- Session Laws
Apr 23, 2002
HB 523-MADSEN AIRPORT AT DUTCH HARBOR
CHAIR KOHRING announced that the first matter before the
committee would be HOUSE BILL NO. 523, "An Act naming the state
airport at Dutch Harbor the Charles Thomas Madsen, Sr.,
[HB 523 was sponsored by the House Community and Regional
Affairs Standing Committee at the request of Representative
Moses. In packets was a proposed committee substitute (CS),
REPRESENTATIVE CARL MOSES, Alaska State Legislature, assisted in
presenting HB 523 to the committee. He explained that [Version
F] would name the state airport in the City of Unalaska in honor
of Charles Thomas Madsen, Sr., who was tragically killed in a
plane accident in Juneau on April 10, 2002. The Unalaska City
Council and surrounding communities fully support the bill to
honor a pilot who gave so much to the people of the Aleutian
REPRESENTATIVE MOSES informed members that Mr. Madsen, a bush
navigator for nearly 20 years throughout the Aleutians, was well
known for willingly risking his life in order to save others.
He was instrumental in many medical emergencies and search-and-
rescue operations. In one instance, Mr. Madsen knowingly flew
in a storm with winds of over 100 miles per hour to save the
life of a young child who had ingested a fatal amount of iron
pills. He said Thomas Madsen epitomized the term "bush pilot"
by selflessly putting others' needs above his own, to meet the
needs of humanity. The residents of the Aleutian Chain will
fondly remember him both as the owner of Aleutian Air Limited
and for his heroic acts. Representative Moses concluded that
renaming the City of Unalaska Airport will enable Mr. Madsen's
memory to live on, for generations to come.
REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI noted that he would be offering an
amendment to simplify the title by changing it to the "Tom
Madsen Airport," which would better reflect how Mr. Madsen was
known. He cited the Ted Stevens International Airport [in
Anchorage] as one with a simplified name.
REPRESENTATIVE MASEK moved to adopt the proposed CS, version 22-
LS1705\F, Utermohle, 4/19/02, as the working document. There
being no objection, Version F was before the committee.
CHAIR KOHRING asked Representative Scalzi what his amendment
would specifically change the name to.
REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI answered that it would be Tom Madsen
REPRESENTATIVE MASEK asked that the amendment be applied to the
title, to line 5, and to line 6.
CHAIR KOHRING asked if there was any objection. There being no
objection, the foregoing was adopted as Amendment 1.
STEPHANIE MADSEN testified before the committee in memory of her
late husband, Mr. Madsen. She said Mr. Madsen was a private
man, but one-on-one, he was very poetic in his description of
life in the Aleutians. She characterized him as a lifeline for
many communities in the Aleutians. She thanked the committee
for the speed with which the bill had moved along. She showed a
picture of Mr. Madsen with his airplane, "The Aleutian Spirit."
He was privileged to be doing what he enjoyed the most, Ms.
Madsen said, adding that he was "a great guy."
FRANK KELTY, Former Mayor of Unalaska, testified via
teleconference. He said Mr. Madsen's flying and level of
service were of the same caliber as those of the famous pioneers
of Alaskan aviation. He recounted how Mr. Madsen flew all over
the Aleutian Chain carrying, among other things, mail and
children. He asked the committee to move HB 523 with speed. He
said it is a great honor to have the city's airport named after
SINCLAIR WILT testified via teleconference. Speaking in support
of HB 523, he recounted how Mr. Madsen had saved his daughter's
life 15 years ago. His 14-month-old daughter had ingested [what
would be] a fatal dose of iron tablets. The poison-control
clinic said she needed to get to a hospital or she could die.
The weather was too severe for a Medivac plane to land in
Unalaska. At first, Mr. Madsen had said the weather was too
poor, but later he'd called back, claiming to have seen a break
in the weather. Mr. Wilt said he himself saw no such break, but
had figured Mr. Madsen just couldn't bear to think about if it
were his own child.
MR. WILT explained that those were the days before the Unalaska
runway was paved or lighted; all of the police patrol cars were
lined along the runway to illuminate it on that stormy night.
Mr. Wilt conveyed to the committee how Mr. Madsen would only
allow physician assistant Jim Bird to accompany him and the
child on the flight for the sake of weight. Mr. Wilt said it
was a very long night waiting for word that his daughter had
arrived safely in Anchorage.
MR. WILT told the committee that Mr. Madsen had made numerous
more lifesaving flights after that. Therefore, it was only
right and fitting to honor Mr. Madsen by naming the airport
after him. He urged the committee to pass HB 523.
BETTY ARRIAGA testified via teleconference. She told the
committee how Mr. Madsen had flown her to Cold Bay after she'd
had a heart attack. She said she didn't think she would be
[alive and] testifying if it hadn't been for Mr. Madsen.
PAMELA FITCH, Mayor, City of Unalaska, testified via
teleconference, voicing support for HB 523. She characterized
Mr. Madsen as a wonderful man, and said renaming the airport for
him was an accurate representation of how the community felt
about the man.
JIM BIRD, Physician Assistant, Ilinliuk Clinic, testified via
teleconference. He gave his condolences to Mrs. Madsen and went
on to tell about the night he flew with Mr. Madsen and Mr.
Wilt's infant daughter. He talked about the measure of a hero,
and he told how Tom Madsen fit that description.
REPRESENTATIVE MASEK told how growing up in a small, isolated
village on the Yukon River helped her relate to the valor of Mr.
CHAIR KOHRING concluded that the testimony went far towards
showing what a wonderful person Mr. Madsen was.
REPRESENTATIVE MASEK moved to report CSHB 523, version 22-
LS1705\F, Utermohle, 4/19/02, as amended, out of committee with
individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes.
There being no objection, CSHB 523(TRA) was moved out of the
House Transportation Standing Committee.