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The Alaska Department of Transportation said it will change how the Anchorage and Fairbanks international airports will be managed.
Alaska airport system seeks new director 121708 BUSINESS 2 Morris News Service, Alaska The Alaska Department of Transportation said it will change how the Anchorage and Fairbanks international airports will be managed.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Story last updated at 12/17/2008 - 3:45 pm

Alaska airport system seeks new director
Position will be tasked to oversee both Anchorage and Fairbanks airports

The Alaska Department of Transportation said it will change how the Anchorage and Fairbanks international airports will be managed.

The state is reviewing applications for a system executive director, said Christine Klein, DOT deputy commissioner of aviation. The new position will be tasked to oversee both the Anchorage and Fairbanks airports, and to handle details of the use of Sitka and Cold Bay airports.

Sitka and Cold Bay airports are designated as alternates when flights from Seattle or Asia can't land in Anchorage.

Currently the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport has no executive director, but is being managed by airport manager John Parrot. The Fairbanks International Airport is managed by Jesse VanderZanden.

The Governors Aviation Advisory Board approved the position, which Kline introduced. The two dissenting voters on the board were both from Fairbanks.

It's unclear exactly what the executive director would do.

"We see this as a management structure issue, not a regional issue like some of the other board members accused us of," said Jim Dodson, executive director of the Fairbanks Industrial Development Corp. and a member of the Governor's Aviation Advisory Board. "In times of economic downturns, we don't feel that government needs another bureaucratic layer with the airports - that's why we fought to get the deputy director of aviation position in place at DOT."

The position was advertised starting on Oct. 12 and closed two weeks later.

Industry leaders wonder why Klein resurrected the position, which was once held by Gina Marie Lindsay in the late 1980s. Under Lindsay's management, a rivalry spurred between the Anchorage and Fairbanks airports that only recently has quieted down.

"We are concerned about who will get the job," Dodson said. "The salary range that they posted will not attract anyone from the Lower 48 who is qualified to manage the AIAS professionally."

Klein said the state needed someone to oversee the system, however.

"I am very busy with over 250 other airports that need attention, this system needs someone to manage it," Klein told members of the Anchorage Air Cargo Association at a Nov. 25 meeting.

Klein said her vision is to make both the Fairbanks and Anchorage airports dovetail to interact with other rural airports that feed the larger, hub airports.

"Anything that will take the politics out the airport business in Alaska, I am in favor of," said Ken Lythgoe, general manager of Alaska CargoPort in Anchorage about the executive director position.

To that end, the advisory board asked for a survey, which is being conducted by Northern Economics, a sub-contractor to Dowl Engineers, which won the original contract. The study will look at the social and economic impacts of aviation in rural Alaska to the urban hubs.

"We are in the process of analyzing the data right now," said Patrick Burden, principal owner of Northern Economics.

Bettles Mayor Dan Klaes, an aviation advisory board member who also owns Bettles Air Service, says rural Alaska is an economic engine to airports like Fairbanks.

"It will be interesting to see how much economic impact hunting and fishing lodges and outdoor activities that are supported by charter flights add to the economies of Fairbanks and Anchorage," Klaes said. "People come here and buy food, clothing, and outdoors equipment from stores in our cities, not to mention that the lodge owners also own homes there and pay taxes and raise families all paid for from the profits earned in rural Alaska."

Klein told Anchorage Air Cargo Association members that the study's information would be used as part of the Alaska Aviation System Plan that is being developed in concert with other studies.

Dodson, of Fairbanks, said an overall statewide transpiration plan is overdue.

"What we need is a good overall state plan," Dodson said. "We only have 650,000 people here and have 273 rural airports. That's not very many people using those airports. We just want to see an efficiently run, economically viable airport system."

The system plan will be presented in the fall of 2009, according to DOT officials. The state will not pick a new AIAS executive director until mid-January according to Klein.

Alaska to the urban hubs.

"We are in the process of analyzing the data right now," said Patrick Burden, principal owner of Northern Economics.

Bettles Mayor Dan Klaes, an aviation advisory board member who also owns Bettles Air Service, says rural Alaska is an economic engine to airports like Fairbanks.

"It will be interesting to see how much economic impact hunting and fishing lodges and outdoor activities that are supported by charter flights add to the economies of Fairbanks and Anchorage," Klaes said. "People come here and buy food, clothing, and outdoors equipment from stores in our cities, not to mention that the lodge owners also own homes there and pay taxes and raise families all paid for from the profits earned in rural Alaska."

Klein told Anchorage Air Cargo Association members that the study's information would be used as part of the Alaska Aviation System Plan that is being developed in concert with other studies.

Dodson, of Fairbanks, said an overall statewide transpiration plan is overdue.

"What we need is a good overall state plan," Dodson said. "We only have 650,000 people here and have 273 rural airports. That's not very many people using those airports. We just want to see an efficiently run, economically viable airport system."

The system plan will be presented in the fall of 2009, according to DOT officials. The state will not pick a new AIAS executive director until mid-January according to Klein.


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