Heads up Lake Hood Users: Z41 is going away!

Now that I have your attention, let me clarify: the Z41 Identifier is going away, not the Lake Hood Strip.

Airport diagram for Lake Hood, including the Lake Hood Strip. Pilots will no longer file flight plans to Z41 when flying to or from the gravel runway associated with the float plane facility.

Airport diagram for Lake Hood, including the Lake Hood Strip. Pilots will no longer file flight plans using Z41 when flying to or from the gravel runway associated with the float plane facility.

For as long as I can remember, Z41 has been the identifier for the 2,200 foot gravel runway on the north side of Lake Hood.  But as of 0901 Z, October 17, 2013, that identifier is being retired, and the strip will just be runway 14/32 at LHD (or PALH if you prefer the four digit ICAO designation).  This cleans up an administrative detail, as having a unique identifier it was treated in certain FAA publications as a separate airport.  While the Lake Hood Strip entry in the Alaska Supplement is gone, the detailed maps of the seaplane base and the gravel strip in Section C, Notices (pages 344-345 in the Oct. 17 edition) will remain.

When I fly to Anchorage International Airport, Z41—I mean the Lake Hood Strip— is my favorite destination.  Generally quicker and easier to get into than the paved runways on the “big airplane” side of the airport.  Less worry about wake turbulence with the heavy jet traffic that is the lion’s share of ANC’s business.

If you have questions about this change, get in touch with the Lake Hood Seaplane Base Manager, Tim Coons at 907-266-2741 or via email: tim.coons@alaska.gov

So long, Z41. But long live the Lake Hood Strip!

PS. Concurrent with this change is a revision to the Chickaloon VFR Departure.  Pilots who use this procedure should examine these changes.

Changes coming to Lake Hood Chickaloon Departure

Pilots who fly to and from Lake Hood should take note: On October 17th the Chickaloon VFR Departure will change.  This is one of the half dozen VFR arrival and departure procedures that help GA traffic navigate the Part 93 airspace segments providing access to the airports, airstrips and water landing areas in the Anchorage Bowl.

In the revised procedure below, aircraft departing Lake Hood that used to fly over the old Kulis Alaska National Guard Base will now head directly to the east shore of Campbell Lake before turning south to depart the area.  This change addresses conflicts between Lake Hood traffic and the ANC Runway 15 departures, resulting in TCAS alerts and close calls when winds or other factors complicated flight paths.

While the new procedure is expected to address these issues, at times when ANC Runway 15 is in use, controllers send Lake Hood traffic that is inbound from the south to the east shore of Campbell Lake– before turning them in toward Lake Hood.  This may on occasion put them in a “head to head” situation.  According to the FAA Alaska Terminal District, this is an infrequent occurrence, and the controllers have been thoroughly briefed on this situation.

Note: This diagram becomes effective on October 17, 2013

Note: This diagram becomes effective on October 17, 2013

This plate will go into effect with the publication of the October 17 edition of the Alaska Supplement, and may be found in the NOTICES section at the back of the salmon-colored book. If you have comments or feedback on this change, please contact FAA ATC Support Manager, Dave Chilson  david.chilson@faa.gov.

Alaska Aviation Weather Forecast Changes and Enhancements

Update:  Due to the government shutdown, the changes described below have been delayed, and are planned to go into effect on November 12.

The weather is still one of the most important factors we need to evaluate before each flight.  Whether you fly VFR or IFR, knowing the current conditions and how they are expected to change is critical to that all important GO/NO GO decision,  figuring out which route to take, and what to watch for inflight.  On October 15th, the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit (AAWU) will make changes that should help you make those decisions, as you plan to fly.  Here are some of the changes.

