A Day Well Spent With Kentucky Aviators

         The Kentucky Aviation Association is a non-profit corporation promoting aviation facilities, safety, industry, business, recreation, as well as aerospace education throughout the Commonwealth of the state of Kentucky. This is an annual gathering that provides networking opportunities by bringing together aviation professionals, consultants, elected officials, as well as the leaders and support personnel of the Kentucky Department of Aviation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The purpose of this conference is to fuse the various interests and talents of individuals and companies, bringing them together for discussions regarding issues and topics important to our local airports throughout Kentucky.

         On Friday September 7, 2012 I attended this convention, which was conveniently located at the Galt House in downtown Louisville this year. This would be my very first aviation conference and needless to say I was more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. No worries though, once I made my way to the registration desk I was well on my way to success. I was welcomed with sincere warmth as I registered and was promptly introduced to the president of the entire organization, Mr. Darrell Watson. Upon meeting this man I was extremely impressed by his unreserved professionalism. This man was immediately accommodating, gregarious and sincere; it was quite an honor to meet him. Upon thanking him for such a pleasant event, I continued into the general area for exhibitors. There were multiple booths set up in this room including companies such as the Kentuckians for Better Transportation (KBT), Loomacres Wildlife Management, Shell Aviation, PDC Consultants (Planning, Design, Construction) and Garver.There was even a booth set up for the aviation school of Eastern Kentucky at EKU.

         The conference agenda was packed with presenters and discussion topics beginning on Wednesday September 5, 2012. My attendance began on the following Friday which allowed me to attend and enjoy three discussions. This particular Friday commenced with a discussion regarding a Wildlife Hazard Management Plan from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has developed a program that provides Federal leadership and expertise in hopes of resolving wildlife conflicts that may threaten public health and safety, specifically in aviation. Increased air traffic as well as urban sprawl and enhanced noise suppression on aircraft is beginning to have effect concentrated populations of birds and other wildlife residing near our airports. This is causing accidental but potentially dangerous occurrences known as wildlife strikes. For those who do not know, a “strike” occurs when a bird or other animal directly collides with an aircraft. Research shows that this may occur while the aircraft is taking off, landing, or in the air. Wildlife strikes have greatly increased in the past 30 years and these often harmful occurrences are not likely to subside on their own. National Wildlife Research Center scientists have conducted the necessary research and are now providing the Federal Aviation Administration with vital information regarding these bird-to-aircraft strike hazards. This research is primarily focused on making the public aware of wildlife hazards at airports, as well as developing management tools to reduce these hazards, and providing biologists, airport personnel, and FAA officials with information regarding the latest strategies for controlling wildlife hazards.

         This discussion was followed by an important message concerning Aviation Education. Seeing as I am currently partaking in flight training and aspiring to become a pilot, this was exceptionally interesting to me. This discussion was held by the President/CEO of the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education; Dr. Tim Smith.

Dr. Smith states that the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education’s mission is to improve student learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and create career pathways in aerospace throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education, Inc is a non-profit, tax exempt organization devoted to its students’ limitless abilities and talents. The KIAE operates as an aerospace learning laboratory in collaboration with Frankfort HS Aviation Academy and fellow network schools. From this learning, the KIAE provides toolkits and other resources to schools in the network at no charge including flight kits, aircraft maintenance resources, as well as engineering materials. The KIAE's network of 14 high schools are providing students with experiences in aeronautical engineering, flight, aircraft maintenance, and space systems.

         The final discussion was in reference to the Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association and our last speaker of the day was regional manager, Bob Minter.

AOPA is the largest and most influential aviation association in the world. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to general aviation. Originating in May 1939, AOPA provides member services that range from representation at the federal, state, and local levels to legal services, advice, and other assistance. AOPA has built a service organization that far exceeds any other in the aviation community, hosting a membership base of more than 400,000 pilots and aviation enthusiasts throughout the United States.

         In conclusion, The 2012 Kentucky Aviation Association conference was a wonderful experience. Not only is this an excellent opportunity to meet fellow pilots throughout the community, it is also the time and place to receive various answers for any opinions or questions that you may have. This conference will be held in Bowling Green next year, at the Holiday Inn University Plaza. I hope to attend the 2013 conference and would strongly recommend this event to anyone interested in aviation; reaching all the way out to the farthest corners of the state of Kentucky.