MARQUETTE - The Upper Michigan Green Aviation Coalition kicked off the first of three conferences Thursday, designed to help area businesses learn more about becoming part of the green aviation industry.
Receiving funding from the Small Business Administration last fall, the coalition is a cooperative effort between the Sawyer International Airport, the Houghton County Memorial Airport and the Delta County Airport, as well as 60 other regional, national and international businesses.
By supporting each other and working together, the coalition hopes to set up an aspect of green aviation at each airport, including the Aero-Tech Dismantling and Recycling Center at Sawyer.
To help its members learn more about fitting into the green aviation industry, the coalition is putting on the conference series, bringing in national speakers and experts.
"Each of these conferences has a different focus," said UM-GAC spokesperson Vikki Kulju.
While the Marquette portion held Thursday at Northern Michigan University focused on the end of the lifecycle of the aircraft - recycling and breaking down aircraft no longer in use - the conference set for June 15 at the Terrace Bay Inn in Gladstone will focus on the Delta County airport's emphasis on the construction process for aircraft. The third in the series, set for July 12 at Michigan Tech University, will focus on the Houghton County airport's goal of green aviation in terms of military aircraft.
"There's quite a bit of valuable material in an aircraft," said Bill Carberry of the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association and project manager for airplane and composite recycling for Boeing.
Carberry served as keynote speaker for the Marquette portion of the conference series.
"We build, I think, the best airplanes in the world," Carberry said. "When the plane retires, it's still their airplane. We get involved in this more as a support for our customers rather than a business opportunity for Boeing.
"There's a lot of companies out there who will pull what they can of highest value and throw the rest in the landfill. There's a lot of waste when that happens."
Carberry shared stories of some "recycling" companies who pulled some valuable material out of a retired aircraft and dumped the seats and other less valuable materials into the ocean, leaving the debris to wash up onto the shore.
To make sure an aircraft recycling program functions, Carberry said three components were necessary - the recycling technology, a steady supply of aircraft to be recycled and a facility to dismantle the aircraft in.
"I call it a three-legged stool chart because if you take away any of those three legs, the stool falls down," Carberry said.
Although one of the advantages to Sawyer's location is that it is close to the municipalities, limiting how much transportation is required, the climate is not ideal for storing airplanes. Carberry said unused aircraft are typically parked in the desert until they can be dismantled.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.