AACA chief off to fast start

PHOTO/Rob Stapleton/AJOC
The board of directors for the Alaska Air Carriers Association has chosen a new executive director with a background in aviation, training and fund-raising who hopes to help the Alaska aviation industry with safety and insurance issues.

"I hit the ground running. There are a lot of details to explore in this business," said Karen Casanovas, who became executive director of the association Jan. 16.

By her third day on the job, Casanovas had met with members of her 16-person board and a Federal Aviation Administration regional safety program manager, had set up appointments with the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. transportation director, and drafted ideas for the Alliance for Safety Program.

"I intend to help the membership by learning more about statewide aviation issues and to promote aviation on many levels and bring greater understanding to the public about the industry," Casanovas said.

Casanovas and staff members Jill Warburton, Mary Hewitt and K.C. Wilson are making arrangements for the AACA’s 35th annual conference and trade show, Feb. 28-March 3 at the Hotel Captain Cook.

The conference, "2001: Raising the Bar," will feature recent aviation insurance decisions in Alaska, system safety inspections, election of new officers, a Capstone update and breakout sessions on hot topics from professionals in the industry.

Last year’s conference saw 318 participants, a figure that the new AACA director would like to raise.

As part of the new director’s AACA agenda, Casanovas hopes to bring safety and systems training to the carriers as part of the AACA’s function.

"As the accident rate goes up for aviation in Alaska, so do the insurance rates. I hope to provide a forum for the carriers, and then act on their needs for training," she said.

Casanovas’ experience stems from working for Wien Air Alaska and Alaska Airlines. While with Alaska Airlines for 12 years, she worked in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Nome and traveled statewide. She has lived in Fairbanks, Nome and Anchorage. Most recently, while living in the Anchorage area, she has worked for and with Alaska Pacific University and the Career Academy to achieve fund-raising and training goals.

Casanovas hopes to take her knowledge of Alaska, specifically that of rural Alaska’s dependence on air travel, and use it to help inform the public about issues the industry is facing.

"I’ve known Karen since 1982 when she worked for Alaska Airlines in Nome," said Michael Kean, with the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. "She has excellent professional skills and knows many people statewide. She is an excellent choice for the position."

The AACA director is also interested in other aviation sectors as well as commercial passenger service.

"I am also really interested in the helicopter industry," she said. "I have only flown once in a helicopter and would like to know more about the issues that operators face."

Casanovas would also like to continue to foster a closer relationship with the general aviation community so that the AACA will know all sides of complex statewide aviation issues.

"I think that the general public sees a need for improvements in air travel," she said. "With today’s atmosphere of mergers and acquisitions, like American and TWA, labor negotiations, and media focus on safety issues, there is a mistrust of the companies. Often there is no documentation to support this uncertainty and is a perception only. We would like to become the voice for aviation issues, both for general aviation and the carriers, to be a conduit between the government agencies and the operators, to disseminate the information throughout the aviation community."

In addition to getting out the industry and AACA members’ message, Casanovas plans to update the association’s Web site and include links to provide Web support for the organization’s upcoming push to implement the Medallion safety program.

The Medallion is a five-point awareness program that will advance safety among statewide carriers who will be rewarded with a marketing network and hopefully lower insurance rates.

The AACA introduced the Medallion program at last year’s conference, and getting it funded and running is one of Casanovas’ main objectives.

01/27/2001 - 8:00pm