17th Annual Association of California Airports Fall Conference

shutt awardThe Association of California Airports (ACA) held its 17th annual Fall Conference at South Lake Tahoe September 11-13. For the 11th consecutive year, the conference venue was the Inn by the Lake, with beautiful accommodations and a terrific view of Lake Tahoe.

Attendance at the conference was about 140, down a few from last year but with many first time attendees. As always, the program was a mix of basic instruction sessions and discussions of current issues and topics. Some of the topics included: Airfield Safety, Phasing, and Keys to Construction; Landing Safely with Storm Water Compliance; Airport Compliance; Establishing General Aviation Rents and Fees; NEPA/CEQA Update. Current Issues included General Aviation Drug Trafficking and Security Threats; UAVs/FAA Test Sites and the Risk and Rewards; Open Discussion of Current California Airport Issues.

I found the Department of Homeland Security presentation on drug trafficking and security very interesting. Hearing the DHS Agent describe what they do and give examples of the threats and drugs the interdict, I felt disconnected from the aviation media stories I have read about abusive and unauthorized searches of GA pilots and aircraft. I came away not knowing what to think!

The session I led on Current California Issues stimulated discussion of a recent Airport Cooperative Research Program report entitled “Impact of Regulatory Compliance on Small Airports.” In addition, we talked about leaded avgas replacement, impacts of sequestration, and the declining pilot population.

We were honored to have Wayne Handley as our Keynote Speaker. Wayne is a former naval aviator, ag pilot, aerobatic champion, and preeminent air show performer. Since beginning his aviation career in 1957, he has amassed over 31,000 hours of flight time, reportedly with very little of it spent in straight, level, and upright flight. He told fascinating stories of his career.

The highlight of the General Membership Meeting was the presentation of ACA’s second annual Michael A. Shutt Award. Michael Shutt was known in the airport industry as a leader, consummate aviation professional, and problem solver. He was a consulting engineer, experienced pilot, long term AOPA member, founding member of ACA, and served many years on the ACA Board of Directors. The Michael A. Shutt Award was created in 2012 in his memory to recognize the efforts of individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to the growth and development of California airports. I had the privilege of presenting this year’s award to Mary Hansen, Manager of the Yuba County Airport and long term ACA Secretary/Treasurer. She was recognized for her dedicated service on the Board of Directors, calmly handling all manner of complex issues, and she is a valued leader in the air show industry. We all thank Mary for her dedicated service to California aviation.

It was a wonderful and rewarding conference. I came home exhausted and pleased, and am already looking forward to the 18th Fall Conference, to again be held at the Inn by the Lake, September 10-12, 2014.

A note to air race fans. The ACA conference runs Wednesday through Friday and is the week of the National Championship Air Races, held Thursday through Sunday at Reno Stead Airport, only an hour and a half from South Lake Tahoe.