Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Doug Ferguson represents all of Eastern Oregon on State Aviation Board: Rural air enhancements funded through 2015 aviation tax increase

Doug Ferguson, who was appointed to a four-year term representing all of Eastern Oregon on the State Aviation Board, shows off his Cessna 182B Skylane.

Local pilot Doug Ferguson may fly a small, two-seat plane, but he carries a massive load in terms of the area he represents on the Oregon State Aviation Board.

The engineer from Mt. Vernon was appointed to the board for a four-year term in July, replacing Larry Dalrymple of Pendleton, as the sole voice from Eastern Oregon.

“I represent everything east of the Cascades, and that’s what they want me to do,” he said. “We need some representation out here.”

After attending two meetings, Ferguson said the Oregon Department of Aviation staff are “go-getters” and he enjoys working with the other board members. He said his goal is to promote general aviation and services in rural areas.

A 2-cent aviation fuel tax increase approved in 2015, with the funds earmarked for aviation improvements, may help rural air projects get off the ground. Ferguson said the tax is expected to generate $3.5-4 million each year, with about 25 percent slated for rural air service enhancements, 25 percent for maintaining state airports and 50 percent for critical airport relief grants for improvements, such as helicopter landing pads at the Grant County Regional Airport in John Day.

Ferguson said a feasibility study for establishing commercial flights in rural Oregon has been planned, and he looks forward to seeing the results, though he admitted establishing commercial services in places such as Grant County would be “a big order.” Discussion of rural air service is planned at the next board meeting scheduled Thursday, Jan. 19.

Ferguson said he hopes a plan can be developed to provide more services in Eastern Oregon. He said Grant County has no flight instructor or aviation mechanic, which makes hobby flying more difficult.

Flying his 1959 model Cessna 182 to backcountry airstrips is what Ferguson loves. He and his wife, Charlene, loaded into the 1,000-pound craft that travels about 150 mph in October to meet other backcountry enthusiasts who flew in to the Owyhee Reservoir state landing strip in Malheur County to rehabilitate the deteriorating dirt and grass runway.

Ferguson said he has more than 30 years of backcountry flying experience. After obtaining his pilot’s license in 1972, Ferguson worked as a charter pilot in John Day, flew on game counts for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and was a fire spotter for the Forest Service and Oregon Department of Forestry. After a 15-year hiatus, Ferguson recently decided to return to the air and was soon selected to serve on the aviation board.

“I’m just trying to give back to something I love,” he said.

Story and photo gallery:

No comments:

Post a Comment