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Roundup: With spring comes bevy of Alaska aviation news and events

Colleen Mondor
The FedEx maintenance hangar is turned into an aviation expo every year during the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering. May 5, 2013 Loren Holmes photo

It's spring in Alaska, which means it's the time of year when aviation in the Last Frontier kicks into high gear. Before summer officially begins, there are a few news items of note for Alaska aviators, as well as a slew of upcoming events of interest to pilots and aviation enthusiasts:

Anchorage air traffic controllers honored

Air traffic controllers Todda Yonge and Mark Lacy were recently honored by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association with an Archie League Medal of Safety Award for their work assisting a lost Cessna 172 pilot in November 2013. Information on the pilot, who believed himself to be in the Tanana region, was handed off to Anchorage Center by Fairbanks Flight Service who had lost contact. Anchorage was also unable to directly reach him but through coordination with two B-52s, which flew 200 miles out of their way to maintain contact with the Cessna, the controllers were able to relay the pertinent information that saw the Cessna safely land in Tanana.

You can listen to the entire exchange between Yonge and "Hail 13," one of the B-52s, on the Flying Magazine website or read the transcript.

Capstone-equipped aircraft eligible for upgrade

The Federal Aviation Administration has adapted a national standard for ADS-B avionics equipment and those aircraft owners who were part of the Alaska testing phase, known as the Capstone Program, might be eligible for an upgrade. If your aircraft was equipped with ADS-B by November 30, 2013 you should contact the FAA and see if you can receive new “rule compliant equipment”. This is a one-time-only upgrade and will require owners to sign agreements, have some equipment removed other avionics installed. Contact the FAA Surveillance and Broadcast Services Program at 907-790-7316 or jim.ctr.wright(at)faa.gov for more information.

Upcoming aviation events

The largest aviation event in the state takes place this weekend, May 3-4, in Anchorage. The Great Alaska Aviation Gathering, hosted by the Alaska Airmen’s Association, is held at the FedEx Maintenance Hangar at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Over 500 vendors will be present at this free event which includes many aircraft on display. Speakers scheduled to appear include Mark Baker, President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Brian Horner with Learn to Return on the issue of post-crash survival and Dr. Earl Weener, one of five board members with the National Transportation Safety Board. He will discuss general aviation accidents in Alaska. The full schedule is available online.

Valdez hosts its annual May Day Fly In and Air Show on May 9-11. The weekend includes a Poker Run, Short Takeoff and Landing competition and flour bombing competition. On Sunday afternoon there will be an acrobatics airshow. New this year: Fuel will be available for purchase on the field.

The Valdez STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) competition has gained national attention and this year will be featured in a demonstration at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on July 28th-30th. The biographies of the up to 18 pilots to compete at Oshkosh are still being published but already includes some Alaska competitors.

The Fairbanks Aviation Day is scheduled for May 17 from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the University of Alaska Fairbanks aviation facility -- just look for the FedEx 727. Activities include tours of the airport, mini-seminars, free flights for kids aged 8-17, a pancake breakfast and more.

The 2014 Hudson Memorial Fly-In will also be held the weekend of May 17-18. There will be a Poker Run, aerial scavenger hunt and tour of the Build-A-Plane facility. Kids 12 and under fly free with Above Alaska Aviation and takeoff and landing demonstrations are scheduled as well as dinner and music at Twister Creek, home of Denali Brewing Company, on Saturday night.

Back in the Anchorage area, the Arctic Thunder Air Show is set for July 26-27 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Admission is free and includes routines from aerobatic pilot Melissa Pemberton, Skip Stewart, the Oregon Aero SkyDancer team and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Numerous aircraft, including a Japanese Zero, will be on display. Gates open each day at 9 a.m., flying begins at 10 a.m. and the show concludes at 5 p.m.