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Alaska Air Carriers Association: working to improve Alaska's aviation industry.

The Alaska Air Carriers Association (AACA) operates under a distinctive objective: "to foster and support a stable commercial aviation industry founded upon the principles of safety, professionalism and longevity."

AACA was established March 10, 1966, as the Alaska Air Taxi Operators to help operators in Southwest Alaska have an organized aviation "voice" in aviation regarding State legislation and workers' compensation insurance premiums for high-risk businesses. At the time of its inception, the group focused on several important pieces of State legislation, including the development of the Alaska Transportation Commission.

Over the years, AACA has experienced strong, steady growth. It has expanded not only in membership, but also in prestige, funding and the ability to command the attention and respect of the industry, governmental agencies and the public, according to Executive Director Joy Journeay. In 1974, AACA began an annual convention in addition to its annual meetings. "This venue continues to provide an opportunity for the industry to gather, speak to common problems, meet with government agencies, and set new goals," Journeay said.

The nonprofit AACA also has added training programs to enhance the safety of aviation operations and business management, as well as a trade show to facilitate further business opportunities. This past February, AACA held its 45th Annual Convention and Trade Show in Anchorage at the Hotel Captain Cook. The successful event featured educational sessions, training, networking, new products and opportunities for attendees to gain a broader perspective about the aviation industry.

Today, AACA is continuing to advocate on behalf of aviation companies with State and federal legislative bodies and regulatory government agencies. It also is developing additional training programs and support to serve its membership. For example, AACA offers an active health insurance package. Members can choose from multiple types of employee health benefit packages, including bridge insurance, which pays 100 percent of high deductibles and co-pays for other health care.

Journeay says AACA plans to increase its membership benefits as it continues to move forward. She said, "As we move into the future, AACA shall continue to seek further avenues of service and support to our members to insure the vigorous health and financial viability of Alaska's aviation industry."

MEMBERSHIP BASE

AACA's 160 members carry more than 98 percent of the passengers and cargo in Alaska. These members help support an industry that has a major economic impact on the state. The Alaska aviation industry is the state's fifth-largest employer; it generates 10 percent of all jobs in Alaska.

AACA is comprised of an assortment of active and associate members. Active members fall into four main categories: commuter/air operator/scheduled operators; scheduled air carrier operations; guide and lodge owners; and certified repair stations. The organization's roster of active members ranges from Alaska Airlines, PenAir and Northern Air Cargo to Wright Air Service and Wings Airways.

Associate members of AACA are entities providing services, equipment or instrumentation to other members. This group also includes students who are pursuing careers in aviation. One of AACA's newest associate members is Staples Advantage, which partners with the organization for office products.

As part of its mission, AACA works to provide safety and educational training, as well as support for its members. In fulfilling that role, the organization supplies resources for insurance, security, personnel issues, safety, airspace and weather forecasting. It also provides a platform for members to express their views, such as the Alliance for Safety Forum, its annual convention and trade show, and public speaking events.

The association strives to be a facilitator of accurate and reliable aviation-related information and serves as a vital link between government and industry leaders. Its office--located at Anchorage's Merrill Field Airport consistently advocates for the passage of prudent federal and State regulations that affect its membership.

INDUSTRY ISSUES

AACA is focused on a variety of regulatory and legislative issues that impact Alaska's aviation industry. Throughout the year, its staff members work diligently to provide data to help legislators make informed decisions and to inform members of proposed and potential impacts from regulations or government actions.

"The AACA board and staff vigorously advocate for air carriers with the State of Alaska, federal government agencies and our federal delegates," Journeay said. "This last year saw the introduction of an increased number of proposed regulations, reinterpretations, clarifications and other government actions that will have far-reaching impacts upon aviation here in Alaska."

For instance, millions of compressed gas cylinders have been transported for decades in aircraft throughout Alaska with no incidents or accidents, according to Journeay. But a regulation came down from the Federal Aviation Administration requiring bulky, fire-resistant overpacks for compressed oxygen cylinders.

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"The overpacks make the shipment almost nine times bigger and two times heavier, were not commercially available when the regulation went into effect, and truly do not offer any increased level of safety," she said.

Journeay emphasizes that Alaska residents are widely dispersed across 586,000 square miles and air travel is the only means of access for emergencies, medical personnel and medical supplies for almost 170 communities in Alaska. She adds: "The health and safety considerations of these communities have been drastically impacted without such an exemption, and we continue to fight a battle to allow Alaska communities to not be required to economically pay nearly five times more for the transportation of a necessary product. Freight loads per capita in Alaska are 39 times higher than the highest freight load for a rural community in the Lower 48."

AACA is also speaking out against the federal government's growing use of resources outside Alaska. "The federal government has used aviation resources from the Lower 48 or foreign countries in order to (supposedly) save money," Journeay said. "According to our carriers, they are escalating this practice and taking contracts for work in Alaska away from Alaska's aviators. The economic impacts on aviation are being felt especially deeply in the current economy.

"It is obvious the aviation industry must avoid hardships resulting from government action. The managerial and economic impacts have the potential to ruin the financial viability of both large and small carriers in Alaska."

In broader areas, AACA continues to seek funding for the Medallion Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to reduce accidents in aviation. Other areas of involvement for AACA this year include issues related to weather, subsidies and protections. The association is asking for agency partnership to get adequate weather information into the cockpit for pilot decision-making. AACA also is supporting the necessity of Essential Air Services subsidies for Alaska's communities and requesting protection from proposed military operations area expansion without adequate user and State input.
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Title Annotation:Associations
Comment:Alaska Air Carriers Association: working to improve Alaska's aviation industry.(Associations)
Author:Barbour, Tracy
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Jun 1, 2011
Words:1099
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