This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)

This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: How the FAA will improve the margin of aviation safety in Alaska

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state…

  • By Steve Dickson
  • Saturday, October 16, 2021 11:08pm
  • Opinion

By Steve Dickson

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state, and the Federal Aviation Administration is committed to doing everything possible to make flying here safer.

It’s why the FAA launched the Alaska Aviation Safety Initiative last October. It’s a collaborative effort that includes the FAA and representatives from every segment of the Alaska aviation industry. This week we released a landmark report featuring recommendations from key Alaska aviation stakeholders on how to increase aviation safety in the state, where more than 80% of communities are accessible only by air.

Among the recommendations are increasing and improving weather data reporting and forecasting, expanding satellite-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) air-traffic surveillance to more areas and improving navigation charting. The report also identifies and urges the continuation of successful FAA initiatives, including the agency’s weather-camera system and efforts that greatly reduced safety incidents around Bethel Airport.

This safety initiative works because it’s driven by input from Alaskan aviators. We teamed up with the flying community to develop this comprehensive blueprint for our future safety work. The recommendations are from the people who fly here every day, and who operate the airports that are lifelines for communities from Utqiagvik to Juneau, to Kaktovik and the Aleutian Islands, and everywhere in between.

Throughout the spring and summer, the FAA hosted 12 virtual meetings with hundreds of aviation stakeholders — including pilots, trade associations, airports and state officials — to get their thoughts on current and planned safety efforts in Alaska. Discussions addressed which FAA efforts are producing desired results, where improvements are needed, and what else the agency should consider to further enhance safety.

While stakeholder input was the foundation of this effort, recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board were the spark that got it started. We also received — and continue to receive — important support from Alaska’s congressional delegation, and we need their ongoing support so we have the resources to get this important work done.

I’m proud of what we achieved so far by working together. But this report is a starting point rather than an end. Now that we have a set of thoughtful, specific recommendations, we are developing a roadmap for implementing them, focusing first on initiatives with the greatest safety benefits.

We expect to complete the draft roadmap in early 2022. We will identify the resources needed, and then we’ll come back to our stakeholders for feedback. Meanwhile, the FAA will continue those initiatives already underway while incorporating aspects of the new initiatives by summer 2022. We’ll submit a progress report to stakeholders by Sept. 30, 2022.

Safety comes first for the FAA. And as a former military and commercial airline captain, airline executive, and now FAA administrator, I’ve learned that safety cannot be dictated from above — it must be a partnership. The FAA is committed to getting the work we’ve outlined done to make flying safer for everyone in Alaska. And we will do it in an ongoing, transparent and collaborative process.

Steve Dickson is the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. He also served as a former commercial airline captain and military pilot.

More in Opinion

This image available under the Creative Commons license shows the outline of the state of Alaska filled with the pattern of the state flag.
Opinion: Bringing broadband to all Alaskans

Too many Alaskans face barriers accessing the internet.

This photo shows a stack of pocket constitutions at the Alaska State Capitol. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Join us in voting against a constitutional convention

Voting no on a constitutional convention is vital to the well-being and stability of our state.

Michael O’Meara.
Point of View: Tell BOEM how you feel

It seems like BOEM should prioritize input from people most likely to be affected if leases are sold

The State of Alaska, Department of Administration, Office of Information Technology webpage. (Screenshot/
Cloud migration now underway will strengthen, enhance State IT systems

At the most basic level, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services remotely

Jessica Cook, left, and Les Gara stand in The Peninsula Clarion’s offices on Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska Voices: Better schools for a better economy

We need leaders who care about our children’s futures

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: This is our borough and city

By Therese Lewandowski Another election already? Yes! This is our local elections… Continue reading

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation building is seen in Juneau, Alaska, in March 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: APFC keeps steady keel during turbulent year

FY2022 was a challenging year for all investors

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Nonprofits provide essential services not provided by cities

By our count, nonprofits provide more than 100 jobs to our communities

Opinion: Don’t get scammed like I nearly did

I should have just turned off the computer.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce campaigns for governor as he walks in the 65th annual Soldotna Progress Days Parade on Saturday, July 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. Pierce resigned as borough mayor effective Sept. 30, 2022, to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: ‘It has been an honor to serve’

Borough mayor gives send-off ahead of departure

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces Friday, July 15, 2022, that 2022 most PFD payments will be distributed on Sept. 20, 2022. (Screenshot)
Opinion: A historic PFD still leaves work to be done

It is important to remember the dividend is not, and has never been, a welfare payment