Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/23/2003 01:35 PM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
    SENATE COMMUNITY AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                  
                         April 23, 2003                                                                                         
                           1:35 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Thomas Wagoner, Chair                                                                                                   
Senator Georgianna Lincoln                                                                                                      
Senator Kim Elton                                                                                                               
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Robin Taylor, Vice Chair                                                                                                
Senator Gary Stevens                                                                                                            
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 14                                                                                                  
Requesting the Federal Aviation Administration to fully staff                                                                   
and maintain flight service stations in Alaska.                                                                                 
     MOVED SJR 14 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                              
PREVIOUS ACTION                                                                                                               
SJR 14 - See Transportation minutes dated 4/10/03                                                                               
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
Senator Donny Olson                                                                                                             
Alaska State Capitol, Room 510                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor SJR 14                                                                                            
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
TAPE 03-11, SIDE A                                                                                                            
CHAIR  THOMAS WAGONER  called the  Senate Community  and Regional                                                             
Affairs Standing Committee meeting to  order at 1:35 p.m. Present                                                               
were Senators  Lincoln, Elton and  Chair Wagoner.  Senator Taylor                                                               
arrived momentarily.                                                                                                            
The business to come before the committee was SJR 14.                                                                           
               SJR 14-FAA FLIGHT SERVICE STATIONS                                                                           
SENATOR  DONNY OLSON,  sponsor of  SJR 14,  paraphrased from  the                                                               
following sponsor statement:                                                                                                    
     SJR 14 is a resolution  requesting the Federal Aviation                                                                    
     Administration to  fully staff and maintain  its flight                                                                    
     service stations in Alaska.                                                                                                
     Alaska   is   a  vast   state   that   relies  on   air                                                                    
     transportation   for   much   of   its   commerce   and                                                                    
     connectivity.  A substantial  portion of  the State  of                                                                    
     Alaska  does  not  have   the  road  infrastructure  to                                                                    
     facilitate the  transport of  freight and  the movement                                                                    
     of people.  Furthermore, coastal and  river communities                                                                    
     in  Western, Central,  and Northern  Alaska lose  their                                                                    
     marine  transportation alternative  during the  five to                                                                    
     eight   months   of   winter  ice   conditions.   These                                                                    
     communities   then   are   solely  dependent   on   air                                                                    
     transportation   for   travel,  goods   and   emergency                                                                    
     services for a substantial part of the year.                                                                               
     Furthermore, there  is a large number  of Alaskans that                                                                    
     own and  fly airplanes. Indeed, Alaska  has the highest                                                                    
     percentage of general aviation users  per capita in the                                                                    
     United  States. General  aviation users  depend on  FAA                                                                    
     flight  service  stations  to  inform  them  of  runway                                                                    
     closures and conflicting runway traffic.                                                                                   
     FAA  flight  service  stations are  essential  for  the                                                                    
     continued  safety and  dependability of  Alaska's vital                                                                    
     air   transportation  network.   Both  commercial   and                                                                    
     private  pilots are  totally reliant  on the  expertise                                                                    
     and competence  of FAA's flight service  personnel. The                                                                    
     state of  Alaska has over  180 airports that  depend on                                                                    
     flight  service stations  for  weather updates,  runway                                                                    
     conditions, and assistance with safe air travel.                                                                           
SENATOR ROBIN  TAYLOR asked what  could be done to  encourage the                                                               
FAA to  expand staffing rather  than constricting it  and relying                                                               
on  private  sector  contracting.  He favored  returning  to  the                                                               
system in  which communities were  FAA-authorized to  provide on-                                                               
site  weather  information  for   pilots.  He  opined  having  an                                                               
individual look out  the window to check for  local landmarks was                                                               
far more satisfactory  for pilots than relying  on a computerized                                                               
box for  weather information. He  expressed frustration  with the                                                               
FAA  and asked  whether there  was  a possibility  of using  more                                                               
people and fewer machines.                                                                                                      
SENATOR OLSON acknowledged  it was a good question  and he agreed                                                               
that  Alaskan pilots  who  fly in  inclement  weather find  local                                                               
observations to  be invaluable. Unfortunately,  privatization and                                                               
mechanization is  on the rise.  SJR 14 is  an effort to  stem the                                                               
tide  and keep  current FAA  stations staffed  and maintained  to                                                               
better provide for the safety of the flying public.                                                                             
There were no further questions.                                                                                                
SENATOR TAYLOR made  a motion to move SJR 14  from committee with                                                               
individual recommendations and attached  fiscal note. There being                                                               
no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                                
CHAIR WAGONER adjourned the meeting at 1:52 pm.                                                                                 

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