Calendar for March 25, 2001

Confabs The Mat-Su Borough Small Business Development Center is offering a seminar entitled "Insurance Needs of Small Business Owners" from 9 a.m. to noon March 27 at the SBDC office, 201 N. Lucille St., Suite 2-A, Wasilla. The seminar is free, but registration is required. For more information, call 907-373-7232. The Seward City Council and the Seward Chamber of Commerce are holding a Seward Economic Forum from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 27 at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center. To register or more information, call 907-224-8051. The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce is holding its general membership luncheon at noon March 27 at the Westmark Fairbanks. Steve Jarvice, vice president of electronic commerce for Alaska Airlines, is the scheduled speaker. The luncheon cost is $11.25. For more information, call 907-452-1105. The Greater Soldotna Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon March 27 at the Riverside House, 44611 Sterling Highway. Debra Holle, Kenai Peninsula branch manager of the American Red Cross, will discuss everyday disaster preparedness. For more information, call 907-262-9814. The Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce is holding its luncheon presentation at noon March 27 at the Mat-Su Resort, 1850 Bogard Road. The program features a Matanuska Electric Association Board candidate forum. Program fees are $3 for members and $5 for others. For more information, call 907-376-1299. The Kenai Peninsula Small Business Development Center is sponsoring a seminar on valuing a business from 1-4 p.m. March 27 at the Kenai Peninsula College Kachemak Bay Campus in Homer. A seminar entitled "Break Even Analysis and Cash Flow" is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. March 27 at the same location. Each seminar costs $15. A free "Expanding Your Bed-and-breakfast Business" seminar is slated for 1-4 p.m. March 29 at the Kenai Visitors Center, 11471 Kenai Spur Highway. For more information, call 907-262-7497. The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce is holding its annual E-commerce Seminar from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 28 at the Hilton Anchorage Hotel. D.J. Mueller of Chamber WebLink International is the keynote speaker. The cost is $70 for members and $90 for others. For additional information, call 907-272-2401 or visit (www.anchoragechamber.org). The Anchorage Small Business Development Center in Anchorage is holding a networking breakfast from 7:30 - 9 a.m. March 28 at the University of Alaska Anchorage Commons Building. The cost is $12. For registration, call 907-272-7232. The Kenai Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon March 28 at the Old Town Village Restaurant, 1000 Mission Ave. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley is the scheduled speaker. The luncheon cost is $10.50. For more information, call 907-283-7989. The Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon March 28 at the Palmer Moose Lodge, 1136 S. Cobb St. The program features a Matanuska Electric Association Board candidate forum. The cost is $9. The Palmer Chamber of Commerce is holding a breakfast meeting at 7 a.m. March 29 at the Inn Cafe, 325 E. Elmwood Ave. Mike Pauley of MEA will discuss how fuel cells can change people’s lives. For additional information, call 907-745-2880. The Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce is planning a Business After Hours from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. March 28 at Credit Union 1, 16635 Centerfield Drive, Eagle River. For additional details, call 907-694-4702. The Resource Development Council for Alaska Inc. is presenting a program at 7:30 a.m. March 28 at the Petroleum Club of Anchorage, 3301 C St. Trevor McCabe, executive director of the At-Sea Processors Association, will discuss "Alaska Fisheries: Opportunities and Challenges in 2001." Breakfast for members cost $12 and $15 for others. For more information, call 907-276-0700. The Alaska Science & Technology Foundation is sponsoring the annual Teachers Conference March 29-30 in Juneau. The general public is invited to attend a reception from 4-6 p.m. March 29 and the open showcases from 1:30 - 6 p.m. March 29 and from noon to 3 p.m. March 30 at Centennial Hall. For more information, contact Sharon Fisher at 907-452-1624. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Small Business Development Center is presenting a workshop on small business insurance from 6-9 p.m. March 29. The fee is $25. For more information, location and registration, call 907-456-7232. The Alaska World Affairs Council is presenting a program on missile defense at noon March 30 in the Hilton Anchorage Hotel. Program lunch fees are $17 for members and $20 for others. For more information, call 907-276-8038.  

Native firm's wireless bid challenged

WASHINGTON -- An Alaska Native telecom company that scooped up one of three valuable licenses for offering wireless service in New York City’s high-demand market is the subject of a challenge to a recently completed government auction.But by and large, the Federal Communications Commission auction, which reaped a record $16.86 billion, drew little opposition on an issue that became contentious during the process: Some companies that won licenses specially set aside for small businesses had ties to industry giants.The challenges to the auction had to be filed by March 8 and were made public March 12.One petition filed by TPS Utilicom Inc. asks the government not to grant licenses to Alaska Native Wireless, which won licenses in New York and elsewhere, because of that company’s ties to powerhouse AT&T Wireless.TPS charges that Alaska Native is not eligible for very small business status or special entrepreneur discounts because of its links to AT&T.Alaska Native Wireless is a joint venture of Sealaska Corp. of Juneau, Doyon Ltd. of Fairbanks and Arctic Slope Regional Corp. of Barrow.A lawyer for Alaska Native Wireless asserted that its partnership falls within the commission’s rules because AT&T does not have legal or practical control of the company. The company is confident that it has met the standards laid out by the FCC for this type of arrangement, the lawyer said.TPS Utilicom argues that the government should not grant licenses to DCC PCS Inc., which also has links to AT&T, on similar grounds.AT&T declined to comment.The small companies that partnered with larger industry players have long argued that such arrangements are necessary to give them enough capital to compete in the auction and prevent them from defaulting on their payments, as other small businesses have done in previous auctions.The January auction included licenses bid on several years ago by NextWave Personal Communications, which later went bankrupt and missed deadlines to pay for the licenses.The FCC reclaimed the licenses and re-auctioned them. But NextWave has mounted a legal challenge to get the licenses back, saying it can now pay for them.NextWave also filed a petition, made public March 12, asking the government to hold off on granting the licenses won by bidders until its litigation is resolved.Several other companies, that also had their licenses revoked by the FCC after failing to pay on deadline, are still contesting the decision by the commission to cancel those licenses and re-auction them to new bidders, according to the filings.

