SPEECH: Great Alaska Aviation Gathering

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. The Great Alaska Aviation Gathering, now in its 18th season, has become a remarkable kickoff to the summer flying season. Seeing the success of this event, I am happy to be a part of its continuation. We really have come a long way from the days of duct tape and wire hangers – seriously, these booths represent the latest in equipment and technology to keep our aircraft and airways safe. And what impressive aircraft are being shown today!

As you know, the FAA reauthorization is up for renewal this fall with current legislation expiring on September 30. I appreciate the feedback and comments many of you have shared with my office and others on various aspects of the regulatory requirements that result from this legislation. I encourage you to continue to do this and have your voice be heard in this process. Reauthorization will touch on a number of areas of concern for our aviation community - from medical certifications to air traffic control. We need your feedback to ensure that legislation addresses appropriate regulatory needs. On the safety side, we need to make sure that we have the weather data that is needed to generate forecasts and that this data is disseminated through regular aviation channels, particularly for our rural airports that fly under visual flight rules. I know the implementation of ADS-B coverage within our major flight routes in the state provides a level of coverage that we want in Alaska, but as you know, implementation will require joint agency and industry coordination. I hope this session provides fruitful discussion on the issue.

I am happy to report that I have cosponsored the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2, allowing our private pilots to operate lighter, recreational aircraft using the fitness test under Alaska driver’s license requirements. This legislation represents what regulatory balance is about.

With the advent of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) entering our airspace – and I am really talking about the introduction of commercial use because we have always had some pretty active recreational enthusiasts – it is important to remember that Alaska has a great opportunity as a national test site. We have the chance to create a system, test the latest equipment and safely implement beyond line of site flying. To be clear, this process must ensure the privacy of individuals and this is why our UAS community is using sites such as the airspace off Oliktok Point over the Arctic Ocean to test capabilities.

Last, I know the expansion of Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex airspace is out for public comment. Of course, ensuring adequate communication between military and civilian aircraft at all times is paramount. As discussions move forward on this expansion, care must be given to times of planned exercises while understanding the importance of hunting season here in Alaska. During the last expansion, all parties committed to a workable solution and I am hopeful the same will occur again.

Please continue to provide feedback for the FAA reauthorization. I welcome your input and we need that input given the critical importance of aviation in our state. Thank you.