Area Forecast/Airmets
Starting in mid-October, new Area Forecasts (FA’s) will be issued three times a day—at 4:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., local Alaska time.  Updates will come out at 12:15 a.m., 6:15 a.m. and 6:15 p.m.—or as needed if things are changing faster than anticipated.  AIRMETs will be either issued or updated using a similar schedule, the details of which may be found on the AAWU website at: aawu.arh.noaa.gov/changes/

Icing and Turbulence Graphics
In a trend which I find helpful, more information is being presented in graphic form.  Starting on Oct 15, the AAWU will issue new icing and turbulence graphics, showing the forecast in three-hour time slices, as opposed to the 6 hour charts we have been using.  Found under the Graphical Forecast tab on their home page, in the sample Icing Forecast product below, the user has a choice of viewing a single 12 hour summary, or on the bar immediately above the product, selecting one of the three-hour charts to see how the forecasters expect conditions to develop during the day.

Sample Icing Forecast Product summarizes over the entire 12 hour period. Individual charts showing 3 hour intervals show how conditions are expected to develop.

Sample Icing Forecast Product summarizes over the entire 12 hour period. Users can select individual charts showing 3 hour intervals to see how conditions are expected to develop.

Another change is that the Turbulence Forecast will be split into separate low and high altitude products.  Along the top, in the sample image below, the user again has the option to look at the 12 hour summary— showing the entire forecast period—or can mouse-over a progression of graphics to see how the turbulence is expected to develop during the forecast period.  Note that while the products are split at Flight Level 180, if conditions span that flight level, they will be depicted on both sets of products.  A little time spent examining the legend to become familiar with the new conventions will help become accustomed to these products.

sample turbulence lo level

Sample low altitude turbulence product, covering a 3 hour period. Users may also select the 12 hour summary chart to get the “big picture.”

A more subtle difference in the product to note:  An additional turbulence category, “Isolated Moderate” is being added. Previously the products only depicted “Occasional Moderate” and “Isolated Moderate to Severe” conditions.

table 2 issuance times

Table showing when both graphic and text products will be updated. Helpful if the weather is bad and you are waiting for the next forecast!

Other graphic products, such as the Surface Map and IFR/MVFR Chart won’t change, however the issuance and update times will.  The AAWU has provided a table (above) summarizing the timing of both text and graphic product which provide a roadmap to the new scheme.

These are significant enhancements to the products available to Alaskan pilots, and a downloadable document summarizing them is available online that contains examples and a more complete description of the schedules and changes.  If you have feedback on products, the National Weather Service would like to hear it. An easy way to reach them is to shoot an email to mailto:nws.ar.aawu.webauthors@noaa.gov.

As pilots we need to remember that the accuracy of these products is influenced by the PIREPs we file, either confirming forecast conditions, or alerting forecasters when conditions are changing faster than expected. Please take time to file an extra PIREP or two as you fly.

So a modification to an old adage might be… “If you don’t like the weather you see at the moment, just wait for the new forecast.”  Thanks to these changes, the new forecasts will be showing up more graphically and more frequently than before.

General Aviation Month in Alaska

It is an honor to have Governor Parnell recognize the importance of aviation in Alaska!  Below is the proclamation, in its full wording, which outlines not only our dependence on aviation, but some of the challenges as well.  The final whereas also recognizes the centennial of flight.

In spite of the many challenges, it is exciting to see how far we have come in a hundred years!

governor parnell sealGeneral Aviation Appreciation Month

Effective Date: Sunday, September 1st, 2013

WHEREAS, 82 percent of Alaska’s communities are without roads and depend on aviation as a lifeline to provide year-round access for commerce, transportation, emergency medical service, and tourism; and

WHEREAS, Alaskan residents fly more than eight times as often as residents of other states on average; and

WHEREAS, Alaska has more private planes per capita than any other state. There are 855 registered airports and seaplane bases, including 405 public use facilities and 450 private airports in Alaska, housing 10,423 aircraft utilized by 8,202 registered pilots; and

WHEREAS, our state’s extreme climate and formidable terrain requires the highest vigilance of volatile conditions, training, resourcefulness, and maintenance of equipment; and