This week in Alaska business history March 25, 2001

Editor’s note: "This Week in Alaska Business History" revisits events that shaped our past."Those who cannotremember the past arecondemned to repeat it."-- George Santayana, 1863-195220 years ago this weekAnchorage TimesMarch 25, 1981Borax to begin $870 million mineBy Jean KizerThe Associated PressJUNEAU -- Flanked by top state officials, the president of U.S. Borax and Chemical Corp. today announced plans to proceed with construction of an $870 million world-scale molybdenum mining venture near Ketchikan.... Gov. Jay Hammond hailed the mining development as the "first major industrial commitment in the state" since congressional passage last year of Alaska national interest lands legislation.Borax’s Quartz Hill mine site, in the newly created Misty Fjords National Monument about 40 miles east of Ketchikan, is estimated to hold 1.5 billion tons of ore valued at $18 billion. It is believed to be one of the world’s largest molybdenum discoveries.Anchorage TimesMarch 25, 1981Buy railroad, Stevens tells lawmakersThe Associated PressJUNEAU -- Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, warned state lawmakers Tuesday that the federal government probably will not fund the Alaska Railroad after next year, and he urged the state to purchase the system.In an address before a joint session of the House and Senate, Stevens told lawmakers they should begin negotiating now with the federal government to buy the railroad, which runs from North Pole, near Fairbanks, to Seward.Many argue the railroad is the key to the state’s transportation system.Stevens said the railroad is "absolutely essential to the coal development in the state."Others have said the railroad is needed to get grain, beef and pork to market or to ports for export.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceMarch 27, 1991Healy coal: the stakes are highBy Tim BradnerAlaska Journal of CommerceThere’s a kind of high-stakes poker game now going on among participants in a proposed $193 million new-technology coal power plant planned at Healy in Interior Alaska.The problem is how to cover a $26 million funding gap needed to bring in $93.5 million in federal coal technology research funds and to keep the big project on schedule.The players in this game are Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, which would build the plant and issue revenue bonds to help pay for it; Golden Valley Electric Association in Fairbanks, which would buy power from the plant and guarantee AIDEA’s bond with a long-term power sales contract; the U.S. Department of Energy, which has awarded -- but not yet turned over -- $93.5 million in clean coal technology research funds; and Usibelli Mines Inc. of Fairbanks, which operates the Healy coal mines and would sell coal to the power plant.Alaska Journal of CommerceMach 25, 1991Joint-venture batteries finally escape KGBBy Margaret BaumanAlaska Journal of CommerceAn international joint venture in the production and export of batteries is off and running, after a skirmish with the Soviet KGB that temporarily took the spark out of SPARK."We hope to export about 6,000 to 10,000 batteries the first year," said Earl Roman, owner of Alaskan Battery Enterprises Inc., in Fairbanks and a partner with Valentin Tesvitkov, an entrepreneur from Magadan, Soviet Far East, in the joint venture, SPARK.Roman arrived home via Aeroflot from Magadan recently with 14 of the batteries, manufactured with American parts by Soviet workers in Magadan.A previous attempt to take batteries out of the U.S.S.R. was met by opposition from Magadan KGB, because the batteries were not entirely produced in the private sector and because the batteries are considered war materials.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Movers & Shakers March 25, 2001

Jan K. Sieberts, a senior vice president with National Bank of Alaska, recently was re-elected to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle board of directors. Sieberts was first elected to the board in 1998 and will serve another three-year term. Sieberts began his career with National Bank of Alaska in Anchorage in 1975. RIM Architects has added Christopher R. Vajda to its professional design staff. Vajda has more than 18 years of experience in architecture, urban design and resort planning. Vajda is currently assisting in the design of the University of Alaska Anchorage Consortium Library addition. Terry Henderson has been promoted to officer and assistant branch manager of Northrim Bank’s Southside Financial Center. Henderson joined the bank in 1993 and has more than 20 years banking experience. Sirisuk "Sam" Srisaneha has joined the staff of MBA Consulting Engineers Inc. as an computer-aided drafting technician. Srisaneha specializes in electrical drafting for power generation and distribution, interior, exterior and emergency lighting, and special emergency and communication systems. Ericka Pike has been hired by the firm as secretary/receptionist. Pike has six years secretarial and receptionist experience. Freida Costly has joined the Alaska Native Heritage Center as grant writer and coordinator. Costly has experience in grant writing and grants management. Costly most recently served as administrator for the Emmonak Tribal Council and was responsible for the operations and fiscal health of the organization. The Process Technology Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Tanana Valley Campus has selected the following people for its advisory board: Dave Gardner, Golden Valley Electrical Association; Mark Reischke, Petro Star; Fred Villa and Kathy Ross with Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc.; Tom Brice, Alaska Works; Charlene Ostbloom, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.; John Ringstad, BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.; Rick Solie, Phillips Alaska Inc.; Dan Graham, Usibelli Coal Mine; Bud Sands, BCS Consulting Services; Tom Benjamin, Fort Knox Gold Mine; Tom Minder, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Click Bishop, Operating Engineers Local 302; Rick Boyles, Teamsters Local 959; Don Verstrate, Hutchison High School; and Ernie Manzie, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. Claire Bradley Chan, business banker in National Bank of Alaska’s commercial loan department, has been reinstated as vice president. Chan’s career with the bank began in 1987. Chan was given the title of vice president in 1988 and left to pursue other opportunities in 1990. Cindy Jobe, business banker in NBA’s residential construction department, has been appointed vice president. Jobe joined the bank in June and has 15 years experience of real estate lending experience. John Gleason, manager at the Barrow branch, has been chosen assistant vice president. Gleason started working for NBA at its Eagle River branch in 1991. National Bank of Alaska has promoted Kevin Miller to assistant vice president. Miller is a business banker at the Homer branch and entered the bank’s management training program in 1997. Heather Reier, manager at the Sand Lake branch in Anchorage, has been appointed assistant vice president. Reier joined the bank in 1997. NBA has promoted Randy Rhodes to assistant vice president. Rhodes, a business banker in the commercial real estate department in Anchorage, entered the bank’s mortgage loan management training program in 1997. Cory Ricks, a technical service specialist in NBA’s electronic services department in Anchorage, has been appointed vice president. Ricks joined the bank in 1996 as a management trainee.  

