December | 2020
Sen. Moran’s Bill to Help Alleviate NOAA Pilot Shortage Heads to President’s Desk
Lockheed WP-30 Orion, NOAA42 "Kermit" at the Salina Regional Airport
Angela Lingg
December 4, 2020

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) – chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies – to help alleviate the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pilot shortage. This legislation will now be sent to President Trump to be signed into law.

NOAA pilots are charged with collecting airborne environmental data, such as real-time weather data on hurricanes. This legislation creates an aviation accession training program for the Commissioned Officer Corps of NOAA to prepare students for commissioned service as pilots. Functioning similar to Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at many universities, this program was designed in coordination with Kansas State Polytechnic due to their expertise in training pilots.

“As the chief appropriator for NOAA, it has been a priority to address the pilot shortage that utilizes Kansas’ strong aviation programs, and I’m pleased this legislation will head to the president’s desk to be signed into law,” said Sen. Moran. “In addition, Kansas State Polytechnic has a history of producing well-trained pilots and can create a pipeline of NOAA pilots ready to fly in a wide-range of weather conditions to deliver critical data to scientists on the ground.”

"Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus is really excited about the potential for a NOAA ROTC program focused on pilot training,” said Kansas State Polytechnic CEO and Dean Alysia Starkey. “Training pilots is one of our core missions and the opportunity created by this bill would provide a high-quality corps of fully-funded students who are ready for university-level flight training in a variety of weather conditions.”

“The dedicated men and women of the NOAA Corps provide the scientific and operational expertise for NOAA to meet its mission to protect lives and property every day,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “They deserve the level of personal and professional support that is rightfully afforded to other uniformed services.”

“We’re grateful to the Administration and Congress for recognizing the immense value that NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps officers provide each and every day,” said NOAA Rear Adm. Michael J. Silah, director of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO). “This reauthorization act will ensure that the NOAA Corps will be able to support NOAA and the nation more effectively than ever before and we look forward to establishing a pipeline for NOAA Corps aviators in the State of Kansas.” 

Sen. Moran’s legislation, S. 2910, was included in S. 2981, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps Amendments Act of 2020, which passed the Senate on November 16. Additionally, Sen. Moran’s FY2021 Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies bill included $1.5 million within NOAA to support programs aimed at recruiting and training pilots for service in the Commissioned Officer Corps of NOAA.
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Feature Facility

Hangar 506-2
2010 Kneubuhl Ct.

The Salina Airport Authority has available for lease, a 4,900 sq. ft. hangar located at the Salina Regional Airport. Located in a great location on the field as well as easy access to I-135 & I-70.

Commonly known as Hangar 506-2, this well maintained facility features 4,486 sq. ft. of hangar bay and 414 sq. ft. of office space.  
Call the Salina Airport Authority today at 785-827-3914 to schedule a tour, or email

Tower Update

Since our last update, the Salina Regional Airport, has seen both increases and decreases in traffic tempo from Kansas State University, events organized and or scheduled through the Salina Regional Airport’s administrative office, Sky West, and other cross-country flights. In total 13,741 operations have been recorded while staffing remains one controller short due to a vacancy created back in August due to a member being selected for a position with the Department of Defense.

Although short staffed, Salina’s team of air traffic controllers has been able to stay healthy amidst COVID-19 and has continued to manage air traffic fluctuations without error. Some aviation enthusiast’s may have witnessed some unusual operations around the third week in October when the airport hosted some C-130s, an American four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. During the latter stages of their visit to Salina they practiced several low-level flights from the west across the airport to the east side with an immediate climb before the highway that separates the control tower from the city of Salina to enter the traffic pattern in a manner in which they could safely land. These maneuver’s, called random shallows, provided timely training to pilots deploying overseas who will have to fly into hostile environments where they may have to fly in low to avoid detection.

Winding down the year, we have notably seen decreases in the number of flights worked as the seasons are changing in weather that slows flying down a bit as well as with the holiday season that is upon us. Weather slows were mostly caused by extremely high winds and lower ceilings that force pilots to fly using the instruments inside the cockpits rather than flying with a visual reference of their surroundings.

As 2020 winds down we still are diligently screening resumes for a potential new hire to fill our tower vacancy but to date we have not found anyone. In the previous letter we had mentioned someone of interest who was returning from an overseas position, but our companies’ presence overseas is still needed and his absence with them there, at this time, could not be authorized. That wraps up my time this post … until next time,

Stay Safe, Merry Christmas, and to all a very Happy New Year!

Scott Hillegeist
Air Traffic Manager
Salina (SLN) FCT
On the Flightline at America's Fuel Stop - 2020
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