WHEREAS, the aviation industry generates $3.5 billion and over 47,000 Alaskan jobs annually, accounting for ten percent of the jobs in the state; and

WHEREAS, this year, Alaska celebrates a century of aviation history that began on July 3, 1913 in Fairbanks and which, against overwhelming odds, has steadfastly become the largest aviation system in the United States.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Sean Parnell, Governor of the State of Alaska, do hereby proclaim September 2013 as:

General Aviation Appreciation Month

in Alaska, and encourage all Alaskans to honor the achievements of general aviation in Alaska during the past one hundred years.

Dated: August 30, 2013

Volunteers re-paint practice runway

Last night saw a group of volunteers in action on the Ski Strip at Fairbanks International Airport.  A dozen people assembled at 6:15 p.m., along with a pick-up with trailer, painting equipment, small Honda generator, a rake and a broom. The mission: to repaint the markings on the gravel runway.  The goal of the project is to improve aviation safety by providing a place to practice precision landings—before heading to the more challenging back-country strips.

Judging from the fact that a lot of the initial marks, painted in early June, had been completely obliterated, I would say the “practice runway” has been getting lots of use.  The volunteer paint crew waited just off the runway for a few minutes so a Champ could do some last minute touch-and-go’s before the NOTAM closing the runway went into effect.

Kathleen Fagre marks the spot for the paint crew to set their template.

Kathleen Fagre marks the spot for the paint crew to set their template.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin Alexander admires the template he designed: hinged for storage and transport, with cords on each end making it easy to move without wearing too much paint.

Kevin Alexander admires the template he designed: hinged for storage and transport, with cords on each end making it easy to move without wearing too much paint.

 

 

 

 

 

Stan Halvarson applies paint to the 2' by 4 ' rectangle, while

Stan Halvarson applies paint to the 2′ by 4 ‘ rectangle, while Tim Berg looks on. In the background, Ron Dearborn and Janet Daley move the second template to the next mark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In an hour, two 800' by 24' practice runways (one at each end of the gravel runway) have been re-painted.

In an hour, two 800′ by 24′ practice runways (one at each end of the gravel runway) have been re-painted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since this crew had worked together previously,  painting progressed at a rapid pace. A small team armed with a tape measure, can of marking paint, the rake and broom led the way, to re-establish the locations for marks that were totally gone.  We learned that raking and sweeping the loose gravel away from the area to be painted gets the paint on the hard-pack surface of the strip, which lasts longer than just spray painting loose rocks.

The paint crew has two plywood templates (designed and build by Kevin Alexander, with UAF’s Aviation Program), which they leap-frog down the runway to mark the 800’ long by 25’ wide practice runway.

With a full crew working on the project, we only spent an hour on the runway.  It took a little longer to clean up, but still left time to enjoy some cold beverages and fresh baked goods at the Air Park before heading home, or on to the next evening project.

Other Practice Runways?

FAA has approved six airports in Alaska to paint markings on their ski-strips. So far this summer in addition to Fairbanks, runways at Wasilla (IYS), and Goose Bay (Z40) have been painted and Palmer (PAQ) plans to mark theirs soon. Soldotna (SXQ) markings survived the winter.  If you are within range of one of these airports, go check it out and see how precise your landings are…
[Update Aug 21: Palmer marked their runway last week, Soldotna is planning to repaint soon.]

Who does these projects, anyway??

What does it take to have a dozen people show up on a Monday evening and work for a couple hours? This project is absolutely a partnership between the airport staff and numerous pilot groups.  The airport files the NOTAM to close the runway, provides a safety plan and makes sure that we are putting the marks in the right places. The Fairbanks General Aviation Association (GAA,) a local airport group at FAI, has taken the lead to organize the work parties.  Ron Dearborn, a charter member of the GAA—who also serves as the AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) Volunteer at FAI, sends an email to local stakeholders, inviting them to participate.  The individuals may belong to any of a number of organizations. At Monday night’s session the following groups were represented: the 99’s, Alaska Airmen’s Association, AOPA, Fairbanks Flight Service, the airport staff and UAF.  Who knows—these folks may find other ways to make improvements that enhance the airport’s value for the users, and to the community.