First-time buyer subsidy threatened

An innovative Alaska Housing Finance Corp. program that used earnings on invested funds to support interest rate subsidies on Alaska homeowner loan programs is now being scaled back, AHFC Executive Director Dan Fauske said.AHFC has earned $30 million to $70 million per year for the last five years, and this income paid subsidies on interest rates on several of the housing corporation’s loan programs.The amount of funds available has become limited over time, Fauske said. There’s enough left to pay $26 million to AHFC in each of the next two years.The corporation can stretch out the subsidies on some programs by eliminating one popular AHFC interest rate support, the first-time home buyers program based on taxable bonds, to allow reduced subsidies to continue on other programs.Under a plan to be put before AHFC’s board later this month, a reduced level of subsidy in the corporation’s low income and energy efficiency home programs will continue, as well as full support for a program targeted for people with special needs, such as disabilities.But unless a way is found to replace the income through some other innovative financing plan to bring low-cost capital into the state, all of the interest-rate support programs may have to be eliminated in two years, Fauske said."One option we’re considering is something similar to a recent bond sale by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, involving a series of taxable, variable-rate bonds with an interest-rate agreement that combines both tax-exempt and taxable indexes to create opportunities to make lower interest mortgages," Fauske said."The Connecticut deal is the first time a housing agency has issued taxable bonds with a provision that incorporates tax-exempt and taxable features."However, to do these kind of deals AHFC will have to remain financially strong, and the concern is that pressures on the corporation due to the state’s annual draw will, over time, curtail its flexibility.It can then become a downward spiral. John Bitney, AHFC’s director of legislative affairs, said if AHFC can’t offer lower-cost financing for mortgages, it could lose market share to its competitors, the Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae, now a private corporation, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., or Freddie Mac.If the state housing corporation has a lower share of the more profitable traditional home mortgages, its portfolio will consist mainly of less-profitable loans to low-income and other special groups of borrowers.Those are important for social policy purposes, but they still eat into the corporation’s financial strength, Bitney said.The national mortgage entities offer slightly cheaper financing than AHFC for conventional mortgages, because they are large national organizations with big economies of scale, he said. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won substantial market share away from the state corporation, he said.With funding from its arbitrage earnings which are invested proceeds from bond sales, AHFC was able to win back market share in the mid-1990s with new programs that offered lower interest rates, such as first-time home buyer loans and lower-interest rates on loans for energy efficient homes."We’ve been able to loan out $170 million in 11,000 loans over the last five or six years," AHFC’s Fauske said. "Much of this was to people who would have fallen outside the limits of conventional mortgage loans."

Northwestern Arctic Air plans flights to Adak, Russian Far East

The departure of Reeve Aleutian Airways from the Aleutian Islands and the Russian Far East has Alaska aviation and state international commerce officials scrambling to fill the void for flights. In the meantime Northwestern Arctic Air Inc. announced that it will roll out "limousine" service to both destinations in late March."Flights to Adak and the Russian Far East will be handled with a recently remodeled and upgraded Hawker Sidley 125-400/ 731 (jet) that is based in Anchorage," said Dave McKay, executive vice president of Northwestern Arctic Air.The service to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in Russia on the Hawker will feature flights lasting seven hours, compared with the current three-day commercial travel times to the Russian Far East through Japan and Korea."The Hawker has more headroom, a larger entry door and warm meals, and a bathroom, but most of all its ability to land on shorter runways, both asphalt and gravel, makes this the aircraft of choice," said McKay.Although the Hawker Sidley is a proven jet, this particular aircraft has new Stage Three noise restriction compliant Garret fan jets, beefed up landing gear and a new interior. This workhorse is capable of landing on 4,000-foot gravel strips and features a flap/airbrake system that extends to 75 degrees for quick full-stop landings."When you fully extend those flaps, you stop right now," said Greg Monette, assistant director of maintenance for LMM Inc. recently restationed to Anchorage for Northwestern Arctic Air.This particular aircraft has seen service in Alaska before as a business jet for British Petroleum on lease by Era Aviation Inc.Northwestern Arctic Air, a subsidiary of Seattle-based Northwestern Companies Inc., operates a Beechcraft King Air B-200C twin turbo prop and a Lear 35 jet that act as fixed wing lift for air ambulance service for their Providence LifeGuard contract. Northwestern also recently added a Lear 25 for additional charter traffic.Era officials who commissioned an online survey at the end of 2000 addressing the possibility of flights to the Russian Far East, recently announced at an industry conference that they would only offer service there for oil-related businesses if they were under contract. The perfect aircraft for the Russian Far East service would be a $40 million Boeing 737-700 series aircraft, according to Era officials.When it comes to Russian Far East travel, Northwestern’s McKay said that use of the jet will offset current travel times and may offer break-even costs."We anticipate charter rates or ’limo’ service to be competitive, taking into account the cost of an executive’s time," he said."Should so and so be traveling on a train for three days after three days of commercial connections, in less than ideal conditions, to get to a Russian destination for a meeting, when they could fly to their meeting and be back within three days? Just what is an executive’s time worth? Much more than that," McKay said.Currently business people wishing to fly to Yuzhno are forced to fly to Japan and on to Korea or Vladivostok using either Japanese or Korean carriers, or Sakhalin Air Transport, a Russian carrier."Business class travel to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is a three-day $3,500 plus hotel room and meal expense to Alaska-based companies doing business on Sakhalin," said Yoshi Ogawa, president of ITC Travel Inc.Ogawa’s company specializes in booking people from Alaska to the Russian Far East."I think we are the only ones that can offer up to five gateway cities in Japan that offer connections to Sakhalin Island through the Russian Far East," Ogawa said.McKay and Ogawa may team up to book the charters, according to McKay, who wants the flexibility to book his own reservations for the "limo" service and to let Ogawa use his contacts and expertise in Japan, Korea and Russia for group charters."Right now the travel is by executives," Ogawa said. "This type of travel may be more worthwhile to company executives now, but if in the future they are doing crew change outs, there will have to be bigger aircraft and regular scheduled service."Prices for the six-place Hawker will range from $2,500 per seat for travel to Adak, and $5,000 per head or $35,000 for six on a charter to Yuzhno or Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky, McKay said.The total price for an Adak trip will be around $16,000, depending on how long the layover is, according to McKay.PenAir currently has flights three times a week to Adak with a six-place Piper Navajo at a cost of $550 round trip; however you must first fly to Dutch Harbor.Prices on PenAir from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor vary from a two-week advance purchase at $748 dollars to a walk-up price of $904 round trip.McKay, whose experience includes working for Era Aviation in the 1970s and ’80s, sees many similarities between Sakhalin today and Prudhoe Bay in the 1960s."Everyone thought that Prudhoe Bay would produce much sooner than it actually did, due in part to permitting entanglements," said McKay. "Sakhalin is also coming online much later than predicted."Current infrastructure improvements by Sakhalin officials and the existence of third party international companies that are handling logistics in the Russian Far East will make travel, fueling and parking much easier, according to McKay.

Tungsten mine could reopen

ANCHORAGE -- A Canadian tungsten mine 250 miles east of Whitehorse could restart after a 15-year closure, and officials of the state-owned Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority are hoping the mine will use AIDEA’s ore-loading facility in Skagway.The Skagway loading facility was used for lead, zinc and copper ore from the Anvil Range Mine in Faro, north of Whitehorse, until that mine shut down in 1998. Railcars and then trucks transported ore from Faro to Skagway, where it was loaded onto ships.North American Tungsten Corp. Ltd. of Vancouver says it has more than half the $5 million needed to restart the mine. Mining could start in late 2001.

