June 2014 - Western Governors' Association

Jul 1, 2014
The flash of lightning and the boom of thunder interrupted our instructor. I was startled back to full consciousness as I had been sitting in a classroom in Denver, Colorado, staring out the window at rain soaked clouds and a deep undercast. My thoughts drifted from my CFI renewal course to our upcoming flights in Colorado Springs, in support of the Western Governors' Association annual meeting at the historic Broadmoor Hotel.
My radar app is a mosaic of bright red and orange returns and the alert at the top of the page warns of tornadoes touching down in the area. Choose from group A or B on the test question, or continue to scroll and ponder the weather for my flight planning. Do both, choose A, and wait the night for the weather to improve.

And improve it did, as I flew or rather blew down to the "Springs" on a bright blue morning with winds gusting to the high 40's, doing a brief recon flight through the Air Force Academy airspace.

The Western Governors' Association is a non-partisan organization representing the Governors of 19 Western states and 3 U.S.-flag islands used to formulate bipartisan, consensus-based policy positions and to realize those policies through strategic advocacy and implementation. EcoFlight has supported these meetings over the years by providing our aerial educational tours to governors and their staff in some of the most beautiful regions of the west. From lakes and mountains near Coeur D'Alene, Idaho to the resort hamlet of Cle Elum in the Yakima watershed of Washington State, we have worked with WGA on issues ranging from water, wildlands and wildlife corridors, to fire mitigation strategies and climate forecasts. Our passenger mix is always interesting as we fly gubernatorial staff, premiers of Canada, past and present governors, scientists, press and even a former NASA astronaut. This year I had the pleasure of sharing the cockpit with the first American woman to walk in space, Kathryn Sullivan who is the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and an advisor to WGA participants.

This year's flights targeted the issues of climate change, wildfires and the wildland urban interface. Another focus of the flights was to look at various solar energy developments in the area, as Colorado has one of the strongest job markets in the solar industry. We flew over impressive residential solar arrays and community solar farms. One high tech company produces 110% of its power needs by solar and the U.S. Air Force Academy has a 6-megawatt array on 43acres, and is projected to produce all of its own electricity on site by 2015.

At the conference Governor Hickenlooper and Dr. Sullivan signed a  Memorandum of Understanding that renews and strengthens collaboration on drought and flood and fire preparedness. And during the meetings, President Obama urged governors to support a plan to pay for wildfire suppression that would budget money for fighting wildfires instead of taking funding allocated for mitigation efforts.

It is a pleasure working with the dedicated leadership and staff at the WGA, as it is indeed an organization that has a can do attitude with their nonpartisan approach to "getting things done".

And in the fields of solar, climate change and wildfires, we definitely need to get things done.


Bruce Gordon