If your airport has a local airport support group, consider joining.  If it doesn’t, think about starting one (AOPA can help) .  Acting locally is often the best way to head off airport problems before they fester.  See if your airport has an ASN Volunteer.  If not, think about signing up for that program. It is people and groups like these that make it possible to have a practice runway at your airport!

Hauling to the cabin—by air

In a state with few roads, airplanes take on an important role as basic transportation.  Getting supplies to your “cabin in the woods” often means loading them into the plane, instead of tossing them in the back of a pick-up.  But what about those bulky items that don’t fit inside?
custom cabin title photoI recently received an email from my next door neighbor with the subject line, “If only I had a Beaver…”  Attached was a photo story that documented in pictures the steps he took to accomplish the simple task of building and hauling a screen door to his families cabin, on a lake about 70 miles west of Fairbanks.  Getting it attached to the outside of the airplane was a good part of the challenge.

Carrying external loads takes some time, training, patience, and (at least in Alaska) paperwork from the FAA.  But it is often the only way to haul those bulky items that don’t fit inside.  Canoes, moose antlers, and lumber are a few of the things that you may find strapped on the outside of a float plane, heading to a remote cabin or hunting camp. Even if you do have a Beaver in your fleet!

FAA GA Survey helps define Alaska aviation

While the airlines report lots of details about their operations directly to the government, the overall volume of general aviation activity is a lot harder to quantify.  Collectively, how many hours a year do we fly? What kind of avionics do we have in our airplanes?  The type of aviation we individually practice and enjoy is highly variable, which makes it difficult to summarize across a given state or for that matter, the nation.

ga survey logo

One of the principal sources of information that both the government and aviation advocacy groups rely on is the FAA GA and Part 135 Activity Survey.  In the next few weeks, aircraft owners should receive a copy of the survey in the mail.  A couple of points to consider:

  • While it says FAA 2012 GA Survey, it is actually conducted by a private firm, Tetra Tech, who summarizes the data so that no information tied to your N number is forwarded to the FAA.
  • The survey is going to 100% of Alaskan aircraft owners, so if you DON’T get one in the mail, check your aircraft registration to make sure it is up to date!
  • You can take the survey online, www.aviationsurvey.org using your N-number as a log-on password.

The results of the survey help us understand the accident rate in Alaska (we know how many accidents, but this allows the FAA to compute the number per thousand hours of operations).  Data from the survey also help us understand the impact of government policies.  Without this information, we are often left to speculate. Good solid numbers often allow us to make a much more solid case.

To complete the survey, dig out your pilot and aircraft log books.  Questions include how many hours you flew in 2012, how many landings were made, what percent of your flight hours were in Alaska?  They also want you to estimate the types of use: recreational, business travel, instructional, proficiency, for example.  I would look at the questions first, and then go through your logbook to extract the information needed.

The survey also asks what kind of fuel you burn and how much per hour. This information helps quantify our reliance on 100LL, if that is what you burn.  Perhaps the section that is easiest to answer, but the most depressing for me personally, is the last section where I get to NOT fill in the boxes for all the neat equipment I haven’t installed in my airplane (yet, I hope).  It shouldn’t take more than about 15 minutes to fill out this survey, so please dig it out of your mail or go on-line and take the few minutes to quantify your use of aviation.

Those of us attempting to advocate on your behalf really need this information to make the best case possible!

