Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
YUKON DELTA: Keeping the Props Turning on the Refuge
Alaska Region, July 7, 2005
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Imagine you're on a goose banding crew on the refuge more than 100 miles away from headquarters. A gust of wind pushes a float plane into the bank, bending the water rudders and putting your airplane out of commission. What to do? Shut down the operation? Not on Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge! Our trustee airplane mechanic, Charles Rodgers, was flown out to the field by another pilot and made the repairs in less than an hour. The banding operation continued as planned because of an on-going collaboration between the Aviation Management Directorate in Anchorage and the Refuge.

Prior to the spring of 2005, if there was a problem with a Fish and Wildlife Service airplane at Yukon Delta Refuge, the repairs would wait until a mechanic or two could be spared from the Aviation Management hangar in Anchorage to fly out to Bethel (400 miles) and correct the problem. This always involved delays in aircraft being available to support our conservation mission and additional costs for airfare and per diem.

This spring, Refuge Manager Mike Rearden worked out a unique arrangement with Aviation Management. Charles Rodgers, a local native aircraft mechanic, was hired under the local hire authorities of the Alaska National Interest Lands Claim Act (ANILCA.) Under a memorandum of agreement, Aviation Management reimburses the Service for any hours Charles works on aircraft under their work orders. It works out to be around 50 percent of his time. The rest of his time, which is paid for by the Refuge, is spent working on other Service equipment.

The benefits are numerous. Overall costs are reduced, because there is less money associated with travel to and from Anchorage. Airplanes are available more often, which is critical during the field season. Most importantly, our pilots can have an everyday working relationship with the person who maintains their aircraft, boosting confidence and resulting in safer flying. "With more than a half a million dollars invested in aircraft, it makes sense to have someone here responsible for their upkeep." said pilot George Walters.

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov
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