President of pilot association speaks in Juneau

Posted: Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Visitors flying into Alaska face challenges they might not find in the rest of the country, the president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association said Tuesday.

"Alaska is pretty unique with its weather and its terrain," Phil Boyer, of Frederick, Md., said before speaking to more than 50 people for a Pilot Town Meeting at Centennial Hall. He added that the association is doing what it can to help make flying safer.

Boyer said he flew from Salt Lake City to Juneau in a light jet, part of a new breed of aircraft revolutionizing general aviation.

Boyer said the group offers a service that allows members to call a toll-free number and talk to someone who can give them the flight tips they need when flying to a distant locale.

During the night's presentation, he showed the audience how a trip planner at the organization's Web site provides updated information about travel routes and destinations.

The association, with more than 400,000 members, represents about two-thirds of the pilots in the United States, Boyer said. In addition to advocating for the interests of private pilots, the organization informs pilots of advances in safety.

Private aviation is important to Alaska, where distances between destinations can be great and roads can be few.

"It's general in the Lower 48 that a lot of things are developed and nobody has thought of the 49th State," he said.

But with project Capstone, the rest of the country will be using something that was developed in Alaska, he said. The equipment, which was in use last year in Southeast Alaska and the Bethel area, uses the Global Position System and puts detailed maps of a plane's flight path into the cockpit. Eventually, it will allow pilots to track other aircraft on screen and receive detailed weather data.

Boyer also noted that after he met with Alaska's member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Don Young, the congressman was instrumental in pushing legislation that protects the rights of private pilots.

The federal Transportation Security Administration had established the right to revoke pilot certification of people believed to be a national security threat. No outside group had the right to appeal, Boyer said.

Young's legislation gave pilots the right to appeal outside the TSA, he said.

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