Since joining AOPA as our Northwest Mountain Regional manager three years ago, I’ve had many opportunities to visit all seven of the beautiful states I cover. But by virtue of few aviation issues to address, Utah has not been as frequent a destination for me as my other six states. I was able to rectify that last week, however, as I at last had an opportunity to spend several days in the Salt Lake Valley, participating in a variety of productive aviation functions and meetings.
My first stop after arriving at KSLC was to visit with Pat Morley, a great friend of GA (and an AOPA member) who is the Director of the Utah Division of Aeronautics. I’ve known Pat for nearly 13 years, since my time as the airport manager in St. George, Utah. You’d be hard-pressed to find a harder working, more dedicated aviation professional. With minimal resources, Pat and his small staff do a fantastic job supporting the maintenance and improvement of Utah’s 47 public use airports. Utah is a great example of effective application of GA revenues- 100% of GA fuel taxes and aircraft registration fees collected are allocated to the Aeronautics Division, where they are invested back into the state’s airport and aviation system. The Aeronautics Division also operates the state’s general aviation aircraft, efficiently transporting state employees between the state’s far-flung communities that are often difficult to reached easily by road. It was great seeing Pat again, and finally seeing his operation first hand.
The primary reason for my trip to SLC, however, was to represent AOPA and GA at the annual Runway Safety Summit, presented by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and the Salt Lake City Department of Airports. This valuable two day event focused on how GA, airlines, airports, air traffic control, FAA and others are collaborating to improve runway safety, minimize runway incursions, and keep airports and their users safe. I participated on a panel that addressed “Preventing GA Runway Incursions”, where I discussed GA cockpit technology evolution, as well as products and devices like Foreflight and IPads available to pilots to improve situational awareness and help minimize incursions. I also briefed attendees on the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s excellent training resources for GA pilots on runway safety, which were developed in partnership with FAA. If you haven’t seen them, have a look. And don’t forget to have a look outside that cockpit and avoid those incursions!
What I was most excited about on this trip, however, was my evening visit on Tuesday December 9th to the South Valley Regional Airport in West Jordan, south of SLC. Just a few short years ago, this GA reliever airport to KSLC was struggling, with little activity and lackluster aviation services. All that changed three years ago when local pilots Don and Scott Weaver opened Leading Edge Aviation. In that short time, with the strong support of the Salt Lake City Department of Airports, the Weavers have developed and fostered a thriving GA community, and the airport is vibrant and re-energized. Each month, the Weaver’s host a monthly dinner and meeting for GA users on the airport, and I was fortunate to participate in December’s dinner while I was there. We all enjoyed a fantastic meal prepared by the Weaver’s, and I updated the group on AOPA’s latest advocacy efforts, and our initiatives to grow GA. This airport is a perfect example of the camaraderie, fun and engaging social community aspect of GA that AOPA President Mark Baker talks so much about. If you want to see how successful a GA airport can be, drop in to U42 some time.
I finished up my trip with a visit to the Ogden-Hinckley Airport (KOGD), a very busy GA reliever about 30 miles north of SLC. I met with our Airport Support Network Volunteer Bob Foxley to discuss a variety of airport topics that AOPA is engaged with, including challenges faced by GA tenants and users as a result of Allegiant Airlines’ two weekly flights, and TSA regulations and their impact on the rest of the airport. We also discussed the airport’s rules and regulations and how AOPA can help airports like KOGD implement rules and regulations that are reasonable, fair and not overly burdensome. And while at KOGD, I was treated to a rare sight of not one, but two airworthy Grumman Albatrosses. Thanks to the gracious staff at CB Aviation I was able to check out the interior, and even get a chance to sit up front!
And with a few hours to kill before my flight home, and being the true avgeek that I’ve always been, I finally was able to visit the Hill Air Force Base Aerospace Museum, a fantastic and comprehensive collection of military aircraft, including the world’s only C-model SR-71. If you ever have free time in Salt Lake City, this is definitely a place not to miss.
Although I was in Utah for just three days, my time there was incredibly worthwhile, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with a variety of GA professionals and enthusiasts about AOPA and our advocacy, as well as our shared love of flying and all things aviation. To keep tabs on all that AOPA is working on in Utah and at state and local levels across the country, be sure to check out our regional advocacy pages. I look forward to seeing you in your state in 2015!