GCI loses $13.2 million

General Communication Inc. recorded a net loss of $13.2 million for 2000, compared with $9.5 million for 1999. The Anchorage-based telecommunications company said the loss was primarily due to greater interest and depreciation charges from its investments in major capital projects in the last three years.GCI listed a net loss of $1.9 million for fourth quarter 2000, compared with a net loss of $3.6 million for fourth quarter 1999. Revenue for the fourth quarter totaled $77 million, up from $66.8 million for the same period in 1999.Annual revenue rose $292.6 million in 2000, up from $259.7 million in 1999, GCI officials said.The company said revenue rose in its product lines, led by long distance, which tallied annual revenue of $196.1 million, a 10 percent increase. Cable television revenue grew 11 percent to total $67.9 million. Local telephone service revenue increased 30 percent to $20.2 million. Internet revenue increased 75 percent from 1999 and totaled $8.4 million.At year-end GCI tallied more than 62,000 local service access lines in Anchorage representing a 32 percent market share in the area.GCI’s statewide Internet service grew from 54,000 subscribers at the end of 1999 to 63,000 in 2000.The company reports it had more than 16,000 cable modem subscribers in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau at the end of 2000. GCI said it tallied almost 14,000 digital cable television customers for the year.TelAlaska buys Seward InternetTelAlaska Inc., an Alaska telecommunications provider, has purchased Seward Internet. The Internet service provider was formerly owned by Bruce and Barbara Miller of Seward, who started the company in July 1996. The deal was completed March 3, TelAlaska officials said.Seward Internet has 459 customers, said Brenda Shepard, TelAlaska vice president of finance.The purchase was important to TelAlaska because last fall it acquired local telephone service operations for Seward through a consortium of companies. The company provides local telephone service and Internet access to Alaska communities including Dutch Harbor, Galena and Sand Point.TelAlaska also provides Internet service in Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna area, King Cove and Cooper Landing and now has about 1,700 customers, Shepard said.Seward Internet customers can retain the Seward.net domain name or select arctic.net from TelAlaska. The company offers advanced services through its asynchronous transfer mode network.

Adventure skiing business taps high-end niche

A small Alaska-based company is drawing new winter visitors to the state, many from France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.Alaska’s coastal Chugach Range is fast gaining a reputation in the high-end niche market of adventure skiing, said Mike Overcast, who with partner Dave Hamre owns Chugach Powder Guides.The company is now in its fourth year of operation, offering guided helicopter and snow-cat skiing trips in unbroken snows on mountains near Girdwood and the nearby Kenai Peninsula.Their customers are skiers looking for more than just one mountain and a comfortable lodge.Chris von Imhof, Alyeska’s managing director, sees the operation making a valuable addition to the kinds of winter experiences his guests can enjoy.The company is cultivating new business for Alaska in high-end international markets, von Imhof said.As a business, Chugach Powder Guides is growing. Its business doubled in the second and third years and is up 50 percent so far this year, Overcast said.Two helicopters, leased from Era Aviation, are stationed with their pilots and mechanics at Girdwood’s tiny airport to support the operation."There’s a good clientele in Europe for this. There’s a strong ski culture in those countries, and helicopter skiing isn’t allowed in France, Switzerland and Austria," Overcast said.Still, there must be something pretty special for Europeans to travel to the United States. Europe has fantastic mountains of its own. Alaska has that draw, along with a few other mountain areas like the Bugaboos of the Canadian Rockies, he said.But a lot of Canadians, and Americans, are becoming clients for the company, too.Chugach Power Guides can accommodate up to 32 guests a week with its present operation, Overcast said. Clients choose between flying high on mountain slopes with helicopters or a lower-altitude trip by snow-cat up to alpine meadows and slopes up Winner Creek valley near Alyeska Resort.The snow-cat offers an alternative if weather grounds the helicopters. But in the past couple of years, the weather has been pretty good, Overcast said. Last year the company was able to fly 68 percent of the time during its season."If we can operate that many days, we can have a successful business," he said. This year has seen some fine flying weather, with stretches of three to five clear days, he said.Helicopter skiing isn’t just for experts either, he said. Experienced guides are with each group, and the new, wider "fat skis" allow skiers with intermediate abilities on traditional ski slopes to handle higher-altitude powder snow."People have a lot of misconceptions about this," Overcast said. "Some have asked me if they have to jump out of the helicopters. I tell them that we’re more civilized -- we land first."The company operates from mid-January to late April, and then mid-June to mid-July. The summer is on harder "corn snow."May and early June are times when the snow is unstable, being in a transition between winter and summer conditions, Overcast said.Higher-altitude skiing could be a much bigger industry for Southcentral Alaska but uncertainty over renewals of annual U.S. Forest Service permits to land helicopters in the Chugach National Forest limits Chugach Powder Guides’ ability to expand.The company has been trying to get a five-year permit that would give it the certainty to plan ahead and sell to clients two and three years ahead.But the Forest Service has delayed a longer-term permit while it works through its revision of the Chugach forest management plan.Environmental groups are objecting to helicopter landings in the forest, and although Chugach Powder Guides works hard to accommodate their concerns the areas the company can operate in have been reduced.The company is developing some alternative areas, however. During the summer, Chugach Powder Guides offers a "Kings and Corn" package at Winterlake Lodge on Finger Lake, near the Skwentna River in the Alaska Range, Overcast said.Guests can fish for king salmon on the Yentna and Skwentna rivers or ski slopes in mountains of the Alaska Range.

This Week in Alaska Business History March 18, 2001

Editor’s note: "This Week in Alaska Business History" revisits events that shaped our past."Those who cannotremember the past arecondemned to repeat it."-- George Santayana, 1863-195220 years ago this weekThe Anchorage TimesMarch 18, 1981Assembly OKs study of petrochemical siteBy Lyn WhitleyTimes WriterAgreeing that information never hurt anyone, seven Anchorage Assembly members voted Tuesday to ask Dow Chemical U.S.A. to include Fire Island near Anchorage in its study of possible sites for a petrochemical complex.But several members warned Dow not to misunderstand their request for the study as tacit agreement to go ahead and build a plant on the island. And three members, Jane Angvik, Rick Mystrom and Carol Maser refused to join in the study request.Dow has said it will consider the site in Cook Inlet four miles west of Anchorage International Airport. The company is the lead partner in a nine-member consortium doing a $5 million study on the feasibility of using North Slope natural gas liquids to develop an petrochemical industry in the state.The Anchorage TimesMarch 18, 1981Dirty fish plants worry state officialsBy Ellis E. ConklinTimes WriterMany of Alaska’s 320 seafood processing operations still have a way to go before meeting state health and sanitation requirements, according to a top state regulatory official.George Hart, seafood coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said there are dozens of processing plants around the state using antiquated equipment and contaminated water to process fish.However, Hart said the industry has made giant strides in the wake of last year’s three-week-long epidemic caused by polluted water on a cannery processing ship in Unalaska.Last September, Alaska’s entire king crab industry in the coastal village was subject to regulatory scrutiny after an outbreak of vomiting and diarrhea affected 189 cannery workers on the Barge Unisea, a World War II Liberty ship converted into a floating fish processor.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceMarch 18, 1991Fire Island plan: mixed reactionBy Margaret BaumanAlaska Journal of CommerceA proposal to build a Fire Island Maritime Center, touted as a stimulus for major economic expansion, is being greeted with a mixture of enthusiasm, skepticism and a plea for caution.Commonwealth North’s Fire Island report, a 90-page document released March 6, argues that a Fire Island Maritime Center would attract new facilities and services, which in turn would stimulate growth in industries like modular construction and transportation related businesses.Commonwealth North is a pro-development group from which the Hickel administration draws much of its brainpower."I think if you had the facility it would be used," said Evan Joe Griffith Jr., an executive with Chugach Electric Association who chaired the Commonwealth North committee on Fire Island.Alaska Journal of CommerceMarch 18, 1991Spaceport Alaska?By Tim BradnerAlaska Journal of CommerceJUNEAU -- Spaceport Alaska? Go ahead and laugh now, but Alaska’s new commerce commissioner, Glen Olds, says he’ll have the last laugh -- all the way to the bank."It’s going to go, and it’s going to go big," Olds said in an interview.He said the state has been approached by one major company, a pacesetter in the field, interested in using Alaska as a high-latitude launch point for small-payload satellites."Alaska has key advantages in attracting high-latitude launch customers," Olds said. Launching from a northern location makes polar orbits easier to attain.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Warm temperatures, small fire drop February's North Slope output

Substantially warmer temperatures and a mishap at Prudhoe Bay depressed Alaska North Slope petroleum production last month, dropping output to an average of 6,500 barrels per day.Overall petroleum production totaled 1.015-million b/d for February, dipping six-tenths of one percent from 1.021 million b/d in January, according to Alaska Department of Revenue officials. Last month’s Alaska North Slop petroleum output also continued to slide in a long-term decline, falling 48,000 b/d below February 2000 production of 1.063 million b/d.Natural gas liquids output in February averaged 48,569 b/d, up slightly from 52,615 b/d a month earlier. However, NGLs production also reflected a long-term decrease, dropping more than 16 percent from 58,270 b/d in February 2000.North Slope crude production fell 1.8 percent in February to 966,110 b/d from 986,457 b/d in January. Average crude output in February also lagged by nearly 4 percent from year-ago production of 1.004 million b/d.Production at the three smallest North Slope gathering centers -- Alpine, Milne Point and Endicott -- rose in January, while Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk and Lisburne lost ground.Phillips’ Alpine field posted average output of 73,269 b/d in February, up more than 6,000 b/d, or 9 percent, from 67,211 b/d in January. Alpine’s operators reported metering problems during the month, but saw output average more than 75,000 b/d during the final week of February, state Economist Denise Hawes said March 7.Average output at BP-operated Milne Point climbed more than 2,000 b/d in February to 53,068 b/d, compared with 50,885 b/d a month earlier.Endicott, another BP-operated gathering center, reported slightly higher average crude output of 37,621 b/d in February, up from 37,591 b/d in January. Last month also marked the third consecutive monthly increase for the field, which also gathers crude production from the Badami field. Endicott produced an average of 37,303 b/d in December.Operators fought a compressor fire Feb. 8 at Prudhoe Bay that was expected to depress the field’s output for six weeks, Hawes said."When the compressor failed, lubricating oil leaked into the exhaust system and caught fire," BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell said March 7. "Our fire suppression system worked, and we ended up with the equivalent of a chimney fire."Chappell said the impact on production associated with the fire was about 25,000 b/d.Average Prudhoe output of crude oil and NGLs for February slipped about 6,000 b/d to 546,712 b/d from 552,840 b/d in January. Prudhoe Bay is operated by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.Average crude production at Phillips Alaska-operated Kuparuk fell in February by about 2,000 b/d to 222,797 b/d from 224,688 b/d a month earlier.Production at BP-operated Lisburne also fell by more than 6,500 b/d in February to 81,212 b/d from 87,857 b/d in January.

Phillips, partner to build West Coast LNG plant

ANCHORAGE -- Phillips Petroleum Co. says it has teamed with a major natural gas firm to build the first liquefied natural gas terminal on the West Coast, to be used for gas imported from Australia.The terminal, which would be half-owned by El Paso Corp., could help an LNG project in Alaska, according to Phillips."Development of this terminal on the West Coast of North America could facilitate an Alaska LNG project,’’ said Kristi DesJarlais, a spokeswoman at Phillips headquarters in Bartlesville, Okla.But she said the company still considers a pipeline from the North Slope through Canada as the "best opportunity to maximize the value of Alaska gas."The company hasn’t decided on a pipeline route, she said, but "Phillips is committed to developing an economic Alaska gas project.’’If Phillips and the other gas owners choose to develop a pipeline to Fairbanks and then along the Alaska Highway, a spur line could be built to Valdez or another port in Alaska. The other alternative being considered, across the Beaufort Sea and then south in the Mackenzie River valley of Canada, wouldn’t offer that possibility.The LNG terminal "tells us about the Lower 48 market,’’ said Dawn Patience, a Phillips spokeswoman in Alaska. "It’s pretty consistent with Phillips’ belief that the Lower 48 marketplace presents the best opportunity to sell Alaska North Slope gas.The deal between Phillips and El Paso calls for the two companies to jointly build a receiving terminal to serve the California and Baja California markets, and for Phillips to deliver 4.8 million tons of liquefied natural gas annually. That would provide about 680 million cubic feet of gas a day, starting in 2005. El Paso would market the gas.No terminal site has been announced, but it could be in Mexico."The companies are working with Mexican and U.S. authorities to establish a site of the new terminal and acquire regulatory permits,’’ Phillips said in a statement. There are currently no LNG terminals on the West Coast, at least in the Lower 48, DesJarlais said.The companies would also jointly own the tanker fleet that would bring the gas from Australia, she said.The gas plant near Darwin, Australia, would be owned by Phillips and two partners, Royal Dutch Shell and Woodside Petroleum Ltd., of Australia, which operates the Greater Sunrise fields in the Timor Sea. It would use the same technology as Phillips’ pioneer plant in Nikiski, which has been operating for more than 30 years to liquefy Cook Inlet gas.Phillips has a 30 percent share of the Timor Sea field, which has estimated gas reserves of 9 trillion cubic feet. The field is expected to begin producing as early as mid-2006.To start deliveries in 2005, Phillips would ship gas initially from its Bayu-Undan project, also in the Timor Sea. That field is scheduled to start production early in 2004.

Safety agency looks to Alaskans to solve state's crash mystery

Controlled flight into terrain accidents among commuter and air taxi operators in Alaska have officials with National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health baffled enough to ask carriers for additional information in a statewide survey."In our research of the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) data we fail to find a pattern in what is one of the worst problems in Alaska aviation," Dr. George Conway, a NIOSH official in Alaska, told members of the Alaska Air Carriers Association at its 35th annual convention, March 1-4 in Anchorage. "We, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), NTSB and the National Weather Service will be surveying you to get additional input on this problem."The AACA convention, called "2001: Raising the Bar," offered numerous breakout sessions on aviation safety, but this presentation by Conway was chilling in its content.Conway and other NIOSH associates have combed through controlled flight into terrain aviation accidents statewide from 1991 through 1998, trying to find patterns and demographic information about the crashes.Between 1990 and 1998 there were 229 fatal commuter and air taxi accidents in the United States, of which Alaska accounted for 49, or 21 percent, according to NIOSH research.Of 351 accidents since 1991 by single aircraft commuter and air taxi operators in Alaska, 59 percent were controlled flight into terrain.Of 140 fatalities over this time period, 82 deaths or 59 percent occurred in 30 controlled flight into terrain accidents.These crashes were 47 times more likely to be a controlled flight into terrain than not if the pilots were flying from visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions.Additionally, no risk for controlled flight into terrain was shown for flight hours, number of engines, passenger presence or pilot age. All such accidents were attributed to pilot error, often for continuing VFR flights into poor visibility, concluded the NIOSH official."There does not seem to be a pattern either in age, type of equipment or time of year, but there is a correlation to the days of the week. Most controlled flight into terrain crashes occurred on Fridays, Sundays and Saturdays in the order of frequency," Conway added. And controlled flight into terrain accidents seem to happen in three year cycles in terms of frequency increases."NIOSH and the other federal agencies are pinned with finding the answer to the Alaska mystery and said that this type of crash nationwide is costing $53 million yearly.Of the Alaska controlled flight into terrain accidents, all are from Part 135 operators, or sole pilots, and according to industry and NIOSH, it has been 20 years since a Part 121 operator has had a crash in Alaska, which points to operational control, according to NIOSH."We need to solve this problem. We are going to do everything we can to cooperate," said John Eckels, president of AACA.

Movers & Shakers March 18, 2001

Eklutna Inc. has hired William C. Price, a Seattle-based consultant, as interim chief executive. Price previously worked on several complex projects for the Alaska Native village corporation. Price is a development management consultant with both a public and private background. Jeffrey Potts has joined the Wasilla office of USKH Inc. as a staff civil engineer in the transportation engineering department. Potts, an engineer in training, received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Portland State University in Oregon. Lucas Schneller has joined the Wasilla office as an electrical designer in the mechanical/electrical engineering department. Schneller received a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering with specialties in electrical and structural design from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Brady & Co. has promoted Chris Haglund and Colleen Savoie to senior account managers/assistant vice presidents. Haglund and Savoie have been employed by the firm since 1997 and are responsible for servicing jointly managed trust funds, defined benefit and defined contribution pension plan clients. Randy O’Neil has joined Brady & Co. as senior loss control consultant. O’Neil has been employed by Fremont Compensation Insurance for the past 22 years. O’Neil provides risk management and safety consulting services to clients in Alaska. The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce City of Lights Committee has selected the following winners for the 2000/2001 City of Lights Competition: in Anchorage, Erich and Beverly Rusche, 8621-8623 Shrub Court; in Eagle River and Fort Richardson, the Paulino family, 426 Beluga Ave.; and in Girdwood, John Bridges and Christy Dodds, Mile 1.9 Alyeska Highway. Rich Monroe has joined First National Bank as vice president in the bank’s commercial lending division. Monroe has more than 25 years of banking industry experience, most recently as a senior officer and director at another Alaska bank. Monroe began his banking career in 1976 in Seattle, working in retail banking, corporate lending, special credits, investment banking and credit administration. Shawn McNamara has joined Bezek-Durst-Seiser as a computer-aided drafting technician in its production graphics department. McNamara has been working with CAD programs since 1996 and has worked in the design and construction industry for the past 10 years. Charles and Marie Brobst of North Pacific Auctioneers Ltd. in Anchorage have successfully completed the Certified Appraisers Guild of America’s course in personal property appraisal held in Las Vegas. Training subjects included the appraisal of antiques, farms, livestock and business properties as well as requirements for valuing estates, bankruptcy, insurance, divorce and providing expert testimony in court. Michael D. White has joined the firm of Patton Boggs as of counsel in the Anchorage office. White concentrates his practice in civil litigation, employment law and commercial disputes. White previously spent 13 years with the Anchorage law firm of Hartig Rhodes and is president of the Anchorage Bar Association. Emma Wilson has joined the Fairbanks Convention & Visitors Bureau as conventions manager. Wilson previously served as a manager for British Airways in Bahrain. Wilson has been in the visitor industry for the past 10 years. Jane Godfrey, visitor information manager, has moved into a new role as human resources and operations manager. Katie Orth, visitor information coordinator for the past two years, has assumed the responsibilities of visitor information manager. Gerald Douthit has joined Terra Surveys LLC in Palmer as a partner. Douthit has 25 years of marine geophysical mapping experience. Most recently, Douthit owned and operated NW-GEO Sciences. Douthit will market marine geophysical projects, manage Pacific Northwest work and establish a project office in Rhode Island. The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce has chosen the following people as its 2000 Annual Award winners: Norm Blakeley, Person of the Year; Jim Fisher, Volunteer of the Year; Fred Hammond, Businessperson of the Year; Pat Cowan, Pioneer Award; Jane Fellman, Devoted Service to Young People; John Lohrke, Excellence in Profession; and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley, Government and Civic Affairs. Jason McDaniel has been appointed customer services manager of HCI Steel Building Systems of Arlington, Wash. HCI originated in Alaska. McDaniel’s duties also will include scheduling of manufacturing. Native Voice Communications has appointed Veronica Iya of Anchorage as underwriting director. Iya will be responsible for securing sponsorship and underwriting for the company’s programs including "Independent Native News." Iya, an artist and businesswoman, directs an art marketing business. Gov. Tony Knowles has appointed Rebecca Nance Gamez deputy commissioner for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Gamez was appointed director of the Employment Security Division in January 1995. Prior to her appointment, Gamez worked for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and for the Alaska and Oregon state legislatures. Stan Stephens has been elected president of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council. Stephens operates Prince William Sound Cruises and Tours in Valdez. John Allen, representing Tatitlek, was elected vice president; Marilynn Heddell, representing Whittier, secretary; and former president, Bill Walker of Valdez was elected treasurer. At-large members include: Steve Lewis, Seldovia; Dennis Lodge, Seward; and Paul McCollum, Homer. Two new members seated on the council are Cheryll Heinze representing the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce and Jane Maria Eisemann, Kodiak. The Architecture/Engineering Marketing Association of Alaska has elected the following officers for the year 2001: Maureen Benner of Estimations Inc., president; Andrea Soland of ASCG Inc., president-elect/vice president programs; Shannon Vivian of Enterprise Engineering Inc., vice president of membership; Ingrid Martin of Peratrovich Nottingham & Drage Inc., treasurer; and Corissa Schock of Porath Tatom Architects, secretary. Other officers include Lori Kropidlowski of USKH Inc., vice president of publicity; Susan Stabler of ECI/Hyer Inc., vice president of elections; and Brook Mayfield of Livingston Stone Inc., member at large. Dan Lee of Re/Max Properties Inc. in Anchorage successfully completed the National Association of Realtors’ mediator/mediation training seminar conducted in Chicago in December. Lee, an associate broker with the agency, has been employed by Re/Max since March 1988. Participants in the training will serve as mediators for state and local associations.  

