Airport management: A search and deploy mission

Unexpectedly, and without any warning, the airport manager quits. It happens. Not often perhaps, but it happens nonetheless. More commonly the airport manager moves on to another position, or retires. It makes little difference in the operational sense. Change is a constant in business. Whomever fills the slot at the moment will be replaced at some point in the future.

This entirely foreseeable changing of the guard can come as a shock to the system, or as an opportunity to tune up the airport’s management structure. How you or your community take the issue on is as subjective as any other municipal decision that has to be made.

What is less common, and very probably more reasonable, is to get creative when a major change has to happen. If airport management has to change anyway, why not consider a complete rework of the structure as well as the personnel?

Certainly there are airports that are running smoothly, accommodate their users and tenants well, and fit well into the fabric of life in their community. In those cases, the status quo with the addition of one new face might be just the ticket. But there are without a doubt airports out there that are underperforming the expectations of their users, or wallowing in debt with few commercial tenants on the field that can create real value for the municipality. In those cases, it very well might be worth a discussion – a spirited discussion if need be — about the future management structure of the airport,  not just the simple selection of a new airport manager.

The Roseburg Regional Airport in Douglas County, Oregon, is a good example of an active aviation community that is getting creative and getting personally involved in the attempts to manage the airport for the benefit of all concerned. With a movement afoot to form a non-profit airport management organization to oversee the operation of the uncontrolled field, the users of Roseburg Regional have engaged the city council and are working toward a truly innovative solution to a persistent issue that plagues so many general aviation airports.

Read more about the Roseburg Airport Commission and its self-rule airport management option here.

Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. You can reach him at


  1. says


    Thanks for a great article. The departure of key staff at an airport is something which does evenutually happen at all airports. How the airport as a business and the community as its “shareholders” responds depends upon the continuity plan for the airport. Many do not have a formal continuity plan. This is a deliberate plan which takes into account those activities which allow the airport to remain self-sustaining, as opposed to becoming a drain on a community’s finances.

    The risk with cleaning out the airport’s undesirable staff, coinciding with the departing airport manager as you suggest in your article, is one of the business impact from employee morale. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be done; however, it should only be done with careful consideration for re-training times, certification times, and the possibility that good staff will depart based upon their perceived threat of termination or a sense of loyalty to their fellow airport workers–an unintended consequence. Again, these are all considerations which should be addressed in an airport’s business continuity plan, not actions taken because of a perceived window of opportunity created by the departure of key staff.

    Again, thanks for a great article!

    Cheers from the Alamo,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *