Connecting To the ‘Last Frontier’

By Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)


As a resident of the great state of Alaska for more than 50 years, I know firsthand the critical role aviation has and continues to play in our state. Whether it’s for transportation purposes, search-and-rescue operations, or supplying our many communities not connected by road (80 percent), aviation is a vital lifeline for many in the “Last Frontier.” Alaskans rely on a healthy and robust air cargo industry for everyday items like medical supplies, office products, food, fuel, and more. In return, the air cargo industry serves as a significant economic engine for our state, delivering our rich resources—salmon, gems and minerals, and lumber products—to the contiguous 48 states and throughout the world.


As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1973, I’m keenly aware of the essential importance of the airline industry and the need for well-trained, highly skilled flight crews to fly us to and from our home airports. Alaska is the proud home of the second-busiest airport by total cargo throughput in the U.S., and we welcome nearly one million airline passengers to our great state each year; so to say I highly value a safe and secure airline industry would be an understatement.


I’m also honored with one of the longest commutes in Congress—roughly 3,200 miles from Washington, D.C., to Fort Yukon—which makes me thankful for your hard work as you deliver me safely back home on every flight. And I continue to appreciate your hard work to maintain the busiest and safest aviation system in the world, which is critical to me as I travel to meet Alaskans from across the state. During my time as the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I had the great opportunity of meeting the many leaders of the Air Line Pilots Association, International and hearing your many priorities. Airline pilots continue to visit my office regularly to help me understand the many unique issues you face while flying the line, and I’ve always been impressed with your knowledge and passion for the industry.


These visits have been extremely important and have often directed my leadership on bills that affect your industry and its future success— including efforts to protect the security of your cockpits with secondary barriers, eliminate the aviation excise tax, and safeguard U.S. jobs by denying Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) flag-of-convenience scheme.


When I moved to Alaska in 1959, I had my own experience in the cargo industry as a tugboat captain on the Yukon River. In fact, I’m the only licensed mariner in Congress. As such, I know how the flag-of-convenience model negatively impacts an industry. I watched it decimate our mariners’ jobs, and I won’t let it happen again with the aviation industry. I strongly support ALPA’s stance on denying NAI’s application for a foreign air carrier permit. I’m a proud cosponsor of H.R. 5090 and have signed multiple letters stressing the need for the president and the Department of Transportation to deny NAI.


I’ve championed ALPA’s issues on a number of pieces of legislation. I’ve cosponsored bills to eliminate the excise tax in both this Congress and the previous Congress and to mandate secondary cockpit barriers on all airplanes. I’ve supported many FAA reauthorizations and more extensions than I care to admit. I’ve heard from many of you specifically why these issues, and others, are so important—and I’ve answered the call. 


More than any other state, Alaska understands the importance of air travel and shipping. As the Last Frontier, and one of two states outside of the contiguous U.S., Alaska truly depends on your members to connect our people and fuel our economies.


A robust, safe, and secure air industry is such a large part of the Alaskan economy. I’ve fought and will continue to fight to ensure that the future of the aviation industry remains in the U.S.—not subject to a flag-of-convenience model that would shop around the world for the lowest bidder. That’s why I stand with the Air Line Pilots Association, International on the important issues. Our lives depend on it, and so does our economy.


This column originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Air Line Pilot magazine.

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