Marathon invests in Inlet

Convinced that Cook Inlet has at least 1,000 billion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas reserves, Marathon Oil Co. plans to spend $20 million in Alaska this year looking for them.John Barnes, manager of Marathon’s Alaska operations, told members of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance March 9 that finding more natural gas reserves in Cook Inlet is his company’s No. 1 priority."I think gas exploration activity should be higher in Cook Inlet," Barnes said, "but I’m proud of Marathon’s efforts."Barnes said the Inlet region boasts 2,500 Bcf of proven gas reserves -- or a 12 years’ supply at the current consumption rate of about 200 Bcf per year -- and from 1,000 Bcf to 3,000 Bcf of potential gas reserves, which could last five to 15 years."We need to drill wells to narrow the range of uncertainty," he said.Toward that end, Marathon is working to begin production from the Wolf Lake field where it found gas in 1998. The company is building a 5.37-mile production pipeline this spring and on-site production facilities this summer to produce gas at Wolf Lake and ship it to Marathon’s Beaver Creek field. The Wolf Lake field is inside the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Alaska Native regional corporation Cook Inlet Region Inc. is the royalty owner of the field.Barnes declined to say how much gas Marathon believes Wolf Lake holds for competitive reasons. However, he said the company expects to produce gas at a rate of about 10 million cubic feet per day at start-up this fall.Marathon is also participating with Unocal Alaska Resources in proposed exploration of the Sunrise Lake prospect, which also is located within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.Barnes said part of Marathon’s success in developing and extracting more gas from its existing Inlet fields is due to the construction of a cost-effective mobile drilling rig, the Glacier Drilling Rig 1, which has drilled more than 50,000 feet downhole in various locations since its first well was spudded last April.He also credited Marathon’s innovative well completion process with producing better wells at lower costs.

Two processors face fines

ANCHORAGE -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a total of $132,000 in fines against two seafood processing companies accused of improperly discharging fish waste from plants in Ketchikan.The EPA has proposed $77,000 in fines against Wards Cove Packing Co. and $55,000 against NorQuest Seafoods Inc. Both companies are based in Seattle.EPA officials accuse Wards Cove of failing to route all seafood waste through a waste-handling system, discharging seafood waste exceeding a half-inch in size, accumulating seafood waste not routed through the treatment system on the sea floor beneath the plant, failing to properly operate and maintain all compliance systems, and discharging foam and scum in violation of Alaska water quality standards.NorQuest was accused of failing to route all seafood waste through a waste-handling system, failing to properly operate and maintain all compliance systems, and improperly discharging foam and scum.Both companies were inspected in July, EPA officials said."Seafood processing is a critical element of Alaska’s economy, but it shouldn’t be done at the expense of the environment that the seafood industry ultimately depends upon,’’ Bub Loiselle, anager of EPA’s water quality compliance unit, said in a written statement.Gordon Williams, president of Wards Cove, said his company has not violated pollution rules and would fight the proposed penalties."We’re disposing of our waste in a manner that we feel is proper,’’ Williams said. "We surely haven’t changed anything as far as the way we’ve handled waste in the past."

'Green' grows worldwide

JUNEAU -- Ecotourism is taking a larger share of the visitor industry worldwide, but it’s not clear how much Alaska is profiting from the trend.Scant statistics in Alaska on ecotourism ventures, along with the lack of a formal certification program in the industry, have clouded the picture, including the potential for growth.Megan Epler Wood, president of the International Ecotourism Society, touted "the green marketplace" in a keynote address to the Alaska Wilderness Recreation & Tourism Association conference in Juneau in late February.Nature-based, sustainable tourism is now the third-fastest-growing segment of the industry, after cruise ships and gambling, said Epler Wood, who lives in Vermont. About 22 percent of Americans are "true environmentalists," and about half of those are willing to pay more for green products, she said. The Oregon Tourism Commission has reported consistent 10 percent annual growth in ecotourism there.There’s danger in that success, Epler Wood warned. As the niche begins to attract more money, new owners might move toward a more bottom-line-oriented philosophy, she said. So far, ecolodge investors are most often philosophically motivated private individuals willing to accept a lower rate of return than would venture capitalists or corporations, she said."Mislabeling is a rampant problem," as there is no seal a business can get, Epler Wood said. "We don’t have any way to prove we’re green."AWRTA, founded in 1992, has eight ecotourism guidelines. Among them: Businesses should seek to limit economic growth rates in a way that sustains the environment and minimizes visitor impacts on the land, wildlife, Native cultures and local communities. They should provide "direct benefits to the local economy and local inhabitants," according to the guidelines. "At some point, a tour group becomes too large to be considered ’ecotourism.’ "There is no policing of the guidelines, said Sarah Leonard, executive director of AWRTA. The group doesn’t deny membership to anyone who wants in, she said.There are about 300 AWRTA members, including about 250 business operators, with 65 to 70 of those in Southeast Alaska, Leonard said.