 

SouthEast Alaska Panhandle Fly-In features Canadian SAR Team

Last weekend the SouthEast Alaska Aviation Association (SEAKAA) hosted their second annual Panhandle Fly-In.  The two-day event, held at Sitka’s Rocky Gutierrez Airport, included activities for pilots as well as the public, and brought over 600 people to see what happens “behind the fence” at an airport.  Saturday turned out to be a dreary weather day (at least by my interior Alaska standards) that kept pilots from other parts of the the region from flying in, but that didn’t keep the local community from turning out to look at an array of display aircraft and a number of classic cars, courtesy of a local auto club.  Guardian Flight generously provided the use of their hangar to host the event.

A Coast Guard Jayhawk and RCAF Cormorant Helicopter were popular attractions.

A Coast Guard Jayhawk and RCAF Cormorant Helicopter were popular attractions.

A 1937 Chevrolet delivery van was among the vintage cars also on display at the PanHandle Fly-In

A 1937 Chevrolet delivery van was among the vintage cars also on display at the PanHandle Fly-In
Coloring books and an innovative "rocking plane" complete with runway centerline marking and lights kept the youngest set entertained.

Coloring books and an innovative “rocking plane” complete with runway centerline marking and runway lights kept the youngest set entertained.

Burgers and hotdogs fueled the participants, as they studied the display aircraft. Inside the hangar Civil Air Patrol opened the doors of their Cessna 172, allowing kids to sit inside, manipulate the controls and get what for many was the first taste of sitting in the pilot’s seat.  Larger aircraft on the ramp were also open for inspection.  Perhaps the aircraft that drew the most attention were the Search and Rescue aircraft provided by the Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Airforce.  Air Station Sitka provided a Jayhawk helicopter which complemented two aircraft from the Canadian Search and Rescue counterpart from Canadian Forces Base Comax, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  The Canadians flew a Cormorant helicopter and de Havilland Buffalo almost 600 miles to take part in the event, and participate in joint exercises with the Coast Guard (more on that later).  On Saturday, the public was welcome to come aboard all three of these aircraft, and visit with flight crews and SAR Techs.  It was a great way to become acquainted with the folks who are will fly out and save our bacon if we have a problem.

Rescue helicopters from a joint training mission made a pass infront of the crowd.

Rescue helicopters from a joint training mission made a pass in front of the crowd.

Sunday brought a welcome commodity to Sitka—sunshine!  Activities begin with a breakfast for SEAKAA members at the airport café, followed by a presentation on survival signaling conducted by the Coast Guard.  Shortly after noon the flying activities got underway, with the start of the second annual flour bombing contest.  As the participants had their pre-flight briefing, community members began to arrive at a viewing area, just outside the fence at the airport. A few miles to the east, we watched the Buffalo and the rescue helicopters orbit in a joint training exercise where Coast Guard crew members got to ride with and observe the Canadian procedures, and visa-versa.

The RCAF Buffalo was a serious contender in the flourbombing contest.

The RCAF Buffalo was a serious contender in the flour bombing contest.

Each flour bombing crew got two tries to hit the target, an orange basket just off the edge of the taxiway.  The first few attempts were a little wide, but slowly they begin to find their range.  About that time, the Buffalo landed, and picked up their flour bombs…  Just watching the big STOL transport aircraft land, with a decidedly nose-down attitude on short final, is enough to get your attention.  Having it pass in front of the crowd at a few hundred feet above ground to deploy an 8 oz flour bomb is just plane exciting!  At that point in the contest, the Canadian bombs were closest to the target, but that must have challenged the civilian entrants to new heights, who in the final runs of the day edged the Canadians out of the top positions.  In a show of good will and appreciation coming to the event, the Canadian team was awarded a much appreciated prize—a keg of locally brewed Sitka beer from the Baranof Island Brewing Company.

A jubilant team from Comox, BC accepts their prize.

A jubilant RCAF team from Comox, BC accepts their prize.

