challenging weather conditions. NATCA believes that the FAA should concentrate its Capstone Program resources on completing the air traffic control concepts contained in Phase I (approach control services for Bethel) before moving to Phase II (approach control services for Juneau). · Before the FAA moves forward with its plan to divest Ground Based Navigational Aids (GBNA) in Alaska or shut down Alaska’s long range radars, the agency should hold an open discussion with stakeholder.