As halibut season gets under way, fishery on lookout for 'chalky' fish

Look for a noticeable upswing in activity along the docks as fishermen begin gearing up for one of the most eagerly anticipated fisheries -- halibut. The season began March 15; though mid-November, Alaska longliners will vie for a catch of nearly 62 million pounds, up roughly 10 million from last year. During the eight-month season, fishery managers will again be monitoring the occurrence of "chalky" halibut, a rather rare condition that affects the color and texture of the fish’s flesh. Instead of being shiny and translucent, the meat of chalky halibut looks like it has been cooked even though it’s still raw. While it’s safe to eat, the fish is likely to be drier and tougher after cooking. One of the biggest problems posed by chalky halibut is that there’s no sure way to predict or prevent it because visual indicators don’t show up until long after the fish is caught, processed and on its way to market. Research has shown that chalkiness is directly related to the acidity, or pH level, of the halibut flesh. The fish may appear to be normal for up to seven days while held on ice. After that, the pH level begins to drop and the flesh becomes chalky as the acidity manifests itself in the meat. Lactic acid builds up in the flesh of struggling halibut, much the same as it does in the muscle tissue of an athlete.

Alaska aviators talk about safety -- and federal agencies listen

When aviation experts sit at a table and discuss the history and ways of flying in Alaska, everyone listens. And that is just what happened at the 35th annual Alaska Air Carriers Association convention during the last full day of presentations."We have pushed our business to the ragged edge," said Danny Seybert, vice president of Peninsula Airways Inc. "The only constant in our business is that we are in a constant state of change."Seated next to each other, and moderated by Bob Hajdukovich of Frontier Flying Service Inc., a round-table discussion of industry change attended by Seybert, Wilfred "Boyuk" Ryan of Arctic Transportation Services, Tim LaPorte, owner of Iliamna Air Taxi and John Eckels, president of the AACA.When they spoke, officials with the Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and National Institute for Occupational Safety Hazards listened.The theme of the roundtable was "System Safety -- Lessons Learned." The session proved to be one of the highlights of a daylong seminar called "The Alliance for Safety" hosted by the Alaska Air Carriers and the FAA."What we have needed for a long time is to change the ego of the pilots, and I think that is what we are doing here," said Ryan, a pilot from Unalakleet. "As managers of our businesses we need operational control standards that pull in the reins on the big ego pilots."Operators and federal officials are stymied by a lack of improvement in safety statistics that make being a commercial pilot for an airline in Alaska one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States.Statistics from NIOSH indicate that the occupational fatality rate for commercial pilots in Alaska is 430 of 100,000 per year, 86 times the occupation fatality rate for all workers in the United States and five times higher than the national fatality rate for all other U.S. pilots.These statistics are not lost on insurance providers that have hiked aviation insurance rates to commercial operators as much as 80 percent in the last two years.This group discussed in detail what has to be done to change the culture of the businesses from "fly or I will send someone who will" to "let’s make a calculated decision involving dispatchers and management on questionable higher risk flights.""What Alaska operators are trying to change is the attitude of pilots that lead to flights into bad weather with the ’I can get the job done’ approach," AACA’s Eckels said.Small operators like Iliamna Air’s LaPorte offered a different perspective."We are so small that as a 135 operation I am the dispatch, operations, pilot and bill payer of my business. If I don’t like the way things look, everything comes to a halt. We don’t have a lot of employees to make decisions. We are too small."Changing everything right down to the reservation agent, may be what operators are facing to change the habits of risk-taking pilots, who fly in any kind of weather, but this won’t happen unless management is involved, according to the group."Improving the culture to bring safety awareness to every member of a flight operation distills down to operational control. You have to break the chain of events that lead up to a disaster," said Bob Hajdukovich, president of Fairbanks-based Frontier Flying Service."That’s right. Management has to get in the cockpit with the pilot to change the company culture," stated John Hajdukovich, chief executive officer of Fairbanks-based Frontier Flying Service and father of Bob Hajdukovich, from the audience."In our operation we have a core value: customer satisfaction, good business ethics and safety. This is our culture, and we believe that the culture of management effects the whole operation in a positive manner," said Eckels, also president of Arctic Transportation Services."We will do it right and be safe as a business, or risk being told by the FAA how to manage our business," added Eckels. "I don’t think any business organization can withstand this mandate. We have to do ourselves."Increased guidelines for operations such as the Federal Aviation Regulations for Part 121 airlines, self-imposed by Part 135 operations, will reduce the operational risk of accidents, according to PenAir’s Seybert."It is easy to confuse your goals unless things are black and white, and that’s why we like the Part 121 operational system. Now our company goal is for safe and reliable transportation; that will save us lives and money in the long run."

Alaska awaits 'someone to blow the bugle' on missile defense

ANCHORAGE -- Despite heightened interest in the Bush administration about missile defense, no construction activity is under way yet in Alaska, the most likely spot for the first deployment of interceptor missiles.The huge and still-unproven defense project is on hold while the new administration weighs options that could include development of technologies other than the limited Alaska system favored by the Clinton administration. Theoretically at stake is the defense of Alaska, as well as a $600 million construction project for the Interior."We’re leaning forward in the foxhole waiting for someone to blow the bugle so we can charge,’’ said Chris Nelson, missile defense coordinator for Gov. Tony Knowles.The stalled project takes on new significance for Alaskans in light of North Korea’s recent threat to resume testing its intermediate-range missiles in response to the Bush administration’s "hard-line stance’’ toward the country.Defense experts say the Taepo-dong 2, the missile under development when testing was suspended nearly two years ago, would have a range of about 2,500 to 3,700 miles. The distance from Anchorage to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, is about 3,700 miles.More likely targets, however, would be South Korea and Japan, according to military experts. A nuclear shot at Alaska could be considered suicidal, given America’s ability to retaliate.But those who support a national missile shield, including many in the Bush administration, depict North Korean leader Kim Jong Il as unpredictable and unstable, a dictator who might choose nuclear destruction rather than lose power.Alaska might offer attractive targets, such as the trans-Alaska pipeline, Nelson said. Such a strike might create economic havoc but kill only dozens of people, possibly causing a U.S. president to think twice about a retaliation that would kill hundreds of thousands.Under that scenario, Alaska’s isolation could make it more vulnerable.A final decision on national missile defense, including possible deployment of the Alaska system, isn’t expected until summer, Nelson said. But state officials hope to hear in the next few weeks whether work can begin this year on the remote Aleutian island of Shemya, where a high-resolution radar for tracking incoming missiles could be built.Under the Clinton administration’s original $60 billion plan, a go-ahead on Shemya construction was needed by this month to meet the goal of erecting a missile system by 2005. That’s when an independent commission had predicted nuclear threats to the United States from North Korea or other countries could be in place.

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