Following the contest, several local volunteers fired up their aircraft, and provided short flights to members of the public for a small donation, which gave a number of Sitka residents a chance to see their community from the air.  The smiles and comments from the passengers, young and old, as they left the airport made it clear that they enjoyed the chance to experience a ride in a general aviation aircraft.

Events like these take a lot of work to plan, execute and clean up after.  My hat is off to SEAKAA for undertaking this effort.  President Bill Lantz and Treasurer Jeannie Frank are but two of the team that devoted their time and talents to make this event a success.  The Civil Air Patrol Cadets and their leaders provided a lot of the people-power during the Fly-In, and a long list of sponsors donated hangar space, door prizes, display aircraft and much more.  The exposure to aviation that these events allow goes a long way to put a face on what some members of the public see as a “just a noisy airplane.”  The expression on the faces of the youngsters as they sat in the pilot seat of the Buffalo or the helicopters suggests that we are looking at the pilots of the future.

It doesn't take much imagination to tell that this young man is ready to fly!

It doesn’t take much imagination to tell that this young man is ready to fly!

Think about what you can do to help organizations like SEAKAA, or a group in your area, to share the joy of aviation with the members of your community.  As security procedures make it harder to get on an airport or close to an airplane, the importance of these events increases.  AOPA has a guide on how to organize an airport open house, which helps get started.  We need to help ourselves by inviting the public to have a glimpse of the world that we so proudly enjoy!

Centennial of Flight in Alaska

This Fourth of July marks 100 years since the first powered flight in Alaska.

Lily and James Martin with their Gage-Martin biplane in Fairbanks, 1913. (Basil Clemons photograph, Alaska States Library, ASL-P281-081)

Lily and James Martin with their Gage-Martin biplane in Fairbanks, 1913. (Basil Clemons photograph, Alaska States Library, ASL-P281-081)

It happened during the Fourth of July in 1913, in Fairbanks.  Early day aviator and inventor, James V. Martin and his wife Lily, (also a pilot) made the lengthy trip from Seattle to demonstrate what would come to be known as ‘the aviation.’  Sponsored by a group of local businessmen, the bi-winged Gage-Martin aircraft, with a 60 horse power motor, was crated and transported by ship through southeast Alaska to Skagway, transferred to the White Pass Railroad for the trip to Whitehorse and loaded on a stern-wheeler for the long trip down the Yukon to Tanana, The final leg up the journey was by another riverboat up the Tanana and Chena Rivers to Fairbanks.  According to aviation historian and University of Alaska Film Archivist Dirk Tordoff, the journey was made in just over twenty days—with good connections—which was quite efficient travel at that time.

The plan for Fairbanks was to make demonstration flights out of the local ball field, as part of the Fourth of July festivities. This timing was good, Tordoff asserts, as that holiday was the only time in the short summer season that the miners (which WAS the economy of the day) took time away from their diggings to celebrate.  The riverboat companies cut their fares in half, allowing miners from across the region to attend the holiday festivities.  So an audience was guaranteed. Tickets sold for $2.50 a head would cover the cost of the aerial demonstration.

Fairbanks flight on July 4, 1913.  (Basil Clemons photograph, Alaska States Library, ASL-P281-011d)

Fairbanks flight on July 4, 1913. (Basil Clemons photograph, Alaska States Library, ASL-P281-011d)

