FAA Chief to Headline Las Vegas Aviation Symposium
May 16, 2015
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  • The head of the Federal Aviation Administration will keynote a daylong aviation symposium in Las Vegas next month.

    Michael Huerta, in the midst of a five-year term as the lead administrator of the world’s largest aerospace system with a $15.9 billion budget and 47,000 employees, will open the Titus Aviation Symposium on June 8 at the Atomic Testing Museum.

    The event, the first of its kind in Southern Nevada, is being sponsored by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its aviation subcommittee.

    Titus is optimistic that the symposium will become an annual event similar to the renewable energy summits that Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has sponsored in Southern Nevada. About 150 people are expected to attend the inaugural event.

    Titus said she wants to continue the legacy of four-term Sen. Howard Cannon, a World War II pilot who advocated for aviation for the state and helped affirm the important link between the industry and Nevada’s tourism economy.

    “Many people don’t even realize how vital aviation is to our state,” Titus said. “We fly in millions of people every year, but we also fly in hundreds of lobsters every day,” she said in a reference to the importance of cargo transport to the Las Vegas entertainment experience.

    Titus is enthused that she was able to confirm Huerta’s presence at the first symposium.

    Huerta is expected to address the outlook on the FAA’s multibillion-dollar next-generation air traffic control system, which would shift operations from a ground-based radar system to satellite communication technology.

    Aviation experts say the proposed next-generation system could improve efficiency and safety and increase airline capacities.

    Huerta might also address his agency’s role in a burgeoning Nevada industry — unmanned aerial systems.

    The FAA is under the gun to develop rules governing the integration of unmanned aircraft, commonly called drones, into the nation’s airspace.
    The agency has set a goal of enabling drone operations nationwide by September, but most observers expect that to be pushed back since safety and privacy issues have yet to be vetted publicly.

    Nevada was one of six states named by the FAA in late 2013 for drone testing. State officials have established test sites, and several companies have begun to work on commercial applications for drone use.

    The symposium will have three panel discussions on different aspects of aviation with local and national experts addressing the issues.
    A session on aviation manufacturing and its role in the economy and industry innovation is the first panel.

    After introductory remarks by Tim Wong, president and CEO of Arcata, a NASA and military aviation contractor based in Las Vegas, Paul Feldman, vice president of government affairs for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, will lead a discussion on manufacturing issues.

    Panelists will include John Neely, vice president of Gulfstream Aerospace; David Murray, vice president and general manager of Bombardier Learjet; Christa Fornarotto, vice president of government affairs for the National Business Aviation Association; and David Balloff, vice president of external relations for Embraer.

    Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, will next open a panel on aviation tourism to be moderated by Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International.

    Panelists will include Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association; Jay Francis, president of Sundance Helicopters in Las Vegas; Gail Grimmett, senior vice president of Delta Air Lines; and David Harvey, senior director of network planning and performance for Southwest Airlines.

    The day’s final panel will include a discussion on unmanned aircraft. Opened by Rosemary Vassiliadis, director of the Clark County Aviation Department, and moderated by Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, panelists will consider industry challenges.

    Panelists will include George Guerra, vice president of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems; Patrick Stoliker, deputy director of NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center; Tom Hallman, president of PictorVision; and Brad Hayden, president and CEO of Robotic Skies.

    Titus said the panel on manufacturing is an important link to the importance of general aviation to Las Vegas. The valley’s three airports — McCarran International, Henderson Executive and North Las Vegas — saw record numbers of aircraft earlier this month when VIPs arrived for the Manny Pacquaio-Floyd Mayweather Jr.boxing match.

    Titus said the international tourism panel is a natural for Las Vegas and its efforts to attract more foreign visitors. It’s also a platform to discuss issues surrounding air tours to national parks in the vicinity.

    The drone panel is a nod to the future and military aviation’s role in the state. Southern Nevada is a hub for military drone pilots who are helping the state branch out into developing commercial unmanned aerial vehicle operations.