Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Aviation survey: fill it out

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Tuesday, June 01, 2010

PALMER—Help shape the future of aviation in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough by filling out a survey. Your ideas on flight safety, land use compatibility, and the location n of new public airports as well as the type of new airports will be gathered in the survey. The information will become a guiding part of a 20-year plan called the RASP, Regional Airport System Plan.

The RASP will map existing public and private airports, identify conflicts, and propose sites for future airports. The Borough Assembly hired DOWL Engineers to develop the plan as part of a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The survey is online at The MAT-SU Borough Planning Department also has copies available. Call Planning at 745-9569 or 745-9556.

Pilot groups are very willing to participate in the survey to ensure that the plan is a useful tool, said Dee Hanson, executive director of the Alaska Airmen's Association.

"Aviation is why many people live in the Valley." Hanson sees the pressure of growth on flying. "We don't want to see what happened at Lake Hood, where there's a community that builds off the end of a strip that has been there for a long time in a runway protection zone. We need to make sure there is something in place and that the surrounding property owners know there is a strip," Hanson said.

A Technical Advisory Committee of local pilots, airstrip owners, community leaders and government officials is also giving feedback.

The results of the survey will be discussed with the public at meetings in Talkeetna and Wasilla in late October.

Aircraft touch down on 137 landing areas, mostly private, in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The MAT-SU has such a fascination with flight that it has the highest concentration of public and private airports in the nation, according to the FAA.

More private airports exist but their location ns are not known nor registered with the FAA, according to Matt Freeman, with the FAA in Anchorage. Also, some public lakes that are used as floatplane bases have not been registered, Freeman said.

Alongside that dense concentration of airstrips is booming growth, as state Economist Neal Fried describes it. Between the years 2000 and 2005, the MAT-SU's population grew by 25 percent.

The FAA has provided a $673,858 grant to the Borough, in part, to address issues such as airspace requirements and potential conflicts in order to ensure aviation safety.

The MAT-SU Assembly awarded a $590,786 contract to DOWL Engineers to develop a Regional Airport System Plan as well as to find potential location ns for public airports and floatplane facilities. The MAT-SU Borough is required to provide matching funds in the amount of $35,466, with the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities picking up half of that at $17,733.

For more information, contact Brad Sworts, Planning Transportation Manager, at (907) 746-7430 or DOWL's Project Manager Tom Middendorf at (907) 562-2000.