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‘The Last Frontier’ state holds big GA gathering

Organized by the Alaska Airmen's Association—a nonprofit organization founded in 1951 with a mission to protect, preserve, and promote general aviation in Alaska—the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering is the largest annual aviation event held in the state.

The Great Alaska Aviation Gathering was held at the Palmer Municipal Airport in Palmer, Alaska, and at the nearby Alaska State Fairgrounds. Photo by Kollin Stagnito.

This year’s event was held May 4 and 5, with most of the festivities taking place at the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer and some flying activities occurring at the Warren "Bud" Woods Palmer Municipal Airport.

AOPA is a gold sponsor of the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering, as its focus on national and state advocacy is closely aligned with the importance of GA in Alaska.

Among the 18 seminars offered during the two-day event, AOPA hosted a Pilot Town Hall to present important advocacy updates to pilots and aircraft owners. Advocacy efforts on national issues such as FAA reauthorization, GA’s transition to unleaded fuel, Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certification, and medical reform were covered, but the focus was on issues specific to Alaska, with weather a dominant theme in the state officially nicknamed "The Last Frontier."

Additional weather reporting and ADS-B ground stations. AOPA worked with the Alaska Airmen's Association and other organizations to persuade the FAA to add additional automated weather observing systems (AWOS) and ADS-B Ground Based Transceivers (GBTs) in Alaska. To date eight new operational AWOS stations and nine new GBTs are planned in Alaska. Four GBTs are being tested and will come online this summer, three more are planned for construction this summer, and two others may be delayed until 2025.

Weather cameras. AOPA is pleased to see the FAA Weather Camera Program growing and expanding beyond Alaska. Over the next seven years, the FAA plans to deploy 161 cameras across 39 states, including about 20 more in Alaska.

Future weather improvements. AOPA is closely monitoring the activities of the program that combines weather cameras and AWOS information on a single webpage. This visual weather observation system is expected to enable much more affordable weather reporting stations and reduce the number of phone calls to flight service station personnel.

Soldotna communication. In an attempt to improve pilot situational awareness and reduce midair collisions over the Kenai Peninsula, AOPA participated in the working group that supported the FAA decision to designate a single common traffic advisory frequency to be used by 34 public and private airports on the Kenai Peninsula. This change took effect on March 21, with all 34 public and private airport CTAFs in the area now using 122.5 MHz. AOPA is engaged in helping to spread the word of the change among pilots.

Expanded Northway Airport customs hours. Aircraft flying to the state via the Alaska Highway route have previously been limited to two short time periods per day when they could clear customs at the Northway Airport. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agreed to expand its hours to a four-hour window, from 10 a.m .to 2 p.m. daily on a trial basis, providing more flexibility to arriving pilots.

Two-way texting. AOPA worked with the FAA to test flight service’s two-way-texting program that enables pilots to use satellite devices or cellphones to open, close, and modify flight plans from remote locations where normal radio communications are not available.

The Great Alaska Aviation Gathering also hosted more than 140 aviation exhibitors featuring products and services geared toward pilots and aircraft owners.

Families were entertained with several kids’ areas and the sight of backcountry airplanes landing on the State Fair parking lot before taxiing to the Show and Shine aircraft corral, where attendees could vote on their favorite aircraft in several categories.

Unfortunately, many Saturday evening events planned at the Palmer Municipal Airport—including a skydiving performance, water bombing, and STOL demos—were canceled because of high winds.

All attendees were encouraged to buy a ticket for the 2024 Alaska Airmen's Association raffle fundraiser grand prize airplane—an experimental Piper PA–18 Super Cub. The winner was Zachary Newsome of Martin, Tennessee. Eight additional prizes were raffled off with the proceeds supporting the association's important mission.

Great Alaska Aviation Gathering attendees congregate at the Plaza, the hub of the event that featured the 2024 Alaska Airmen's Association raffle fundraiser grand prize airplane—an experimental Piper PA-18 Super Cub. Photo by Kollin Stagnito.
Alyssa J. Miller
Kollin Stagnito
Senior Vice President of Media
Senior Vice President of Media Kollin Stagnito is a commercial pilot, advanced and instrument ground instructor and a certificated remote pilot. He owns a 1953 Cessna 170B.
Topics: Advocacy, Pilot Weather Briefing Services, State Legislation

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