For the past thirty years, the Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation (AASF) has organized a spring safety seminar for float plane pilots in Anchorage. The day-long seminar is held in the spring normally before the ice goes out on the float ponds. It has always been well attended, and covers a variety of topics. This year, AASF upped their game and decided to offer the event both in Anchorage and Fairbanks at the same time. The aviation programs at University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) and University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) hosted the session, aided by the wonders of web-conferencing, with presentations conducted by speakers located at both sites.
Topics included presentations on aeronautical judgement and decision making, as well as engine troubleshooting, satellite tracking devices and seaplane maintenance. But it wasn’t all safety lectures. Participants were briefed on efforts to contain the invasive weed, Elodea and the safety foundation presented their Right Stuff Award to Missionary Aviation Repair Center in Soldotna. The award recognized that in spite of challenging circumstances, an off-airport landing was executed without the benefit of engine power, yet every one made it safely home at the end of the day. Eventually including the aircraft!
The highlight of the day for most participants was an aviation scenario, or “dinner theater” as AASF Chairman (and scenario pilot) Harry Kieling, termed it. For the past several years AASF has presented a scenario where a pair of pilots sets out to go flying. The audience is given the nature of the mission, equipment and weather, and at key points along the way invited to vote for what they would have done, based on what they know so far, and their aeronautical comfort level. Roger Motzko, with FAA’s Air Traffic Organization’s Safety and Technical Training group, creates animations of these flights including terrain and weather, to visually bring the participant along on the flight. This year, through the use of an online polling tool, participants with a smart phone in both Anchorage and Fairbanks could text their votes as to whether to take off, or wait for better conditions, and when to turn around. The results were shared on the screen for all to see. That was pretty impressive!
As with any new innovation or change in the paradigm, there were some challenges. Audio quality for some sessions was poor in Fairbanks. We also found that it was difficult to ask a question if the person asking was not at the presenter’s site. AASF will be reviewing the sessions, and figuring out if this “meeting architecture” is a good way to expand the reach of the seminar. This year, in addition to the 100+ attendees at UAA there were over 30 people that participated at UAF’s facility in Fairbanks. If you were a participant at either location, AASF would like to hear from you. What did you like? What wasn’t effective? How did you like the mix of topics? What would you like to see or hear about in the future? Any recommendations for future formats? Please share your thoughts by email with the foundation. Please help them shape the future of aviation education in Alaska!