Devil and details
But like most things in aviation, the devil is in the details.  Martin’s aircraft required high-octane fuel that had been ordered, but didn’t arrive for several days, forcing him to operate on low-octane fuel. The poor engine performance required securing the tail with a spring setup, which was released by his wife when full power was developed, and even then he barely made it into the air.  Another problem: it was a bad wildfire year, and the smoke in the area was thick enough that visibility was a factor (something that still plagues Fairbanks aviators on occasion).  Consequently, during his test flights on July 3rd, he only managed to climb a few hundred feet, and stayed over familiar landmarks, right over the city itself.  This allowed the population of the town, about 3,500 people at the time, to realize they didn’t need to buy a high priced ticket (almost 60 bucks in today’s dollars), but could easily view the show from their own roof or wood pile.  A series of five flights were made between July 3-5, according to Tordoff. While thrilling for Fairbanksians, it was a commercial disaster for the businessmen.  The further plan had been to sell the aircraft in Alaska, but given the limited performance, there were no takers and the plane was taken apart and shipped back to Seattle, where it disappeared from the historic record, Tordoff told an audience in Fairbanks recently.  While a commercial failure, this event signaled the start of aviation, which over the next few decades would significantly alter transportation in Alaska, with airplanes displacing mail routes otherwise served by dogsled, and transporting miners in two hours over a distance that previously took weeks to cover. This flight occurring just as the first successful climb of Mt. McKinley was completed—which required a combined total of almost 1,500 miles of dogsled, snowshoe, hiking and river travel—make the contrast of how airplanes have changed Alaska particularly noteworthy.

Commemorating that historic ‘waypoint’

AACentennial-PosterRecognizing that a century has passed since this event, the Alaska Airshow Association has organized an ambitious plan with a group of warbirds and other vintage aircraft to make the rounds of many Alaskan communities.  They started in Cordova on May 9th, and are scheduled to appear in Fairbanks to celebrate the actual first flights on July 4th.  They, and other vintage aircraft from Fairbanks, will launch just before noon and fly over celebrations in Ester, Fairbanks and North Pole before returning to the airport for further festivities.  This flight is timed to ‘parade’ over Pioneer Park at noon as part of their Fourth of July ceremony.

Back on the East Ramp at Fairbanks International Airport, The Alaska Airmen’s Association is coordinating an event in conjunction with the Airshow Association to treat the public to free hot dogs and popcorn (food you would find a hundred years ago), an opportunity to see the airplanes “up close and personal” and to meet the pilots.  At the University of Alaska Fairbanks Aviation Facility, 3504 South University Avenue, a museum display about the centennial will be set up for viewing, youth activities are planned, and did I mention the free hot dogs?  Pilots will sign commemorative posters, and talk about the aircraft they are flying.  The finale will be at 3 p.m. when the aircraft take off and fly a race track pattern around the airport, before heading south to their next destination.  If you are in Fairbanks (or want to fly in for the occasion), come out to enjoy the fun, and reflect on how far aviation has progressed in 100 years. Or just to enjoy a free hot dog!

Fairbanks Aviation Day Draws the Public to Aviation

Neither wind, nor snow, nor record low temperatures stopped the public from turning out to see airplanes and learn about aviation at Fairbanks International Airport on Saturday, May 18th.  As Mother Nature provided what we hope was the last covering of snow for the season on Friday night, a cold front moved through and brought bright sunny skies on Saturday morning.  As the doors opened at 7 a.m. the temperature hovered at a chilly 22 degrees, with a brisk 15 gusting to 20 knot breeze dropping the chill factor to just above zero.  In spite of that, people poured in adding up to almost 1,500 visitors for the day.

Kids waiting to “take off” at the hands-on  Air Traffic Control activity. Photo by Claire Halvarson

Kids waiting to “take off” at the hands-on Air Traffic Control activity. Photo by Claire Halvarson

The cold temperatures probably contributed to making the EAA Pancake Feed a very popular activity, that raised over $2,500 for aviation scholarships and safety programs.  Older kids quickly signed up for a free Young Eagles flight, while younger children were attracted to the mini-airport (70 by 30 feet in size) where air traffic controllers issued them an N Number and instructions to taxi, take off and land.  A total of 167 youngsters “flew” in this airspace during the day.  The most popular event of the day was a face-painting table, supported by volunteers from the Cooperative Extension Service’s 4-H Program.

In spite of Mother Nature, over the course of the day almost 1,500 people came out to learn about aviation, including looking at the two-dozen display aircraft. Photo by Claire Halvarson.

