By Rose Dorcey,
Big-name speakers, informative sessions and recognition of aviation leaders describe the 2006 Wisconsin Aviation Conference, held May 1-3 in at the Regency Suites/KI Center in Green Bay, Wis. More than 200 people attended the 51st annual event, sponsored by the Wisconsin Airport Management Association, Wisconsin Business Aviation Association and the Wisconsin Aviation Trades Association.
“The conference was a tremendous success. Overall, attendance increased slightly from last year and the venue was terrific,” said Pete Drahn, executive director of WAMA.
The event began on Monday afternoon with registration and opportunities for golf or a sporting clay shoot. A welcome dinner was held at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay. On Tuesday morning, attendees got down to business and attended more than a dozen informative sessions, ranging from airport security issues and runway deicing products to airport grant assurances and airspace and instrument approach feasibility studies.
The Tuesday morning sessions were kicked off with presentations by Dave Greene, director of the Wisconsin DOT-Bureau of Aeronautics; Chris Blum, administrator, FAA Great Lakes and Central Regions; and Bob Huber, FAA Airports District Office manager in Minneapolis, Minn.
Greene spoke of the importance of building partnerships and of the great contributions made by the aviation industry.
“Partnerships with municipalities, state and federal agencies, local and national associations and other key entities are vital to safety and improvements at Wisconsin’s system of airports,” he said. “Aviation’s contributions to our state economy are enormous—more than $3 billion annually.”
Greene also spoke of the quality of aviation in Wisconsin.
“While Wisconsin is known throughout the nation for the quality of its airports, it’s the quality of its people and our aviation community that keeps Wisconsinites here, visitors coming back, and businesses’ continued interest,” he said.
Blum identified several aviation myths and realities, addressing aviation safety in the United States and globally, the air traffic control system’s capacity problems, and the Aviation Trust Fund/FAA budget. He described the FAA “road map, to-do list and report card” in discussing the agency’s Flight Plan 2006-2010 and its role in ensuring that the agency focus on what’s important. The Flight Plan addresses many aviation issues. Blum described the plan as “a dynamic document that has to meet current needs of the system.
“We not only assess ourselves but also give our stakeholders—people like you—a chance to rate us,” he said. “The administrator (Marion Blakey) and her top executives meet each month to discuss the Flight Plan’s status. We make midcourse corrections to our problem areas and ensure the ‘green’ items stay on track. Every FAA employee’s pay is tied to how well we perform. Last year, we were successful on 28 out of 31 performance targets.”
He said the Flight Plan goal is to reduce the number of fatal GA accidents from the 1998 baseline of 385 to 319.
“Last year, the number of fatal GA crashes declined to 350–halfway there,” he said.
Jim Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association, was the keynote speaker at Tuesday evening’s banquet. Coyne spoke at length about aviation user fees and the detrimental effect it would have on general aviation.
“It’s unfair that a 747 pays the same fee as a Cessna 172,” he said.
Coyne urged conference attendees to contact their representatives in Washington to support Senator Conrad Burns’ (R-MT) legislation that would temporarily suspend the recent change in collection of aviation fuel taxes until Oct. 1, 2007. The legislation,
S. 2666, the “Aviation Fuel Tax Simplification Act,” changes the tax collection procedures for aviation fuel, reverting to the status quo prior to the Oct. 1, 2006 change. Burns is chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Aviation.
On behalf of NATA, Coyne invited GA airports to become active NATA members. NATA represents nearly 2,000 large and small aviation business-service providers.
WAMA presented several awards at the event. The Distinguished Service Award is presented to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to aviation. Dave Johnson of the Wisconsin DOT Bureau of Aeronautics received the award for “his positive attitude and commitment to Wisconsin airports.”
The Airport Engineering Award is given to persons who have made significant professional contributions in the airport engineering or architecture fields in Wisconsin.Kevin Lang and Randy Van Natta of Becher-Hoppe Associates, an engineering firm based in Wausau, Wis., received the award.
James Hanford received the Lifetime Service Award, given to persons who have devoted themselves to promoting and serving Wisconsin aviation for at least 10 years. Hansford recently retired after serving for 23 years as airport manager of Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA).
The 52nd annual Wisconsin Aviation Conference will be held at the Holiday Inn and Conference Center in Stevens Point, April 30 – May 2, 2007.
For more information, visit [http://www.wiama.org].