In spite of Mother Nature, over the course of the day almost 1,500 people came out to learn about aviation, including looking at the two-dozen display aircraft. Photo by Claire Halvarson.

Checking out the flight engineers position on the FedEx 727, donated to UAF’s Aviation Program. Photo by Kevin Alexander.

Checking out the flight engineers position on the FedEx 727, donated to UAF’s Aviation Program. Photo by Kevin Alexander.

Outside, in the bright sun and bitter breeze, twenty three airplanes and a helicopter were on display, ranging from Everts Air’s immaculately restored 1929 Travel Air, to the FedEx Boeing 727, recently donated to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Aviation Program.  Many people had never had the chance to walk through a cargo aircraft, and very importantly on this occasion—it was warm inside!  Delcourt Aviation organized the aircraft display, which gave the public the opportunity to get an up-close and personal look at an impressive array of working aircraft.  The airport fire department complemented the display with a variety of crash/fire/rescue equipment. Due to the storm the day before the event, David Delcourt and Joey Smith got up at 3 a.m. to move the lighter aircraft to the display area. Now that is dedication!

The UAF Community and Technical College’s Aviation Program moved into its new home on the East Ramp only a few months prior to this event.  Transforming the hangar, work tables and class room into an aviation exhibition was no small feat, featuring sixteen exhibitors, a theater for aviation mini-seminars, scale model airport with runways and taxiways, and a dining area for the pancake feed.  While a few outdoor events were cancelled due to the weather, no one seemed to notice as they got free luggage tags from Alaska Airlines, talked with flight instructors, took airport tours guided by airport ops staff, learned about flight-seeing opportunities this summer, and listened to aviation historian Dirk Tordoff tell the story of the first powered flight in Alaska, 100 years ago.  The weather also limited the number of Young Eagle flights. Only 35 kids got to go flying during the day, but another 80+ signed up for a “rain check” flight when the weather improves.

Results
It is hard to measure the impact of an event of this nature. Seeing the look on the younger faces after they “flew”—either in a real “Young Eagles” airplane, or made a simulated flight over the FAA’s mini-airport, suggests a bright future for aviation.  Exposing the younger set not only to the prospect of piloting, but to air traffic control, airport management, aircraft maintenance and other professions related to our industry was huge! It took a team of people holding bi-weekly meetings for several months to plan and organize the event.

It also required sponsorship.  Many organizations stepped up to the plate, and provided both cash and in-kind support, which provided things such as the use of the UAF Hangar, insurance coverage from the Alaska Airmen’s Association, CAP Cadets directing traffic to parking areas, shutting down a maintenance shop to move display aircraft, to name a few.  In addition, it took over $5,000 of cold, hard cash to afford the radio, newspaper and online advertising necessary to reach the public, which came from the sponsors listed below. Your membership in the Alaska Airmen’s Association, AOPA, EAA, the Fairbanks General Aviation Association and other aviation groups as well of your support of the corporate sponsors, flight schools, maintenance facilities is essential to hold events like this across the state—which quite literally, gives us a future!

Sponsors
A big THANK YOU to the organizations and individuals that supported this event.  Platinum: Flint Hills, Alaska Aerofuel Inc., Gold: 5th Avenue Design & Graphics, Air Arctic, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Alaska Airlines, Alaska Airmens Association, Delcourt Aviation, Era Alaska, Everts Air, Experimental Aircraft Association, Fairbanks International Airport, FAA, Nana Management Services, North Pole Coffee, Northern Alaska Tour Company, Odom Corporation, ProFlite of Alaska, Tamarack Air, Twigs Alaskan Gifts, UAF Community and Technical College Aviation Program, Warbelow’s Air Ventures, Warbelow’s Flight School, Silver:  A&W Wholesale, Civil Air Patrol

Note: This article was reprinted from the June/July 2013 issue of Alaska Airmen’s Association’s Transponder.